16 Nov HOLY SOULS – Day 14
Monica was born at Consett, County Durham, the second of seven children, in December 1912. She was still very small when the family moved to Aberavon in Wales on account of her father’s employment, and it was here that her three brothers ( all destined to become priests in the Westminster Diocese) and her two younger sisters, joined the happy and united family circle. She seems to have become the natural family ring-leader, as her elder sister, Mary, was delicate and also docile to Monnie’s leadership! She had a particularly warm relationship with her brother Joe, next after her in age. Many were the escapades and pranks they got into , or led the others into, in the carefree days of countryside and seaside around them. Then later in life, when both followed their respective vocations, the bonds between them became ever deeper, without ever excluding any of the others. In fact, Monnie took quite a responsible role, in helping her mother to care for the babies as they arrived, and she loved each one all through life.
She had a solid education in the Village School, to which they all walked daily, whatever the weather. Meanwhile they never lost touch with their relatives back in The North, at Roker in Sunderland, where their maternal grandmother and other relatives still lived. When she was about 17, Her mother’s sister, Auntie Lily, asked for Monnie to come and live with her and help look after Grandma, so off she went. The old lady died not long after, and Auntie Lily by then in her 40’s, felt drawn to answer a call to Carmel. She applied, and was accepted at Notting Hill, and at the same time suggested to her niece to consider a vocation as well. The Carmel at Bridell had just been opened in 1930, so in 1931, the young postulant, not yet twenty, was directed there. Her health was not very robust, and the house was still very bare and cold. There was plenty of hard work, both in the house and the garden. Sr Mary of the Blessed Sacrament most outstanding gift proved to be her artistic skills, especially in designing exquisite illuminations for cards, addresses, and so on. She also became adept at black-and-white photography with equipment donated by her brother Fr. Joe. A close alliance was also formed between the Carmelites and the nearby Abbey of Caldey. As they began to promote their various natural resources, especially herbs, Sr Mary of the Blessed Sacrament led the way in making lavender sachets, and similar handicrafts which could be sold in the Abbey Gift shop for their mutual benefit. Meanwhile her lovely singing voice and aptitude for plain chant were invaluable as the sisters enriched their Liturgy. Sister became Subprioress, and was well qualified for this role. After many years the viability of the community in this rather remote Welsh Carmel became questionable, and in 1973 Sr Mary of the Blessed Sacrament asked to transfer to Notting Hill, where her old Aunt Lily –Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost – was a valiant member of this community. It must be said that Auntie was NOT thrilled at the idea of her niece joining us for fear that she might have too many revealing stories to tell about their early life!
The transfer cannot have been easy – is it ever?- but sister set to work with characteristic directness and generosity. Her talents were once again put to full use, and every year, almost until she reached her late 70’s, there were dozens of beautifully hand painted illuminations in place of honour at the Community Feast. She also took over the tunic Office, as well as being a willing sharer in all the usual domestic tasks almost up to her 80th birthday. She died peacefully in her 97th year.
The Christmas cards this year are the art work of our dear Sr Mary of the Blessed Sacrament