One day my Warsaw friend suddenly took it into her head to fly to England and enter the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Cecilia at Ryde on the Isle of Wight. I found out after the fact and was cross that Weronika had robbed her friends of our traditional goodbye party for postulants. However, Weronika wrote a charming apology for her elopement, explaining that she had thought she would leave by Christmas and therefore didn’t want a fuss.
We had the fuss this Ascension Day instead, for Weronika’s friends and family went to the Abbey to see her making her First Vows as Sr. Mechtilde. My husband Mark couldn’t go, so I travelled south alone, taking a train, a bus, a plane, two more trains and a ferry boat.
There were at least five Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate staying in the Benedictine guest house. I saw them at Mass the following morning when, rain-drenched, I entered the Abbey church. They were in the little transept reserved for the public; the nave of the church is cloistered, just for the Benedictine sisters themselves. The vestry is in the transept and priests process to the altar through a side gate in the decorative metal fence. A taller fence separates the sanctuary from the cloistered nave.
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