Fresh out of teacher’s training college, I was referred by one of my friends for a position at a private high school that she was unable to accept. St Dominic’s Convent was scheduled to reopen in less than two weeks, and they needed someone desperately.
Sister Moira-Ann Roach, the mother superior, was an impressive individual, soft-spoken with an unmistakable aura of authority, yet approachable and warm, with a pleasant twinkle in her eyes.
In our discourse I stated that I would be present at Mass in the mornings to take charge of my class, but would be unavailable for any extracurricular activities held on Saturdays because of my religion. She knew what my religious beliefs entailed and indicated that all would be well.
All went well until the midsemester staff meeting, where the discussion centered on the annual fund-raising fair that the school hosted. Every classroom was expected to participate by providing some type of refreshment as well as a musical number for the concert, which was the highlight of the evening. Teachers were expected to supervise their students, especially during the concert. The fair was scheduled for the last Saturday in November.
Lord, what do I do now? I thought. After taking a deep breath I pledged my support in preparing for the event, although I made it clear that I wouldn’t be attending.
“Is this a test, Lord?” I cried silently. “Because if it is, I’m relying on You for support.”
My class was to be responsible for the fruit punch and a Christmas song. I shared with the students my expectation of total obedience to Cassandra, the senior helper, who agreed to fill in for me at the fair. The song “O Come All Ye Faithful” was to be sung in Latin. We practiced pronouncing the words phonetically, singing in two-part harmony, and walking on and off stage, all while taking cues from Cassandra.
Some weeks later Sister Moira enquired as to our progress for the fair, and I took the opportunity to remind her of my nonattendance. She expressed her concerns for the decorum, or lack thereof, that might be on display in my absence. And since the holy father and other priests would be attending, she felt that I might want to reconsider my stance just this once. I reassured her that my students would be on their best behavior, even though my heart was doubtful.
That Sabbath a special session of prayer was offered up by family and friends on behalf of my students. On Monday a beaming Cassandra couldn’t wait to report on how well the girls had behaved, and of the surprise on the faces of the nuns, including Sister Moira, when the girls began singing in Latin “Adeste Fideles”—so much so that all the nuns joined in sing. Later they congratulated me on a job well done even though I wasn’t there, and Sister Moira showed me an additional measure of respect.
All the praise for that event belonged to God, and gratitude to the angels who surely sang with my class that day.Thinking of Sister Moira still transports me back many years to the day I dared to stand.
Marvene Thorpe-Baptiste is editorial assessment coordinator for Adventist Review.