"Be a dominican like me"Sister Ursula Horan OP
I am Sister Ursula Horan. At present I am living in Rosary Priory, Bushey Heath, England.
I worked for many years teaching in schools: St Cuthbert Mayne School (Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire); St Michael’s School (Garston, Hertfordshire); and St Richard’s in Bexhill, East Sussex. I enjoyed teaching and found it satisfying.
I later worked in the Parish of St Dominic’s, Haverstsock Hill, London for 18 years with the Dominican Friars. We work in teams with many devoted parishioners. We visited the sick in their homes to pray with them and bring them Holy Communion. We helped with groups in the two local Primary Schools; and hosted Catechetical sessions for Baptisms, First Communion for children attending non-Catholic schools, Confirmation and RCIA.
When I was in Secondary School I decided I would like to become a Missionary. One of the Sisters in my Secondary School, St Vincent’s Convent in Cork City, was a great inspiration to me. She encouraged us to help the Missions by decorating cards, selling them and giving the money to the Missions. There was a doll beautifully dressed which was on a pedestal in the entrance to the Dominican Church. There was a box with a slit in it into which we put our pennies. The fascinating thing for us was that when we put in our pennies the doll nodded her head as if to say, “Thank you”. We loved this and made our way to the Church when any one of us had a penny we were willing to part with. The whole exercise made us aware of the Church in other countries that needed help. To become a missionary was fine as long as I did not have to do anything about it! As time went by the thought of becoming a missionary pestered me a lot so I felt that I had to do something about it. It did not suit me. I would have preferred if the thought had gone away. I was quite happy the way I was. I remember going into St Mary’s Dominican Church in the City and kneeling in the last seat hoping God would not hear me! It was the summer of 1953. I told God I would do all I could to go to a convent but if I was not gone by September, I would not give it a second thought ever again. I now had to push myself and I was not very keen. It scared me.
My first cousin Brendan had gone the year before to Tallaght, in Dublin to become a Dominican. I wrote to him for advice. He wrote back ‘Be a Dominican like me’. He told me to go to St Mary’s in Cork and see a Dominican. This I did and he sent me to what we called in Cork ‘Blair’s Castle’ which was the house of the Dominican Sisters in Cork. Here I met Sister Vianney and Sister Dominic Walsh who were going to Rosary Priory. I entered Rosary Priory with them on 8th September 1953. My mother never really liked the idea of me becoming a sister, but my father was quite happy about it.
I found entering religious life very difficult. It was so different to the life I had left at home. I felt it was God’s work and not mine and I struggled with this for a long time. I sometimes wonder whether some personalities are more suited to religious life than others. However ,here I am still living a Dominican life.
Joy and hope in my life have to do with people. I have met some wonderful people in my life. People who are generous to a fault; people suffering dreadful hurts and tragedies with patience and forgiveness; old people coming to Mass when they can barely walk and thanking God for the privilege of getting there; little children’s faces as they come up for a blessing during the distribution of Holy Communion; teenagers who are as good as gold; the Faith and conviction of people who come to the RCIA programme full of awe at their calling; people who pray constantly and firmly believe that God loves them and listens to them; the silent people who work in churches and elsewhere for others, silently and faithfully; people who keep going in spite of all the odds against them; people who never give up doing good. All these people give me hope and joy and show me repeatedly that God is always at work in this world of ours.
For me, Religious Life has been a good life – not without its difficulties, but then whose life is easy with no problems?
I thank God I have come this far, and look back in gratitude for all that has been.