Jennifer (on the left)  with the sisters she taught at Rosary Priory School Sr Sheila O’Reilly OP (in the middle) and Sr Martina Hayden OP

Jennifer Nixon


The Sisters’ thoughtfulness, care and loving kindness demonstrate that they constantly follow our Lord Jesus Christ’s bidding, to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, and strength, and our neighbours as ourselves.

From my earliest awareness of my surroundings, I was in awe of the Tower and buildings of Rosary Priory and the sound of the Angelus bell. And, most importantly, the sight of the procession of Sisters in their full habits as they walked past our garden fence on their walk around the fields, at the back of my birthplace where I lived for nearly forty years.

In the ‘30s and ‘40s, the Sisters kept cows. Farmer John Keaveney, with Danny the grey horse to pull the cart, were often working in the fields. Once a cow or two managed to get through a gap in the fence and ate some of our cabbages. 

During the Second World War, an anti-aircraft gun was located in an adjacent field. It often kept me awake during an air raid. Before we had a shelter, my mother would wrap me in a blanket and carry me up our road to her friends’ shelter to safety. Rosary Priory was hit by a bomb [on 15th November 1940]. I believe the Nazi bombers mistook it for Bentley Priory, a mile or two away. 

As children, my friends and I would roam across the fields, taking utmost care not to go too near the Priory. We helped with hay making, but we were warned by a local ‘Bobby’ not to play on the large hay rick. I have a recurrent dream of walking those fields and squeezing through a gap in the fence back into the safety of our garden, although it is forty years since I left that home. 

A member of St Peter’s Anglican Church for the first part of my life, when I was about ten years old, I remember my elder brother telling a story about the sad death of his friend’s sister. He told us she’d asked to be a Catholic just before she died. Also about that time, I was intrigued by a sign saying ‘Pontifical High Mass’ at Buckfast Abbey, Devon, whilst on a family holiday. 

After the birth of my third child in 1965, I had crossed myself, on the delivery table. A Catholic midwife beside me, asked if I were a Catholic. I should have answered, ‘Not yet.’ God was working in my slowly.

At Wall Hall Teacher Training College, in nearby Aldenham, Herts.,  where I trained for three years, I remember seeing Sister Geraldine from Rosary Priory. I chose RE for my main course and twelve of us spent ten days in Israel during our second year.

On my first Teaching Practice in 1974, I spent nine weeks in Sister Colette’s Prep 1 at Rosary Priory. For my Education dissertation, I chose Worship in the Primary School as my theme. Sister Martina agreed to let me be present at an Assembly she was taking as Head of St Catherine of Siena School (Garston, Watford). Perhaps I had heard her broadcast radio.

Sister Rosary (now Sister Sheila), then Head of the Junior School at Rosary Priory, offered me a position teaching Transition, which I gladly accepted after experiencing all the happiness of her lovely school. Beginning in September 1974, I taught at Rosary Priory for fourteen years until it closed.

After a divorce in 1976, my family had to leave our home in Wayside Avenue and live with my mother for a short while. Sister Sheila kindly stored all my household goods and chattels in rooms at the back of the School Hall—amazing! At one Staff coffee break, someone asked what was in those rooms. Another teacher replied, “Just some old junk.” How I laughed!

On a cold January evening, when we finally left No. 48, Sister Sheila cooked a meal for my mother, my children and myself in the Lodge at Rosary Priory. As usual, she’d gone countless extra miles indeed!

Fiona, my eldest child and I spent Christmas in 1977 at Villa Rosa Convent, with the Sisters in Rome. It was great to be with Sister Sheila and Sister Hyacinth again. That was an important moment in my journey to become a Catholic. In 1979 I was received into the Catholic Church, on Christmas Eve, in the Chapel of the Priory—before its restoration. After the service, my family and I were warmly welcomed by the Sisters into their Dining Room for refreshments. Since then, some forty years later, the Sisters continue their generous hospitality. 

The Sisters’ thoughtfulness, care and loving kindness demonstrate that they constantly follow our Lord Jesus Christ’s bidding, to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, and strength, and our neighbours as ourselves.

Therefore, I feel it is an honour and a privilege to become a Dominican Associate of the Congregation after all these years. 

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