Climbing back towards the light: The Dominican sister who overcame her traumatic early life to help others Premium

16 February 2017 | by Timothy Radcliffe


Sister Pauline Quinn is a Dominican tertiary who survived years of self-harm, sexual abuse and street living to become a tireless champion of the poor and outcast, of refugees and the victims or war. Her story is one of a life spent healing wounds – both her own and those of others

When I began my term as Master of the Dominican Order in 1992, most days I received an angry fax from a Sister Pauline OP. No one knew who she was, to which congregation she belonged or why she was so aggressive.

One day I was told that a nun in full Dominican habit, with a dog, was demonstrating outside the priory with a placard saying “Dominicans, wake up your hearts”. I slipped downstairs, sidled up to her and asked: “Are you Sister Pauline?” “Yes,” she said. I took her up to my office with the dog, Pax, and thus began a wonderful, if sometimes testing, friendship. Her story is told in Secrets Shared: The Life and Work of Sister Pauline Quinn OP by Susan Nagelsen and Charles Huckelbury, published by Dogs&Jobs last year (£21.99).

Sister Pauline’s arms are criss-crossed with scars caused by self-harm. Jacques Laval OP wrote a novel called Les Cicatrices (The Scars). He inscribed in it for me: “Scars can become the doors of the sun.” Pauline’s scars shed harsh light on the devastating suffering of the abused. But with God’s grace, she climbed back up to the light.

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