Sr Zoë’s vocation story

Sr ZoeMy first memory of ‘church’ (I was about four at the time) is of ‘helping’ my mother and several members of her altar guild clean our church for the forthcoming wedding of Harry Truman’s daughter. (Harry Truman, 33rd president of the US, was a resident of my home town, his wife attended our church.)  The chief attraction, I admit, was chatting with the inevitable policeman on guard duty and eventually having a ride on his motorcycle.  But ever since then I have known that religious life would always include cooperation, work and just a small bit of the exotic or exciting.

I was born in Kansas City Missouri and baptised in the Episcopal Church.  My family moved several times due to my father’s work – and we ended up in northern Indiana in the early 1960’s

I spent part of each summer of my childhood and teens attending and then working at a summer camp run by Episcopalian Nuns who not only provided us with all the usual ‘camp’ activities but also had us gladly attending regular daily services (morning and evening prayer) and singing Gregorian Chant.  So when it became clear to me in my teens that regular prayer was important and that I was rubbish at it by myself, I naturally looked towards religious life as providing that framework – of people and structure – that sustained prayer, and it became clear to me that at some point I would have to explore religious life.

This was kept on the back burner as I continued my studies at St. John’s College Annapolis Maryland.  By the time I had finished my degree I had become a Catholic (another story) and received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study the conservation of textiles.  This took me to Europe where I not only studied textiles but also took the opportunity to visit several Benedictine communities (for me it was always Benedictine life that attracted, it having, I think, many echoes of my Episcopalian background for which I have always been profoundly grateful). 

I joined the community – then at Cockfosters – in 1975 and made my final profession in 1980 shortly before the community moved to Turvey.  Since then I have been involved in many areas of work in the community, making vestments, managing the kitchen, looking after the sick and a small herd of goats.  Since 1990 I have been prioress (again another story!).

I can’t say that monastic life is easy, or always, on the surface, pleasant.  It is a very rich and good life, and when I’m not being contrary I can tap into the deep stream of joy that underlies everything.  Monastic life has challenged me in ways that I never dreamed of, and taught me much.  It has taught me – is teaching me to be a woman of prayer.