July (2009) was an exciting month for young Dominican Sisters come from different countries (and different
Dominican congregations) of Central and Eastern Europe to learn or improve their
English. They came from: Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic and were host in Communities in Dublin, London, Oxford, Cambridge and Boxmoor.
Sr. Ann Catherine's Report from Ealing:
Many visiting sisters make a temporary home with us here at St Dominic's, Ealing, and we love having them all, but there was something special about the experience of welcoming, for the month of July, five sisters who came from four different countries (and four different Dominican congregations) of Central and Eastern Europe to learn English. Sr. Jaka from Croatia, Sr. Romana from Slovakia, Sr. Filomena from Hungary, and Srs Miriam and Ludmilla from the Czech Republic joined us as part of the initiative organised by Dominican Sisters International. Very sadly, because of visa problems, a sixth member of the projected group, Sr. Imelda from Albania, was unable to participate, but we pinned up her photo on the notice board outside our chapel, supported her with our prayers, and felt that she was with us in spirit!
The sisters arrived at the various airports around London over the course of the first weekend in July, laden with generous (and delicious!) gifts from their home countries, and soon settled in. They participated with great enthusiasm in every aspect of community life, from the liturgy to the laundry, and mealtimes in particular were a constant delight. This was partly because of the sometimes bemusing but always entertaining multilingual conversations, especially after Sr Jadwiga joined us and added Polish to the bewildering mix of languages spoken. But it was also because, especially towards the end of their stay, the sisters took turns in creating meals featuring wonderful specialities from their own cuisines, including cheesecakes, dumplings and cold, sweet, fruit soup! One sister even found time to turn our damson harvest into jam.
The sisters also played a full and most imaginative part in the life of their language school: taking the opportunity of an international day when all the students gave presentations about their home culture to preach to their classmates about the love of God!
It is difficult to choose the highlights of what was an overwhelmingly good experience for both our visitors and the host community, but for me, two stand out. The first was when the sisters' classmates were invited to our convent for tea and conversation. A group of almost twenty responded to the invitation, from many different Asian, European and Latin American countries, ranging from three young Turkish Muslims who were refreshingly open to dialogue with Christians and intrigued to hear about the various apostolates of the sisters in our community, to the Provincial of the Marist Fathers in Brazil! After tea and traditional English cakes, they all enjoyed energetic games of Frisbee and badminton in our garden. The second occasion, which for me more than anything encapsulates the joy of living with this temporarily expanded Dominican community was when, at the end of our last evening together before our guests returned to their home communities, all the sisters broke quite spontaneously into a beautiful rendition of the O Lumen over the washing up. It was a truly lovely reminder of our shared heritage, and a quietly inspiring conclusion to our time together.
Sister Anna Mary's Report from Cambridge:
July was an exciting month for young Dominican Sisters, engaging in a crash course to improve their English language skills, and for their host Communities in Dublin, London, Oxford, Cambridge and Boxmoor.
Here in Cambridge, we prepared to receive Sisters Anna and Petra from Hungary, Simeona from Slovakia, and Marie from the Czech Republic. Sr Mirjam was busy with labels which were affixed to Banisters, Door, Door Handle, Window, Table, Chair, Bookcase, Sink, Tap, around the house as aides-memoires.
Luton Airport was the site for welcome parties converging to greet the visitors, who had been warned to bring some warm clothing to brave the English summer. Here in Cambridge Sisters Petra, Anna, Marie and Simeona attended a Baptist-run course which ran in compulsory morning sessions, 9.00 - 1.00, with optional visiting excursions on some afternoons, and some prayer sessions which the organisers clearly hoped would be well attended! As well as the classroom instruction and regular homework, the Sisters also enjoyed tours of Colleges and Museums, and were confident enough towards the end of the month to undertake on their own initiative a day in London.
An invitation was sent out , early in the month, to the Cambridge "AT HOME", to be held on 19th July. This was for us in Cambridge a delightful day, as 24 Sisters assembled to share news, views, opinions and jokes; the visitors to Cambridge managed to do some sightseeing (congratulations to Sr Sheila who brought the Boxmoor contingent over early enough for a morning tour of colleges ,and lunch in town , before joining the crowd at 155 for a strawberry tea) . Not everyone could stay for Vespers and Mass at Blackfriars, but it was good that some of us could share prayer with our brethren.
It was the combination of prayer and meals in Community, and a professionally run course in the city, that added up to a well-balanced experience. Sad to say, there now flourishes in mid-Europe a "Society for Abolition of Articles, definite and indefinite". Further details can be obtained from our Czech sisters!
From this house, we say: it was lovely having you! Please come again!