The Southern Cross : April 2011
Page 14 April 2011 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross | feature When St Mary Magdalene Tulk entered the Benedictine order at Minster Abbey in the Easter Week of 2000, it was a huge step for the former Adelaide woman. "Giving up my independence, my ability to make my own decisions -- that was the hardest thing" she says. "But this is part of the formation and getting used to the way of life. Obedience is always one of the vows in religious life, and rather than questioning everything and thinking that you know better, it's a better thing to be obedient...if your superior asks you to do something you should do it with generosity." After seven months she was clothed in the monastic habit and became a novice for two years. At her first profession, she received a saint's name. "When I first thought about choosing a saint to be named after, no-one really came to mind until I heard the Gospel readings at Easter," she says. "St Mary Magdalene seemed to come alive for me and I found the parts about her very beautiful and they deeply touched me. "It was her deep love of Our Lord, her desire to be with Him, and her need for Him so that she could not think of anything else: this is what motivated her. I kept pondering upon this and I realised that this was the name that God was giving to me." In 2006, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Sr Mary Magdalene took her final vows at a ceremony at Minster Abbey, attended by her sister and brother. "This was a truly wonderful and blessed day, full of joy for all who were there. It was what I had been looking forward to, and preparing for, since I had entered the monastery. However, rather than this being the end of my journey it was a beginning. "The life of a monk or nun in the monastery is one of a continuing journey, an ongoing conversion which is both rewarding and fulfilling. It is an exciting journey, full of purpose and hope, and an ongoing encounter with love himself." Sr Mary Magdalene's daily routine at the Abbey starts at 5.10am with the "rising bell" and Vigils at 5.30am. Daily Mass and the Divine Offices (seven prayer sessions) are interspersed with several hours of manual work. Her main work is in the guest house where people on retreat stay throughout most of the year. Her tasks include cooking, cleaning, making beds, doing the laundry, welcoming guests, serving meals and washing up. A couple of mornings a week she has some outdoor work which includes gardening (maintenance of flower beds and shrubs) and work on the apple orchard (which includes almost everything there is to do with the trees, fruit and storage). Some afternoons, usually once a week, she does a 'Portress' duty, which is being available to answer the door and telephone. In the quieter times of the year, when there are less or no guests, she has cooking, washing-up and other duties in the Abbey. The nuns keep poultry, mainly for their eggs, and currently have hens and ducks that are "very free range". When needed, Sr Mary Magdalene helps to look after them. "They are delightful to work with and a lot of fun. I have a particular fondness for the hens," she says. "The midday and evening meals are formal and eaten in silence in the refectory. One of the Sister s serves the meal so that everyone has what they need. Another sister reads for our edification, so that as a community we hear what perhaps we may not have the time to read individually. Our reading in the refectory includes Church documents (encyclicals, apostolic letters, teaching documents), biographies, travelogues, and articles from newspapers and journals. "After lunch there is time for rest, prayer or reading and later in the afternoon there is recreation time when the community gets together informally, for a cup of tea and a snack. "Sometimes we cut up our own fruit and vegetables, prepare things for our shop, or do some kind of handicraft, but we always enjoy being able to talk together." After 6pm vespers (sung in Latin) and the evening meal, there is compline (night prayer and the last Office of the day) followed by adoration until 8.45pm and bed. SA s New News REGISTER FREE AT INDAILY.COM.AU Life as a Benedictine Concluding our two-part series on Sr Mary Magdalene Tulk's amazing journey from Adelaide to Minster Abbey in Kent, JENNY BRINKWORTH provides an insight into the daily life of the monastic community she has joined.