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Adapting, changing for youths
Faced with the challenge of a generation gap, nuns Mary Patrice Simmons and Annetta Juliana Alexander have begun to change their actions and ways of thinking. They were not familiar with slangs such as “bling bling,” a definition of extravagant jewelry, or all the chat lingo but still managed to remain updated. In order to keep informed, Sr Simmons had once asked: “What on earth is ‘bling bling’”? She giggled when she spoke of finding out that many students don’t write complete words or sentences anymore, instead ‘LOL’ for laugh out loud will suffice.
The women of God became animated as they told stories of how students and their language have drastically changed, at St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain. The Srs of St Joseph of Cluny—six of them—celebrated 175 years this January, since coming to T&T. “We have to change our ways of thinking and acting in order to accommodate. It’s not that we are going to be lowering our standards, but to be able to reach them,” Sr Simmons said. When asked if they had seen the movie Sister Act, they laughed and said several times. One of them even burst into song. Though some people believe that talents are pushed aside for the spiritual call, they have encouraged students to use their God-given talents and as such, their students were involved in the arts. The nuns are also part of the Cluny Chorale.
The women of the cloth, who each wore a gold ring to signify commitment to God, have been nuns for more than 40 years. But they have had men showing interest during that time. Once the men realised there was no chance, however, they moved on.
A different child
Sr Alexander, the Provincial Leader of the Cluny Srs of the West Indian province said they’ve asked the Lord how to best educate themselves and pursue courses that would be relevant. “We’ve had to look at our way of perceiving the child, and how do we deal with the child in the present situation,” she explained. Though they’ve been impacting people’s lives, they have also been impacted. “What is impacting on us now, as nuns, is the kind of students we are getting now. Before, they were very obedient; Now the situation is a very challenging one. A totally different kind of child,” Sr Simmons said.
They have been trying to learn the student’s lifestyle without appearing condescending. “They don’t like to feel that you have come to fix them or to change them,” said Sr Simmons . She explained: “I think you’re dealing a lot with broken, lonely, frightened children and in their response to life they can frighten you because they come out to be very belligerent and angry and aggressive. You need to know how to be more understanding and compassionate, and patient above all.”
More nuns needed
Do people find religious life unattractive?
Though the Cluny Sisters have been engaged in a variety of good works throughout the ages, many people have been less than enthusiastic about becoming nuns. They said the interest had been dwindling. With one interested nun in the school’s office and two scheduled to pronounce first vows in September, they were willing to get the view of others. The Cluny Sisters have been engaged in nursing, human development and retreat work, continuing to be involved wherever they can.
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