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JOTTINGS by SISTER BRIAN, C.P. (Cross & Passion)
people pass through our
Lives like never-ending streams.
Others stop and touch our hearts
With a warmth that never leaves.
That little verse comes to mind when I think of St Michael’s and the many wonderful people, pupils, staff & parents, I knew there – almost 40 years ago. I arrived at the same time as Sister Dominic Savio in 1961, a bit of a greenhorn in my first teaching post. I was rather apprehensive as I had never been to Scotland – but from day one I felt a special affinity with the Scottish people, no doubt because of our common Celtic background; my memories of St Michael's are certainly very happy.
I taught Latin to 1A & 1Alpha and French and RE to other classes. I was Form Teacher to 1Beta in my first year and I still remember them so clearly but I won't give names in case I forget someone. I can still see their faces and where they sat in class. One of my introductions to Scottish culture was when I asked them on 25th January what saint's feast it was. I expected to hear it was the feast of St Paul but instead I got a chorus of "Rabbie Burns, Sister". Another incident was in a supervision class of seniors when I gave them a sheet of paper on which to write their names. The following week when I called the roll there was much laughter as I called out the names of the current Celtic team!
My first three years' teaching was in the old school in Irvine which lacked many facilities but there was also a great spirit of friendship among the staff as we worked together in very cramped conditions in a tiny Staff Room. When we moved to Kilwinning, it was wonderful to have my own classroom, and facilities like the Assembly Hall, Sports Hall and Library which nowadays we take for granted.
In the new school we were able to have Parents' Evenings and social activities for pupils during lunchtime and after school. The first opera, “The Pirates of Penzance”, was a great success. We had weekly discos in my classroom to raise money for a trip to Lourdes [Sr Brian at Lourdes pictured on left] organised by Sister Marie Celeste. That was a tremendous experience, although I was sad because I was leaving St Michael's just after that. I also have memories of outings with Legionaries [Legion of Mary pictured below] from time to time as I succeeded Sister Mary Campion as their Spiritual Director.
Really it was a great school. Apart from the excellent academic standard, there was a wonderful community spirit throughout and good relations between staff and pupils. The Catholic ethos was strong and it is heartening to know that is still the case years after the Sisters have left. I was aware of that myself when I attended a celebration function in the school about seven years ago. In the end it is faithfulness to Christian values and concern for one another that counts in a school community.
I have been asked to say a little about myself since I left in 1968. I taught in Bradford, then in Larne, N. Ireland. I left teaching in 1983 to work with young women wishing to join our Order, and was also involved in parish work. I combined this with administrative work for our Province Leadership Team but in 1996 I became Provincial of our Province, a full-time post until 2001, when I took a break and had a sabbatical in the States. In 2003 I moved to Ilkley to be in charge of our Care Home for sick and elderly Sisters with a view to handing it over to lay management. I have now done that but I continue to live here with a pastoral responsibility for the Sisters. As well as that I am once again on our Province Leadership Team for five years so I travel to various convents in England, Ireland and Scotland and, of course, attend numerous meetings!
Writing that has made me realise that quite a lot has happened since I left St Michael's but in another sense I have never really left. My memories of it are too vivid; I got a great start in my teaching career. It was a privilege to teach there, to know so many committed teachers, to meet so many talented pupils and their parents and to live in such a beautiful place. Our convent was in Irvine and looked out onto Arran. I thank God for the whole experience and I still pray for pupils I have taught and anyone I knew there.
I am sorry that St Michael's is closing but change is inevitable in today's world and in today's Church and it can also bring growth and new life if we accept the challenge. I ask the Lord to bless the new amalgamation and hope that the new school will flourish and will prepare the young people of that area to take their place as committed Christians in today’s world. They are our future as Pope John Paul reminded us so many times. God bless!
Moya, C.P. (formerly Sister Brian before we went back to our Baptismal names)
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