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Called by God

Looking through an old book of Associates from our Archive, I was struck by the number of recognisable surnames. This wasn’t an extensive exercise, as I was primarily looking for information on Lucy Hansell and Theophila Coyte, and there was more information on Theophila to be discovered elsewhere. But, still, along the way I found a number of interesting links. A few Associates had themselves later become Sisters: Mary Emma Mombert, admitted as a Sister Associate in 1901, was Professed as Sr Mary Katherine in 1905, so must have joined the Community not long after becoming an Associate.  Rosamund Miller is present as a withdrawn Associate – with ‘Choir Sister, All Hallows’ given as the reason; she was professed as (the first) Sr Rosamund in 1897. Eileen Falls was admitted to as a second order Associate in 1904, she, too, must have joined the Community only a few years later, as she was professed in 1909. Althea Moody was admitted as an Associate of the second order in 1891 and was professed as Sr Althea in 1906. She taught at our school in Yale, Canada for several years before returning to Ditchingham to join the Community. She appears to have been recruited by Sr Amy (Sister in Charge in Yale) during a visit to England in 1891, therefore (without knowing the dates, or how long it took before a woman could be admitted as an Associate), I am assuming her link with us was formed before she went to Yale. While her family had spent time in Canada, and Althea and some of her siblings were born in Canada, the family later returned to England. In 1881, Althea was at school in Staffordshire; in 1891, she was living with her parents and several siblings in Surrey.


There was more to discover in this book, however. Rose Marguerite Moody, Sr Althea’s younger sister, was admitted as a second order Associate in 1905, and withdrew when she joined the “Community of the Epiphany” in India in 1909, as a choir novice. A postscript to this is that this order, the Sisterhood of the Epiphany, was based in India (later in India and Bangladesh) and had no house in the UK. So when the last 3 Sisters in Bangladesh returned to England, they joined us at Ditchingham. (There was also a Community of the Epiphany, but as far as I know this was based in England; it must have been the Sisterhood Rose joined). Clara Louisa Latter was admitted as a second order Associate in 1899, until her death in 1907. She was an older sister of Sr Caroline, who died in 1891. Louisa Florence Gottwaltz was admitted as a second order Associate in 1897, and withdrew in 1912; she was a sister of the first Sr Frances, who died in 1910. Sr Helen’s sister, Emily Mary Noad was admitted as a 1st order Associate in 1905, the year after Sr Helen died. Eva and Ada Necker were admitted as 2nd Order Associates in 1911; they were half-sisters of Sr Amy and Sr Bertha (see last week’s blog).


There are other names that stand out: Norah Kirkbride, who I think worked in the Embroidery Room, was a 1st order Associate; Susan(nah) Elizabeth Antonia Birkbeck, who I think may have used her third middle name, and who transferred from 1st order to the second (or vice versa, my notes don’t make this clear) in 1906, when she was living on Thunder Lane in Norwich. Was she buried in our cemetery? I’m not sure, but I recognise the name.


There were many others, some known and some not so known. There was Bishop Acton Silletoe’s mother-in-law, who was the link between CAH and the Bishop’s invitation to work in British Columbia. There were others known and remembered by Community members; those forgotten, but precious at the time; those who still are Associates now. At some point, the two orders became one order of Associates. I do not know if this was a Community decision, or if 1st Order Associates fell into disuse. Later men were also admitted. Nowadays, as one order, Associates follow a simple rule and meet up twice a year at our Bungay house. Many years after 1st order Associates stopped, the Oblates of the Community came into being. They have a different rule to Associates, and were formed because a former novice felt called to a way of life that was more ‘hands-on’ than Associates. Oblates live their lives alongside the Community’s rhythm of life. I assume that the original two orders of Associates would have been similarly differentiated to today’s Oblates and Associates; 1st order Associates, or Sister Associates, being somewhat akin to Oblates, although I do not know for sure.


Most Communities have ways of being alongside them for those not called into full time membership. It is not a lesser call, but a different one. Clara Latter, Emily Noad, Eva and Ada Necker were not called into full time membership as their sisters were. Nevertheless, for them being an Associate linked them not only with the Community, but also to the God they served in the situations in which they lived. We all have our own particular call; for some of us, as with Sr Rosamund, Sr Althea, Sr Mary Katherine that may change as our lives develop. But the primary nature of the call to serve God does not change, wherever it may take us.

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