My Dominican Vocation

Sister Brenda Hayes OP

My name is Sister Brenda Hayes. I was born in Blackrock Cork, Ireland. We were eight in family six girls and two boys. I was the second oldest.

I became a Dominican Sister because two Dominican Sisters were questing for Postulants in Cork; they visited the Ursuline Convent in Blackrock where I attended Primary School. One of my teachers Sister Angela knew that I was interested in becoming a Sister, so she kindly sent for me and we discussed my intention of joining the Dominican Sisters of Newcastle Natal in England. My aunt Sister Dominica was a Dominican Sister working in South Africa, but she didn’t have any influence in my decision to become a Dominican Sister. I accompanied by my mother visited Sisters Anselm and Sabina at our Convent St Albert’s in Cork and we made arrangements for me to enter the Congregation.

I entered the Dominican Order in 1944 at Rosary Priory with seven other candidates.

I made my first profession on July 28 1946 and was transferred to St Joseph’s Convent, Launceston, Cornwall where I spent three years until my final profession in July 1949.

Sister Brenda on the day of her Final Profession in 1949 with her younger sister, Frances who entered as a Postulant three years later.

On 1 December 1950 I was sent to South Africa with nine other Sisters and travelled by ship on the Bloemfontein Castle, a long voyage in those days, arriving in Durban Harbour on Christmas Day. My first assignment was to St Elmo’s, Umzumbe, Natal, a beautiful convent overlooking the Indian Ocean where we had a school for pupils with special needs. Naturally I was very homesick for some time and often wished I could swim out to the ships returning to England! I taught in many of our schools in South Africa and was Boarders Mothers in Benoni, Gauteng (then the Transvaal) for ten years.

I was happy in my retiring years to teach at Emaromeni Catholic School in Actonville, Benoni, Gauteng, a school where I was able to share my gifts in assisting young children with a literacy programme which enabled them to cope better when they entered the ‘regular’ classroom situation. In this happy environment, young learners were given individual attention and care and felt safe and secure. Their learning needs were identified and attended to immediately. During these years God helped me to spread His Good news among the teachers, pupils and all those with whom I came into contact in South Africa. I thank God for my lifelong love of teaching.

Having spent 56 years in South Africa I returned to England in 2006. I have settled in very happily in my new home in Rosary Priory for this I praise and thank God.

What gives me great joy is the fact that I am able to attend Mass daily and take part in all community exercises and also now that I am retired, I have more time for my personal prayer.

My other joys are reading, listening to music, going for walks in our beautiful grounds, admiring God’s wonderful Creation.

It gives me hope that the Lord has supported me throughout my Religious Life, in good times and difficult times.

Sister Brenda celebrated the Plantium Jubilee (70 years) of her Profession as a Dominican Sister in 2016. Here she receives a papal blessing from Mgr Anthony Figuereido.

Sister Frances and Sister Brenda, blood sisters, celebrate their Professed life as Dominican Sisters.

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