A photo of a butterfly A photo of a butterfly

Not an ordinary Sunday Service

Eileen Ridge

The 18th January was an ordinary Sunday Service for some, but to me it was a very special day, it was the day I took my life vows. I thought this day would never come and, if you asked me five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.  In 2009 I felt that something was happening to me: I had been on several spirituality course but felt that there was more I needed. I went to Walsingham with a local parish church and didn’t know what to expect, but whilst there, I had the feeling that I needed to give myself totally to God. I spoke to the Priest I was with and he spoke to +Bishop Lindsay who suggested I explore this in more depth. The Priest I was with knew something about the single consecrated life, so the journey began.

Eileen taking her vows

There was plenty of frustration and people telling me that it would happen in God’s time, because I was having great difficulty getting to meet the Bishop. And when I finally did get to meet the Bishop, he turned out to be the wrong one.  However a strange thing happened; a friend and I were taking two Franciscans to the Lent course at the Minster, and one evening I couldn’t go due to other commitments.  One of the brothers asked about me, so she told him my journey. He happened to be Brother Damian SSF, an adviser to the Single Consecrated Life and things started to happen.  I spoke to Brother Damian the next day and was put in touch with Sue, and within 24 hours I had all the information there in my hands. Result? Just the start of another journey. The Priest with whom I went to Walsingham became my spiritual adviser.  I was invited to Birmingham (my home town) for an away day with Single Consecrated Life and I got so much from it: a sense of belonging and an understanding of how others had struggled.  I met Mary Vickerage at Walsingham and she has become one of my close friends in Christ and has helped me enormously on my journey.  Great everything is going well or is it? It was this constant battle trying to meet with my Diocesan Bishop. I had talks with  Bishop Tony and Sue and felt that it no long was in God’s time but needed to be in my time. 

I had a friend  in Bishop Peter Burrows of Doncaster. He agreed to speak to the Bishop on my behalf and it was agreed that Bishop Peter could receive my vows. But it was still a struggle as no-one knew what to do as I was the first person in the diocese of Sheffield to take vows in 101 years. And as my Vicar said, The Rite took some dusting off. So on the 18th January 2015, after a long struggle and never giving up and listening to God, I made my Life vows in front of my family and the congregation of 100 and representatives of S.C.L. Before the service Mary, Diane (church Lay Reader) and I had time for quiet prayer. This was so overwhelming that someone had written a prayer for me.

Lord we shout and sing for joy that you have called Eileen and she has heard your voice. We worship you knowing you are our God, and that we are all your people. We give grateful thanks that you are welcoming Eileen into your Kingdom as your Heaven comes to meet the Earth this morning.

We pray that she continues to feel your love and know that you remain ever faithful. Lord, in your mercy, we hold her to you as we pray that she continues to feel your guidance and hear your words. Let her take her vows with confidence knowing your presence is here amongst us today and that your love is in her heart. Protect her and keep her safe in the way that only you know how.

We pray this in our Saviours name, your Son, Lord Jesus. Amen

People gave wonderful cards and gifts that I will treasure. I haven’t got the heart to take down the cards just yet.  After the service, wine and cake was served in the church hall and 27 friends and family had lunch at the local Holiday Inn. Is it now over, NO? This is the start of a new journey; a journey that I take in the love and confidence that God is besides me in every way. Bishop Peter, at a meeting I had with him recently, asked if I would ever go into community.  I said I would but that two things stopped me. My two little dogs and my age (!) but as long as there is the S.C.L, support is there just at the end of a telephone.