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12Network She I Autumn/Winter 2012Vocation, Vocation, VocationSixteen year old novice Helena Flynn with little sister SoniaWhen I was about 12 or 13 years of age I saw a picture of a nun caring for a sick child, that I believe was the seed that was planted that made me consider a religious vocation. When I came to leave school I was thinking of going to Alder Hey Hospital to do my children's nursing. As I had never been away from home for any length of time the headmistress suggested that I go as a cadet nurse to a hospital in Manchester, run by religious sisters, where you received a good foundation in nursing.Habit of a LIFETIMEBefriending soap stars and nursing football legends such as George Best are some of the more surprising aspects of being a nun that nursing sister Helena Flynn revealsShe told me how she was imprisoned by the Japanese during the war, making me realise that life in religion could at times be very challenging. At the time of the takeover by the military junta in the 1960s, all none Burmese were expelled from the country, so I never got to Burma. Wales was the furthest foreign She also told me how she was imprisoned by the Japanese during the war. This made me realise that life in religion could at times be very challenging In the early '50s nobody commuted between Liverpool and Manchester as they do today to work. That suggestion from my headmistress was providential as it brought me in touch with a Missionary Congregation of Sisters. It was during my time there and listening to a sister, who was home from Burma, and hearing all they did for orphans and lepers that made me believe I wanted to be a nursing missionary sister. My parents were very supportive of me all the time I was considering a religious vocation. The English sister from Burma, became a great friend. country I got to and loved it and the people.For my religious formation I went to Marseille for two years, one year as a postulant where you got a basic training in Religious Life. It gives you time to see if you feel cut out for that kind of life, also for the Sisters to see if they think you are suitable. This was followed by a year as a

www.networkshe.com13Vocation, Vocation, Vocationnovice during which time there is a deepening of one's Spiritual Life. On entry into the novitiate there was a ceremony of "Clothing" when one was clothed in the Habit of the Congregation and given a new name, so I am now called Sr Helena. Since the '60s this has changed into a simple ceremony as most congregations have done away with the old traditional habit, which for most was the dress for ladies at the time the congregation was founded. The enclosed monastic orders have mainly kept the traditional habit they had when founded. At the end of the Novitiate, if you feel you have made the right decision, and you are accepted by the Superiors, you make your first vows where you enter fully into the congregation.At the ceremony of Profession the Sister makes her vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. These are made for a temporary period usually for three years and then renewed for another three. After which time you make your Perpetual Vows for life. At this time you are also free to leave the congregation. You can see that there is a prolonged period of preparation. You could compare it to the courtship of a couple preparing for marriage. A getting to know you time.It was after my first vows that I came to Liverpool and did my nurse training at Broadgreen Hospital. After qualifying I went to our Nursing Home in Oxford, then on to Wrexham, where we also had a Nursing Home. During that time I did a theatre course at the Maelor Hospital after which, I went to our own hospital in Whalley Range, Manchester, in charge of the operating theatre. During this time we nursed Sir Matt Busby, and many of the United and City players came for operations resulting from injuries acquired on the field during matches. There was Nobby Styles, Georgie Best, Denis Law, Mike Summerbee to name just a few. There were also other celebrities, such as Julie Goodyear from Coronation Street who has remained a friend to the sisters. Holy Land than the people living there. This was one of the highlights of my life. On my return to England I joined a small parish community in Winsford, Cheshire. Here I worked in the parish and for seven years was the Chaplain at the local hospice. I felt it was a real privilege to accompany many people on their last journey on this earth. When we closed the house in Winsford, I joined the community here in Liverpool again. This is a community of elderly sisters the oldest is 92. I am generally responsible for the well-being of the sisters. We have carers morning and evening to attend to the personal needs of the sisters and one during the day, these carers are a great help. Although we are not getting young women from the UK or Europe who would consider religious life we have many vocations in the countries we once considered missionary. They in turn are coming back to us. We have young sisters in Burma, India, Thailand, The Philippines and Jordan. We also have sisters from Iraq and Egypt.If anyone wants a challenge, and feel it may be a call from God, consider Religious Life, you will not be disappointed. God is never outdone in generosity. I would not change it for the world.You could compare it to the courtship of a couple preparing for marriage, a getting to know you timeSr Helena and Sonia at a family weddingI was born in Park Hospital which was the first hospital to be in the NHS. I was baptised Margaret Elizabeth Flynn, the oldest of two girls. I am now 75 years young and as a child I wanted to be either a nurse or a hairdresser.FACTFILEAfter ten years in our hospital I moved on to the Jewish Hospital in charge of the Ear, Nose and Throat theatre. During this time I was living in a small parish community in Moss Side, where I experienced the riots. There was a period after this when I was Sister in charge of the community in Liverpool, then Matron of our Nursing Home in Bowden Vale near Altrincham. I was given the privilege of a sabbatical, one year in Jerusalem following Bible studies. I am sure that our group of 37 missionaries from around the world, plus a newly married couple on their honeymoon saw more of the