The subject of this week’s What She Said is a woman in her early thirties who has been a reverend sister for twelve years. She talks about life before service, how she got called to join the convent and adapting to life at the convent.
What is your earliest memory of your childhood?
It was when my father married a second wife and abandoned us. I was about 12 at the time, and I remember feeling devastated. When the woman started living with us, my mother was so welcoming towards her, which shocked me and my three siblings. Everything was going well until the second wife decided to show her true colours.
The woman used to determine if we would eat or not. The day she did not bring out food, we did not eat. She was the desired wife, and so my father put her in charge of overseeing the house.
I remember how my dad used to beat up my mother and pull her hair. There was a day I tried to intervene, but he pushed me away and I fell. In fact, my father’s siblings used to join in the beatings.
Why? What was their problem?
Hatred. They hated my mother, and once my father started beating her, they saw a way to express that hatred and kick her out. The hate for my mother also extended to us the children. I remember travelling with my mum sometime in the past. When one of my aunts came home and was told when I ran to hug her, she pushed me away.
Initially, I thought the hate was because my mother was not an Igbo woman, but then the second wife was also not Igbo. They just hated my mother.
Did your mum ever leave your father?
Yes, we ran for our dear lives. We ran to my mother’s side of the family.
I don’t remember how long we stayed there, but I know living there was tough. Eventually, my mother got a job as a cook in a restaurant. She worked in shifts, and it was from the job she was able to pay for rent and our feeding. Then, we could make soup with two hundred naira. The money also paid our school fees including the numerous JAMB fees I paid.
How many times did you write JAMB?
So many times I lost count. My dream was to be a medical doctor because I loved the ‘doctor’ title, and I wanted to save lives. I however was not lucky with the results so I had to change my course to law, I eventually ended up getting English and Literature. In all this, there was a guy who was trying to get my hand in marriage, and that was when the dreams and visions started.
What dreams and visions?
In one of the dreams, I saw myself following Christ as one of his disciples. In another, it was a vision of the cross. My passion became uncontrollable when I saw a car with the name of a religious institute on it. Then, afterwards, I met one of the sisters of that Institute in my church parish. With the help of a Reverend Father in my parish, I became a sister.
How did your parents take it?
Well, my mother accepted it as fate, but my father told me to really think if this was the life I wanted for myself. Even after all my father did to my mother, he had to be aware of this decision because he was still my father.
What was living in the convent like?
It wasn’t easy at the onset, and adapting was the hardest part for me. It was a struggle. You know, leaving my usual world to a different way of life. Eventually, I adapted.
There was a deep silence I embraced when I first arrived at my place of initial formation, and it deafened me even down to my bones. Imagine coming from a noisy world to a place where both inner and outer silence was a rule I must abide by? There is a time for everything in the convent, and you must not be found where you are not supposed to be.
How long have you a reverend sister?
It’s been twelve years since I joined the mission and became a reverend sister, and I thank God because I am happy and fulfilled in my choice of vocation.
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