Suzy in the Rosary Priory chapel with the memorabilia of Mother Rose

Suzy Brophy

MY GREAT AUNT MOTHER ROSE NILAND

I discovered that Rosary Priory and numerous other schools had been founded by my great aunt, Mother Rose Niland, and my mother had become a sister, not because of a vocational calling, but because she loved her aunt so much and she loved her spirit of adventure.

My mother was South African, and my father English and I was brought up in an atheist household, my father having had religion rammed down his throat at his boarding school. He hated religion with a passion and stated that “there will be none of that religious nonsense in my household.

Nevertheless, I had two wonderful Scripture teachers at my primary and secondary schools and at both schools I was given a Bible and they seemed to ‘speak to me’. So, I had a spark awakened inside of me. Then I became engaged to an Irish Catholic man and when we were in Sacre Coeur, Paris, I was blessed to have a mystical experience. I knew then, that I absolutely had to become a Catholic.

Again I was lucky with the formative people in my life. We had a new young priest, Fr. Jerry, who took me under his wing and he organised for Mr Mercedes, the Head of Loreto College in St Albans, to instruct me for two hours a week over sixth months.

I had a Catholic wedding, my children were all baptised Catholics and had a Catholic primary school education and they made their First Holy Communions and were confirmed.

Sometime after my father’s death, I had two South African cousins visit and the topic of their schooling cropped up. When I heard the name of the school, I said: “That sounds very Catholic”, and was amazed when the reply came back: “Well yes, of course, but you’d know that with your mother’s history”. I had no idea what they were talking about and you could have knocked me down with a feather when they told me that not only was my mother a Catholic, but that she had been a nun for 12 years! Rather a large secret!

I had to tread carefully as I didn’t want to offend my mother. She’d made a vow to my father and had kept it – no religion. (I later discovered that when she left the convent, everything had been properly done with regards to Rome and she had been given dispensation).

In trying to find out more about my mother’s history, I spoke to a friend who was a deputy head and who had been taught by sisters. As my mother had been a teacher, she suggested that we started our trail at her old school, Rosary Priory in Bushey, to see if the Dominican sisters could help in any way, as they are an order of teachers.
I got goosebumps then when she told me that they had connections with South Africa and had a wonderful Conference Centre, The Niland Centre. Niland was my mother’s maiden name.

I discovered that Rosary Priory and numerous other schools had been founded by my great aunt, Mother Rose Niland, and my mother had become a sister, not because of a vocational calling, but because she loved her aunt so much and she loved her spirit of adventure.

So aren’t I incredibly lucky and blessed to have such an illustrious relation? And aren’t I lucky and blessed to have heard and responded to the calling to not only become a believer, but a Catholic and to have been led to Rosary Priory? Because I firmly do believe that both God and Mother Rose were instrumental in bringing me to this wonderful place. It feels like a second home to me and I care very deeply for all the wonderful sisters. I am always made to feel so welcome and they are like a second family. They have enriched my spiritual life immeasurably and the icing on the cake was to be invited, about 18 months ago, to become a Lay Dominican Associate. A huge privilege and I feel that in some tiny way, I am carrying on what Mother Rose began, with such passion and energy. My heart is full of gratitude and wonder.

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