Sr Catherine CHN

I entered on 18th February 2006, a day after my 41st birthday. I remember on that first night sitting in my cell and thinking, “God, I really hope you know what you are doing!” because I had burned a lot of bridges and it was a complete step of faith and trust for me to take him at his word. As it turned out, God knew exactly what he was doing. My vocation has been a blessing and a joy.

Sr Catherine CHN

Who are the Community of the Holy Name?

The Community of the Holy Name is a Community of Anglican religious sisters who live, work and pray in a number of places, combining a life of prayer with service to others and being part of the communities in which we are called to live in. Our outreach and mission is expressed in many ways: parish work, volunteering, working alongside others, retreat giving and spiritual guidance. The structure of our day and the rhythms of prayer and work, solitude and fellowship, outreach and hospitality seek to deepen our communion with the living God. We seek to keep this balance and variety wherever we live and work in the world.

My Sense of Calling

My vocation story begins with a warning; be very careful what you say to God, because believe me, He listens! When I was in my late 30’s my employers informed us all that the pensions plan was to be changed to allow us to put more into our pension pots if we chose to. To give us an idea of where we stood we were given a printout of what we would receive when we collected our pension. It told me that I had another 22 years to go before I could retire.  Now, I enjoyed my work but not to the extent of spending another 22 years doing it.  I started to cast around for something else and then made the mistake of saying to God, “What do you want me to do?  Is there something I could do for you?”  I wasn’t expecting him to take me seriously! 

A few months later in December 2001, I was having one of my usual weekends at the Convent of the Holy Name, having time alone to take a breath from everyday life and immerse myself in the quiet solitude.  That year had been a difficult one, with my dad dying in April and other challenging stuff that had arisen that year. the 15 minute period of silent prayer before Compline, whilst sitting in silence in that deeply prayerful space a voice said, very quietly and in an almost conversational tone, “You should be a sister.” I was brought up short and my immediate response was “Don’t be ridiculous, what a stupid idea!”  I just dismissed it as nothing more than a reaction to a horrible year and feeling a bit low.  

The problem was, once lodged the idea would not go away.  It would come into my mind at unexpected moments.  Certain passages of scripture took on such significance.  Every time I went to the Convent for a quiet weekend, the idea became more attractive and I found it more and more of a wrench to leave.  I would begin to seriously consider it, then a couple of weeks later I would dismiss it as a pie-in-the-sky pipe dream.  God however, was not to be denied and he kept at me, not letting me dismiss the idea, constantly nudging me. Eventually after 18 months of prevarication I gave in and decided I needed to broach the subject with the community.  I arranged a weekend with the sole purpose of speaking to the guest sister about my thoughts.  Trouble was it took me the whole of the weekend to summon the courage to raise the subject, only managing it on the afternoon that I was returning home!  When I did Sister Julie was very kind and we had a long discussion.  She would let the provincial superior know of my interest and suggested I went home and talked it over with those who I trusted. Julie later told me that she felt I wanted to talk about something but was waiting for me to speak first! 

I went home and promptly talked myself out of it. 

But God wasn’t going to let me go.  One Sunday (it was the feast of St John the Baptist) I was at Church.  The service was drawing to a close and I went to open the rear door.  Coming up the path was Sister Gill who, upon seeing me said “Ah, the very person!  A little bird tells me you are thinking of joining us!” 

What could I do?  I had a long chat with her and went to see the Sister Jean Mary, the Provincial at CHN.  We had a lengthy talk and I became an aspirant, following the process to enter the community.  The odd thing was, when I told those who knew me, they all thought it was a good move, and perfect for me.  One of them commented “You know, I never would have thought of it for you, but now you have said it…”

Joining the Community

I entered on 18th February 2006, a day after my 41st birthday.  I remember on that first night sitting in my cell and thinking, “God, I really hope you know what you are doing!” because I had burned a lot of bridges and it was a complete step of faith and trust for me to take him at his word.  As it turned out, God knew exactly what he was doing.  My vocation has been a blessing and a joy.  

I didn’t have trumpets and clarion calls. There were no massive insights or visions.  I have had to feel my way, trusting in God and his plan. Sometimes it has been hard and I have had to slog on through the mire of self-doubt (it was always me doubting me, never me doubting God); all I could do at such times is to trust and lean on the God who called me and I have learned to lean on him more and more.  He is the lodestone I return to again and again knowing in Him I can truly put my trust.

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The Community of the Holy Name
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