02 September 2020, The Tablet

‘Mission, not community, is at the heart of our charism’

Women Religious today

‘Mission, not community, is at the heart of our charism’

In the first in our series that explores the extraordinary richness and diversity of ways in which women live out their vocation as members of religious institutes and communities, Sr Imelda Poole reflects on her work combatting human trafficking of women, men, girls and boys

I was the tenth of 12 children in a very loving, caring and close Catholic family. My parents were models for caring for others: they counselled, in our front room, young couples who were having marital difficulties; my father took us to sing carols in the maternity hospital at Christmas; and we’d go out snow sweeping to raise money to donate on Good Shepherd Sunday.

I fell in love with God when I was studying for my A levels at the Loreto Convent in Nottingham. I was praying each day using a little book of meditations on God’s love and I suddenly experienced a love that was more intense than any other loving I had experienced before: even though I had had a boyfriend since the previous year. It was a really extraordinary experience: I felt it deep, deep, deep in my gut, drawing me in, and it stayed and got bigger and more passionate and wider so that after a school day I just wanted to drop into church and pray!

The nuns in my school were very whole sort of people. Very, very fun-loving and kind but also very forthright women in their own right and that inspired me. So I followed my heart and joined the order at 17, before I took my A levels.
Our founder, Mary Ward, intended us to be a totally apostolic congregation, responding to the greatest needs in the world wherever they may be. So mission, not community, is at the heart of our charism. And we don’t see it as our mission but God’s mission: we’re just responding to his call. As with many Religious, we don’t plan long term. We are invited somewhere and then begin a process of discernment – to see what is God’s will now.

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