Sister Gladys

My name is Sr. Gladys born and bred in Kenya. I come from family of eight siblings, (yes 8), three brothers and five sisters. I second oldest with a gap of 9 years between me and my older brother. My journey to becoming a sister of Nazareth is a peculiar one – at least it appears and feel so to me. I do not come from a Catholic background but a Christian one. I attended an interdenominational Primary School and Secondary Boarding School. We had to walk for about an hour to get to our Church which started at 09:00am and finished 14:00pm. Very near to our home was a Catholic Mission (Miguta) about 15-20 minutes’ walk from our home and often times we would hear their bell loud and clear calling the people for Mass but at a time we did not know what the bell was for. Then it came about that the sisters had a maternity clinic and three of my younger siblings were born there. It was my duty as the second-born and oldest girl to assist my mother to take the children to the clinic where we used to receive food for them. I felt so privileged to help in this regard so that l could see the sisters at a close range.

On our way to and from School, we would see a car full of people dressed in white with very friendly smiles (who turned out to be the mercy sisters working in the mission), and if you so much as waved them hello as they passed along, you got a wave back, that day you will walk tall and feel very import and speak to others about it. One day our parents had gone somewhere and we knew they were going to be returning in the late afternoon, my friends and l decided to go and investigate where these sisters lived. On our arrival to the mission, we managed to know that they were doing outdoor chores because we could hear them talking. We observed them for long while through the hedge and if one of them made as if she is coming to throw something away near the hedge, then we would run for our dear life. This happened a number of times when l was still in Primary School. One day when l had accompanied my mother to the clinic, l happen to pass by the Church which was open and l could not believe my eyes when l saw a figure of a gown, white man suspended from the roof in the middle near the wall as you walked. I stood there for a while trying to take it all in and the burning sensation or was it a longing? That experience was to stay with me for a long time.

When l joined High School, l was lucky because the Catholic Priest used to come and say Mass for the Catholics on a Saturday evening for Sunday and he used to bring the Sisters of Mercy along with him and the Immaculate heart Sister. I would join my Catholic friends in getting ready for the cerebration of the Mass and things started happening inside me – things that are impossible to put into words. I made an appointment to speak to one of them and she gave me all that is required for one to become a nun and one of the things was that anyone interested in that way of life must become a Catholic first. I mentioned this to my parents during our School mid-term break that l wanted to be a sister like the ones that comes to our School and she warned me that if l persists with such talk, she will stop me going to School. I loved School and so I put the matter to rest, and started thinking that l would then get married and have 4 children - I do not know why 4 though. I then concentrated on my studies and did well in sport activities especially running. I used to represent my School in 100m and 200m, then my grades started to fall due to the fact that we had to practice a lot and my father was not very pleased and did not hesitate to let me know. He told me that he is not paying my school fees for me to be running around like an antelope and that l had to choose between running and school. l loved studies so l dropped running and took on other forms of sporty activities that did not involve a lot of practice and going out for competitions. In the mean time I fell in love with what l was learning about the Catholic faith and started receiving catechetical instruction at School.

I did well in learning about the Catholic faith and in my 2nd year, I again mentioned my desire to become a nun to my parents and that I needed my Baptism Card. My mother was so opposed to the idea that she refused to give me the Baptism Card. The Priest was satisfied with my progress in my catechetical lessons and said l needed to give my Baptism Card from my Church to prove that l am a baptised Christian. I told him that my Mother would not give it to me. I failed to understand why my parents especially my mother was so against the idea. I also failed to understand why would God be putting this desire within me. I was given what is called ‘conditional Baptism’ at School. I never mention this issue to my parents again until my 4th and final year in High School. After exams, l went home and after two days, l told my mother that l was ready to go to the sisters. I was so scared and worried because l loved my mother and to see her so upset was very disturbing.

I decided to rest the idea for a while and with my parent’s approval and support, l went to Greece to work as a nanny. I got a job with this American couple who had 2 children aged 9 and 11 and when the children went to School, l would do the housekeeping. I did this for 3 years and l managed to support the family. We have unwritten expectation (at least among my people) that if you are among the older siblings, you are expected to help your parents in supporting your younger brothers and sisters. I did my bit for the family and managed to save enough to support myself and them with ease. But then the desire to be a Nun started to re-surface again - this time with grater intensity. As God would have it, I saw this advert in a newspaper that said: STUDY NURSING FOR FREE IN ENGLAND. I immediately showed this advert to my employer and told them of my intention to explore the possibility. The man of the house said: ‘this sound too good to be true, but if this is what you want to do, we cannot prevent you.’ I had developed a very good relationship with the children and when they got the news of my imminent departure, they were very upset. I told them that if things do not work well for me in England, that l would come back to Greece.

After working my two months’ notice, I left for London. By this time l had enquired with the Nursing School as to how to get to them. I arrived in London quite late and l was afraid of getting out of the airport and head in the wrong direction. So I opted to spend the rest of the night at the Airport till morning. I took the train the following day, booked myself into a hotel and headed for the School to do the aptitude test that was taking place mid-morning that day. I got lost several times - mainly by standing on the wrong side at the train stations. When l eventually arrived at the School, l was 10 minutes late but l was permitted to sit at the back and do the test. The pass mark was 35 points and l got 33 points. Shall l blame the loss of 2 points on trains or of sleeping at the airport, or myself or all three? As luck would have it, I was given another date to re-sit the test in 3 months’ time but by then the Spirit had led me to one of the Nazareth Houses and requested for a job as a career. I got the Job and l fell in love with the job of looking after the elderly. I worked very closely with the sisters and I could not keep the desire to become a Nun from re-surfacing and staring me in the face. I spoke to one of the sisters and she directed me the Novice mistress and that is how I came to know and join the sisters of Nazareth. But not before going back home to let my parents know what I intended with my life, pointing out to them that l have done my share and that I should be let free now to follow the way l felt the Lord was directing me. I had been told that I will not be able to continue supporting my family once l become a Nun and so l had set about setting up structures that will continue supporting them in my absence. My mother was still very reluctant to let me go but at the end she gave me the go ahead.

Things changed over the years and even if my mother is still a very strong member of her Church, she has come to accept and is now very proud of me. She came for my final profession and during offertory procession at Mass, she held my hand and she told me that I was her offertory gift to the Lord. What a relief to hear those words! I came to believe that nothing can come between us and the love of God. God will always work around and through things to bring about the fulfilment of his divine PLAN which is always bigger than our own. So please do not loose heart when things seem to be going against what you feel you are being called to. Do your best and God will do the rest for you.