Looking Back at Christmas in the Convent
I am looking forward to our first Christmas at the new Sisters’ Residence at 2 O’Connor where we arrived on March 12, 2013, from Morrow Park. We’re still settling in. Adjustment to new places always takes time. But when I look back, I have made many major adjustments in my life. I have told this story before, but this adjustment reminds me of my first ever Christmas with the congregation, one I will never forget.
I entered the convent at 89 Wellesley Street West in September 1956 with many other young women and we were all busy learning the ways of religious life. Then along came Advent. In my three previous years, I had been teaching primary classes where December meant chorus after chorus of Rudolph or missing front teeth, mixed in with Silent Night now and then. It meant days of watching the excitement grow in 35 young faces. It meant noise and movement, not to mention Christmas shopping. But what was this?
We certainly had a prayerful Advent, but …nary a sniff of Christmas. Didn’t Christmas happen in the convent? We washed and scrubbed and waxed, but not a trace of a decoration was to be seen. And no Christmas cards, of course. And so, feeling hard done by and very, very lonesome we, the postulants, were sent off to bed on Christmas Eve, knowing we would be awakened for Midnight Mass.
We slept. And then – what was that? Certainly not the rising bell. Singing? Am I really hearing singing…in the middle of the night? Christmas had come! No, it was not the songs of the angels, though it wasn’t far off. We were awakened by the novices singing carols as they processed through the halls, leading us to the grand celebration of Midnight Mass. In a moment, breaking into “night’s deep silence” came the joy and excitement that had been pent up through the previous weeks. We had begun to discover the wonder of Christmas in the convent.
Epilogue: Today, we have cards, decorations and celebrations at the Sisters’ Residence. We are aware of nature from all the windows, and our chapel looks out over the ravine. The world has turned many times since that Christmas in the convent when I was so much younger…
By Mary Buckley CSJ