The Bar Convent is home to members of the Congregation of Jesus (CJ), a religious order that was founded by the hugely progressive Yorkshire woman Mary Ward in the 17th Century. A lot of people are curious about the sisters’ way of life, so we asked Sr Ann Stafford to describe a typical day. In turns out, there’s no such thing…
No two days are alike but there is a constant each day which include an hour’s prayer in the morning, Mass at 12 noon and reflection at the end of the day seeing where God has been present. During the day, I am conscious of God at work in the people I meet, in nature and in the way unexpected events happen.
My main work is looking after the chapel and welcoming guests visiting our Heritage Centre. Today I will be welcoming the new students from All Saints School, which is attached to our building There is an intake of 150 Year 7s who break up into 5 different classes. They come to learn the history of their school which is the oldest Catholic School in the British Isles founded in 1686 by Frances Bedingfiled. From that day to this there has been a school and religious community living at the Bar Convent.
Some of the earlier sisters were imprisoned for their faith. The community has experienced great poverty, being threatened by angry mobs and had help coming from God in times of need. They also learn about the beautiful hidden chapel dedicated to the Blessed Trinity and Our Lady which was built in 1768. The Chapel is situated in the centre of the building and is shared with the school.
The children are followed by a group from York Civic Trust who are visiting the Chapel and having coffee in the cafe before they have their talk about the history of the convent.
Our Mass with our elderly sisters at St. Josephs follows. We are very fortunate in being able to have Mass 5 times in the week. We are also very fortunate to have our lunch cooked for us. Here we are joined by some of our employees and any visitors coming to see members of the community.
I am trained as a spiritual director so this afternoon I will meet one of my directees. This is a very privileged ministry. I feel so blessed to witness God at work in people’s lives. I descend then to a more mundane activity when I go to the hairdresser. I do enjoy my visits as Brian has so many interests and we have good conversations.
Catching up on my emails is something I cannot avoid. I do enjoy being in touch with people but sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed. We take it in turns to cook supper but that is not my responsibility this evening. After supper it is good to sit down and watch something on the television and so switch off from the demands of the day. We have a bank of recorded programmes such as Lewis, Law and Order, Wycliffe etc. so we escape into a completely different world!