A Family Affair: A mother's greatest sacrifice

Three years ago Geraldine McGrory, 28, became a novice in the enclosed Benedictine order at Tyburn Convent in London where she is called Sister Mary Joseph. Her mother, Margaret McGrory, is a housewife and has 11 children. She lives in a suburb of Birmingham

Sister Mary Joseph

I didn't have a vision or hear voices when I got the calling. Something just quietly changed in my life. I used to be quite materialistic and loved shopping, especially for clothes. But suddenly all these things seemed completely unimportant. I was brought up in a Catholic home with 10 brothers and sisters but I wouldn't say I was particularly religious. I went to Mass every week and said my prayers but in my teens I was just like any other normal young girl. I wanted to leave school, go to university and get a life. I did quite well at school and got into Birmingham University, where I studied law. After that I joined a legal practice and began my law training.

It was after I had been on a trip to Lourdes with my mum that I started to feel differently. She had always wanted to go so it was a bit of a trip of a lifetime for her but I didn't really think much about it. After I came back and returned to work I started going to Mass in my lunch hour, which was pretty weird for me. The feeling started to grow inside me that perhaps I was really cut out for a religious life.

At first I thought it was a phase and that it would pass. I started praying for guidance and went to see my local priest to get advice. I thought I would get some kind of sign or proof that I was on the right track. The priest said if I was waiting for a fax from heaven I'd have a long wait as God doesn't send faxes! So it was quite a long time before I was really sure about it.

It has never occurred to me that I may have made the wrong decision. I never feel I want to be anywhere else because I am so sure I have chosen the right way of life for me. Whereas my motivation before was to earn money and have a good time, now it is to love God and serve the Church. I don't miss anything about my old life, neither do I feel that my freedom has been curbed.

Of course, I miss my mum and I will be thinking of her at Christmas but I am so involved in the life of the convent I don't have time to dwell on life outside. I have my own room with a bed, a desk and my books. I never get bored.

I get up at five in the morning, work hard at my housekeeping duties all day and go to bed at around 8.30pm. The days and weeks literally fly by - this will be my third Christmas in the convent.

Before I joined and I was thinking everything through, it did cross my mind that I would never marry and have children, which was a shame because I love children - particularly babies.

But if you have a vocation, God does give you the strength to cope. Instead of having children of my own I have got thousands of children in a spiritual sense. In the convent, we are like spiritual mothers, praying for the souls of all the children in the world.

There is a real sense of sisterhood in here. I feel that this is now my family because we all have that spiritual union and devotion to Christ.

I believe that God has a special path for everyone and, at some point in any young Catholic's life, they question themselves and ask whether they want to become a priest or a nun.

It wasn't a difficult choice for me in the end because things seemed to miraculously fall into place. All I did was pray for discernment and everything was revealed.

Margaret

I had very high hopes for Geraldine because she was a very clever child. She was top of her class in everything at school. When she went to university to study law we were all so proud of her. She did well at law college and then began her job in a solicitor's office. She seemed to really enjoy her working life - she was very popular and made friends easily.

About three years ago Geraldine came home to visit for the weekend. She seemed quieter than usual and after a while she told us she had decided to enter an enclosed convent. She said she had thought long and hard about it but she was sure that was what she wanted to do with her life.

At first it was a bit of a shock, and I would never have told her but there was a part of me that was a little bit disappointed because of what she was giving up. I felt she had a good career and could go far. But I do feel very strongly that children should follow their own path in life, so I was also immensely proud of her. In a Catholic family as big as ours it's considered almost an honour if one of your children gets the calling. I suppose you could say that I had secretly harboured some hopes that one of mine would have a vocation.

Although we are a very strong Catholic family and go to church every week, none of our other children has ever shown the slightest desire to go into the Church. In fact, they were probably more shockedabout Geraldine's decision than I was. They had never come into contact with nuns and, like many people who only ever see them on the television, probably thought of them as figures of fun. Now that they have seen her way of life they really appreciate what she is doing.

I missed Geraldine dreadfully when she first went in. I still keep her bedroom just as she left it. Some people might think it's like a shrine to her. But it doesn't feel like that. I never entertained any hopes that she would come back but I just couldn't bring myself to change anything. Her books are arranged just as they were. I go in now and then and sit quietly and have a read. It makes me feel close to her.

It's hard for any mother to come to terms with the fact that their daughter is miles away and can't just get away when she wants. I can't just pop up and see her for a cup of tea when I want to. I can't phone her up for a chat like other mothers do. But I do respect the fact that she has given herself to the religious life and, although our relationship is now quite restrictive, it is worth any sacrifices I have had to make. We visit her once a month and she writes us lovely letters.

There is an inner happiness about Geraldine now that I can't explain. Looking back, I think she was probably quite stressed when she was working. She worried endlessly about the state of the world. She felt she wanted to do something positive to help. She really has a very strong belief that dedicating her life to God will make a difference. Convent life suits her very well. She is full of joy and although I know that if she decided tomorrow that she had chosen the wrong path she could leave, I don't think she will. She is very strong-willed and knows her own mind. But if she ever changed her mind she knows that we will always be there for her and support her in her choice.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?

An enlightening finale for Don Draper

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Serious player: Aussie Guy Sebastian rehearses for the big show in Vienna

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
    Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

    The end of an era across the continent

    It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
    Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

    'Focus on killing American people'

    Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
    Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

    Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

    The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
    Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

    Same-sex marriage

    As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
    The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

    The Mafia is going freelance

    Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable