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Welcome to our site and Sisterhood.
“My own vocation had its seed awakening in the kitchen of my home when I witnessed my mother bathing the feet of an elderly “man of the roads” who called in from time to time to be ministered to by my mother and father. I had watched my mother on other occasions, but the one that stands out was when I was seven years of age. I
remember on this occasion saying inwardly “How does she do it?” An inner voice responded for me “That is what I want to do.”
Unknown to my mother she was the bearer of this graced moment for me and my future.
Have you received a ‘graced moment?’
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Sister Clare Bernadette Knowles
Sr Clare Bernadette receives her ring during her Final Profession September 2008
(Photograph by James Clevett Littlehampton)
Sisters and brothers, may the Lord give you peace. My name is Clare Bernadette Knowles and I am a member of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Littlehampton. I joined the FMSL nine years ago in September 1999. Last September I made my final profession of vows in this Congregation. I am currently based in our convent in Canterbury where I serve as a formator of three novice Sisters. I am also working on a PhD in Franciscan spirituality. My earliest memory of vocation was when I was about 10 years old. I attended a few day retreats with my family led by a Franciscan friar. I remember being impressed by his lifestyle and teaching. It made me want to be like him. In my teens, I also felt drawn to religious life. My parents wisely advised me to finish my education first, see more of life, then decide.
During my time at University, I deliberately forgot about the question of religious vocation. I took on the same ambitions as many of my fellow students: get a stable graduate career, good social life, my own place to live, maybe get married and have a family. After University, I did get a graduate job with career prospects in a printing firm, rented my own flat, had a fine social life. But I was not happy or fulfilled. After some romances that didn’t work, I became sure that marriage was not my vocation. It was when I went on a weekend retreat that a crisis came in prayer. I felt the huge gap between what I believed in my heart and my self-centred, materialistic lifestyle. Then, in prayer, I saw myself as a Sister, my life’s direction in God’s hands, my work and talents used to spread God’s word and love in the world. I saw myself living simply in community, free from all possessions and false images, just being myself for God. In this, I felt a surge of joy and excitement, as if a door to freedom had opened. I began to enquire into various women’s Orders, writing letters and making visits while continuing in my job, sharing my journey with a spiritual director. Finally, the Holy Spirit led me back to my original call to be a Franciscan, and to the FMSL,
where I saw women living out the spirit that was in my heart. Since then, I’ve found joy in the study of Franciscan spirituality and sharing this with others. I’ve lived happily in Bradford, Canterbury and Southern India. My work has involved: helping the homeless, poor, housebound, sick, drug addicts, youth, Gospel sharing, music ministry, teaching, writing, leading retreats, vocations promotion and spiritual formation of new Franciscan Sisters. Even with the normal ups and downs of life, I find deep peace and joy in knowing I am where I’m meant to be, following Jesus ever more closely in ongoing conversion. I wish that every person could know the happiness of living their true vocation, whatever it may be.
This article first appeared in the Portsmouth People
Sister Anne Joseph
Sister Anne Joseph was born in Kerala, South India, the eldest of six children. Her family were Catholic, so she had an excellent Catholic upbringing. She trained as an Infant School Teacher and it was while she was on a retreat for teachers that she felt the call to the Religious Life. Jesus became her hero and inspiration. She spent much time in prayer and reflection and then made the final decision to do something about her call. “Where?” was the next question? Like Abraham, Anne felt called to England and so she joined Our Congregation – The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Littlehampton – and so she left Kerala for an unknown land and people in 1979.
