Sr. A MelicanSr Athanasius is a retired Sister living in Rosary House in Wynberg, South Africa. The following is an extract from a conversation she had on her becoming a Dominican Sister.

I was born in Co. Clare on the 18th December 1921.  My parents were Mary Halpin from Ennis and Thomas Melican from Ryhainna, now Shannon (where the airport began). Life was not easy at that time. My father realised this so he set off regularly to U.S and returned later having worked hard to add to the purse at home to help his growing family now growing up and needing a good education to be able to face life.  Alas! Dad got the dreaded illness of that time for which there was no cure – Pneumonia – and dear Dad was taken from the family, at a young man in his early forties – a terrible loss.   Luckily our Primary schools were very good with wonderful teachers. We did English, Irish, Latin, French, Maths and so on and many of the teachers’ own children attended.  Times were bad then, financially.

Many missionaries visited our schools from time to time and told us about their work and the great need there was there.  We were very interested and impressed and our young hearts were enthused.  We wanted to hear more about the work on the Missions.  We always had interesting missionary magazines at home which we keenly read – all impressed.  Was it God “talking” to me?  I began to be interested in religious life.

My mother became anxious.  I was young, but the Canon, to whom she went to speak, sent for me. He was kind but he was very serious and told me to pray – “May God call you to come and help in one of the areas”.  I had a very good mother – God was very special to her.  Life with a young husband gone to God already and we saw how she had great faith in God.

Then one day a group of Sisters came from South Africa – Dominican, to talk to us in school.   We were not well up in great spirituality but what they said always made an impression.  They were good people, cared and worried about their people in South Africa and very much wanted to help, especially the deprived.  Four of us from the class were very keen to know more and Sister Lucy followed us by letters. We were sent stories of the life they tried to lead and the interest in the people they were helping, mainly in schools.  I decided to to join the religious way of life. Eventually all was ready and I, with three other girls who were following this call to mission, now had to go to Potter’s Bar in England to prepare for life in South Africa.

Sailing to S. Africa was a bit frightening as there was a war raging.  We had some hair-raising times on the way – dead scared we would one day have to go into the sea with our life jackets.  Leaving Ireland from Dun Laoghaire to go firstly to Southampton.  There were many tears from our side and the families.  As the boat began to sail away, the folks waving began to fade, too, alas!  One bright spark exclaimed (in tears) “There goes Ireland and our dear ones.  If we persevere or/and the nuns keep us, we shall never see Ireland again and possibly not our dear ones, either”.  But we hit it out and after a rough sea journey we arrived in Cape Town all travellers with us excited seeing Cape Town, Table Mountain, etc.  So sad and weary were we by now.  We were now forever away from home.  Will we make it?  We were kindly received, desperately lonely, but life began quite soon.  In time we learnt a new language and grew into the life of being a Religious. We were put to study for our future work in Schools here in South Africa.

Now, after many years, I just want live in gratitude, joy and be ready when God comes to call me home.