Thursday afternoon, on the way home from the retreat, five of the Manchester seminarians and myself decided to make a detour to Enfield, CT to visit an old friend. Sister Mary Lawrence, the former principal of St. Casimir School in Manchester, retired this past summer. She had returned home to the Provincial House of the Felician order.
After making all of the necessary arrangements the six of us arrived shortly after lunch. Sister Mary Lawrence enthusiastically welcomed us into her home and gave us the grand tour. For over an hour we saw firsthand their expansive compound, beautiful chapel and even their museum. It was wonderful to see Sister again and to get a peak into the life of the Sisters. Seemingly everywhere we went on the tour included the introduction of more and more sisters. Little sisters were popping out of everywhere. They were adorable as most were in their eighties and older. Every time Sister Mary Lawrence proudly announced us as her guests, and as seminarians, they were filled with joy. I guess in the world of nuns seminarians are like superstars. Little do they know they are the real superstars as they have given so much with their lives!
After touring the entire grounds we settled in the kitchen area for some Dr. Pepper and a few moments rest. Luckily for us we also were able to see Sister Antonia, another sister who served at St. Casimir until this past summer. She had been a teacher for 54 years.
After our rest and after receiving the gift of amazing Polish bread (babki?) we made our way to see the sisters side of the chapel. The main chapel at the convent is divided into two sections. There is the traditional area, like all churches, where the people sit. Behind the altar there is a giant grate and a separate section were the sisters sit, many of them are cloistered and separated from the world. It is because they are cloistered that they do not sit/interact with the people. Now it is important to note that not all the sisters are cloistered or they could not teach at schools, etc... However, many of them are and more importantly what is cloistered for them all is their living quarters and chapel.
Sister was very kind to share with us their side of the chapel, which was beautiful to say the least! After we left the cloistered portion of the chapel we made our way through the residence to an elevator. Sister took the stairs to run up and grab the convent dog to introduce to us. We were told to push the down button and return to the kitchen area. Once Sister left, and before we could close the elevator doors one of my fellow seminarians decided he really, really needed to use the bathroom. So he exited the elevator while we waited and discovered a "bathroom" right next to us. He quickly went in and did what he needed to do. As he was in the bathroom a sweet 96 year old nun started to head down the hallway, walker and all. Sister was no more than four foot nine and like something out of a movie. As she moved down the hallway it started to get awkward as I knew she would see us. My fellow seminarian was still in the bathroom when I looked out of the elevator and noticed, to my horror , that she was turning her walker right that way.
Like a car accident seen from afar, there was not much I could do. A sweet 96 year old nun who lived her whole live in a cloister with other nuns was about to run straight into a 6 ft goofy guy from NH, in the women's restroom. The five of us in the elevator all shut our eyes and prepared for the most uncomfortable moment in the world, luckily for us we were spectators and not participants.......