Anne followed the Congregational training as a Postulant, Novice and then made her First Commitment (Profession of the three Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience) 25 years ago as an FMSL Sister. She says that these 25 years have been fruitful, fulfilled and happy in the service of God and the Church. In 2005 Sr Anne was commissioned by the Congregation to begin our new foundation in India. She began her search for a place in Bangalore and ended up in Mysore where we have established a Convent for Formation of FMSL Sisters in India, under the guidance of Sr Anne Joseph and team. (See Mysore entry for more details)
On the 9 May 2007 Sr Anne Joseph celebrated her Silver Jubilee with Sister Clare Bowers FMSL here in St Joseph’s Littlehampton. It was a memorable day
and our Bishop Kieran Conry and Priests along with her cousin Fr Matthew concelebrated the Mass. Both she and Sr Clare were presented with a framed Papal Blessing for the occasion. They were joined in the celebration by family, friends and Sisters of the Congregation. It was a very enjoyable occasion and
Anne says she received the “hundredfold reward” as promised by the Lord.
Sister Clare Bowers
A Silver Jubilee of Religious Profession is a good time to look back and see how God has been working and directing one’s life. Where did my Vocation come from? How did I know that God was calling me to the Religious Life?
If I was looking for a Moses experience of a burning bush, or a dramatic experience like Paul had on the road to Damascus, then I can honestly say I was disappointed. Elijah found God in the gentle breeze and that, perhaps, is the best description for me.
The seeds of my vocation were sown within my home. As a child, I would join my mother, brothers and sister, when as a family we recited the Rosary together. Whilst on holiday on the East Coast, being dragged up a steep hill by my father, the realisation that “I was going to be one of them” when we happened to be walking behind a nun! Needless to say, I hadn’t a clue what “one of them was” – I just knew that I would travel the same road.
My first real encounter with Sisters was in secondary school where I was educated by the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace. It was during those years that I was one of a group that was taken to the Novitiate House of the Order for a Vocations weekend. The Sisters obviously saw something I still hadn’t realised but it was during that weekend that my relationship with the Lord began to grow in a specific way, although I wasn’t convinced that the Religious Life was for me.
My first meeting with the FMSL was when I was 16 and I was looking after a priest whilst his housekeeper had a holiday. As a result, I began to spend time in Littlehampton during the holidays. I would also spend some time each month at St Anthony’s Convent in Bradford.
These were the ways the Lord was leading me to answer his call. No blinding lights, just sign-posts, all pointing in one direction, if I would but walk down that road!
The Lord was patient and waited. For me there was a search for an invisible hunger within. I suddenly came to the realisation that there was more to life; that there was something missing in my life. That something was Himself.
Like St Francis or St Augustine, I had to experience life to the full before realising there was a restlessness within which only the Lord could satisfy.
Now as I celebrate 25 years I know I have chosen wisely!
There are FMSL Convents and Sisters to contact to help you with your dream. Why not act now?
SEARCHING FOR GOD’S VISION FOR YOU
Are you prepared to spend time in prayer and discernment to realise God’s dream for you?
If you would like to know more about our community and you are considering a life following Christ in the footsteps of St Francis. If you want to be an effective instrument of justice and peace through love, and you are inspired by the life of St Francis. You are invited first to pray and after a period of discernment you are invited to contact Sister Clare Bernadette, at
firstname.lastname@example.org or any of our Convent Communities who will help you further your faith journey. You may even like to arrange a visit.
Thank you for visiting our site. We will keep you in our prayers. Please keep the FMSL Sisterhood in your prayers too.
Saint Francis prayed humbly before the San Damiano crucifix in Assisi:
Most High, glorious God,
Enlighten the darkness of my heart,
Give me right faith, sure hope, and perfect charity
Fill me with understanding and knowledge
That I may fulfil your command
He went on to say:
“Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves
So that He who gives Himself totally to you
May receive you totally”
Answering the call of God who first calls us in love through Baptism, to following Christ more closely in Gospel Living, is like falling in love with God and His Word.
Falling in love
Nothing is more practical
than finding God,
i.e. falling in love
in a quite absolute final way.
What you are in love with,
What seizes your imagination
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you
out of bed in the morning;
what you will do with your evenings;
how you will spend your weekends;
what you read
what you know;
what breaks your heart,
and amazes you with Joy and
Fall in love
Stay in love
And it will decide everything!
Pedro Arrupe S.J.