Tuesday, April 16, 2019

St Teresa's: A Nun's story

Sister Thomas More:  Memories of St Teresa’s …

(Catherine McGrath is my secular name.  In Kenya, I was known as Mother Thomas More and then, later on, we dropped the title Mother and became Sister.  Now here in England, I am known usually as Sister T M (Thomas More). )

I was a member of the English Province of the Loreto Sisters when in August 1960 a letter was received from the Mother General inviting Sisters to volunteer to go to Kenya to teach in a Primary School.   I put the request on the long finger, but at the end of the month, I volunteered.  I got a response by the return of post!

At the end of October, I left for Kenya and was based in Loreto Convent, Msongari.  I travelled to Eastleigh each day in the company of Sister Teresa Gertrude, the headmistress and Sister Stanislaus who taught in the Senior Department.

Sister Teresa Gertrude, fondly known as MTG, was a woman way ahead of her time.  She felt restricted by having to be driven to school by the convent driver and collected when he was free!. So, a driver had to be at her back and call!  Hence, I learnt to drive just a few days into my arrival in Kenya.   In the following February was acquired a car for the school and we were off!  Netball, rounders etc. teams were transported all over the place!

Sister Stanislaus was with us until the summer of 1961 when she went on home leave.  On her return to Kenya, she was transferred to Loreto Limuru.

When I first went to St Teresa’s – January 1961 – The Standard 2 class teacher, Mrs Almeida, was on leave and so I was trusted with her class.  When she returned, I was a kind of “unofficial supervisor” in the Primary section as there was only one head at the time.  I did graduate to some class teaching later.  I taught French to the Std. 7 class, but I really have no recollection of what else I did! Apart from being the driver!!

I also remember teaching French to the 3rd form and for this, I had to spend time preparing and revising during the holidays! The Second Vatican Council occurred in 1962 and we used to listen to the reports from the Vatican each lunch-time whilst we were eating our lunch. (In those days, Loreto sisters did not eat in public!)

After two or three years with MotherTeresa Gertrude (MTG), I got a new headmistress – Sister Francis De Sales.  She was a driver and so we took it in turns to drive to school.

Things and families, I remember during my time in Eastleigh:

From the school, one had an uninterrupted view of the Mathare hospital across Mathare valley.  Now, this valley has given a home to thousands of people and the hospital building is no longer in sight.

One Sunday morning we were called to the school following a break-in.  Someone had stolen rolls of uniform cloth which were housed in the office block. We went to Pangani police station and on entering we saw the rolls of cloth in the station.  I think that they gave it back to us there and then.  They had caught the one who had stolen the cloth.

In the school office, the clerk was Mrs Blanche Nazareth.  She was a very efficient and pleasant lady.  She used to take me into the city for my driving lessons in the afternoons.

Teachers on the staff were usually quite young and were all very friendly. The older ones were Mrs De Sa, Miss Maisie Nazareth, Mrs Mary Fernandes, Mrs Caroline Alpin and Mrs Delphine Noronha.  The “youngsters” were Miss Jeannette Paes, Miss Clemmie, Miss Olga, Miss Florrie, Mrs Marie, Mrs Almeida, Miss Ivy (who married Silu Fernandes who played hockey for Kenya).  I remember going to a local park with MTG to see him play in an international match.

We had great dealings with the Boys’ school which was presided over by Fr Hannon CSSP and Fr Cremmins CSSP.  On St Teresa’ Feast in October, we had the day off and both staffs went on an outing which was very popular.  ‘The Brown Trout’ in the Rift Valley was a place which we enjoyed. The pupils were usually very biddable and had respect for their teachers.  Some of the teachers had their own children or sisters in the school.  The Paes family, Verona, Maureen and Lilian were sisters of Miss Jeannette.  Mrs Noronha had June, Sonya, Fernanda and Colin (we had boys up to Std 3 and when we had  “housetrained them,  they went across the road!!).  Mrs Almeida had Francesca, Amelia and Gerard in the school.  Mrs Alpin had Teresa and Gail. Some of the other pupils whom I remember were Rosalind and Maria De Silva, Rosalia D’Mello, Yvette D’Souza, Maria Margaret Fernandes, Fanny and Driscoll D’Costa, Jeanne Nazareth, et al.

In 1972 when I was home on leave from Kenya I attended the wedding of Fanny D’Costa and the church was full of ex Nairobi Goans.  As I had been out to a hospital in London, to visit a former pupil (Irene Barros) and it was Saturday afternoon, Rosalind D’Silva and I arrived late.   In fact, we had just time to get into the back row of the church when the happy couple came down the aisle!  We were in time for the reception where many stories were exchanged.

In past years, I have been to two or three reunions of pupils from the Girls’ and Boys’ schools.  These have been very well attended as the Goans like to keep up their club systems.

I was transferred to the Catholic Parochial School in January 1966 and then was involved in the building of the new school which was a building crying out to be refurbished.

In 2004 I attended nephew’s wedding in Idaho and then went over to North Carolina to visit my sister and her family. Because of meeting Rosalia, I was invited to visit Toronto and had a wonderful week with her. One day I met up with about 40 past pupils and teachers at a park in the city.  They were all excited to talk about school days and we had a lovely afternoon.

During my time there I met up with Elma D’Souza and her husband and was taken to visit Niagara Falls.  Elma came down the corridor looking as young and youthful as she had done so many years ago.

Whilst I was in Toronto I was able to visit Loretto Abbey, the home of the Loretto Sisters of the Canadian Province.

Since I returned from Kenya, I have met up with Ethel Price, now known as Jill, who taught music to the girls in St Teresa’s.  She is very involved in the local Parish where she plays the organ and trains the choir.  

I think that that concludes my memories as after the Catholic Parochial I taught in Eldoret, one year in St Teresa’s, Valley Road and Loreto Msongari.

I returned to England in 1995 when my mother had a stroke and I was able to visit her before she died in 1995. 

I am sure she would love to hear from ex-students: tmmcgrath31@gmail.com

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