When I read this prompt from Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, I thought of a few ancestors who had sisters, but my mind kept going back to a cousin I doubt that I ever met. I have a first cousin once removed on my dad’s side who is a nun.
Jenny McClarin is the daughter of Margaret Silcox McClarin, my paternal grandmother’s sister. She was born in Texas and lived up north while my family was moving around with the Navy. That’s why I say I probably never met her. We missed so many family gatherings when I was growing up and traveling with the Navy.
My mom talks to her mother, and that’s how I found out that Jenny is a nun. My mom didn’t find out many details, though; all she could tell me is that Jenny is in a convent or something like that up north somewhere. They grow and sell vegetables, my mom thought, and the sisters have very little contact with the outside world, just the occasional phone call home.
Now, yes, I could have called my Aunt Margaret and started grilling her, but I thought I’d try a Google search to see if I could find out more, and I was very pleased to find a whole page devoted to Jenny’s investiture.
We are close in age, Jenny and I, and reading over her biography, we would have had some things to talk about. She loved horses, as I did, although she actually got to have not one horse but two. She traveled the world because of her father’s job, as did I. She also loved music and took piano lessons. After college she worked as the editor of “Builder News Magazine” and reviewed mystery novels for “Booklist Magazine.” She worked in public relations for a time. I, too, am a journalist who has occasionally crossed over to work in public relations. I’ve reviewed books – including a few mystery novels – for several websites.
The article on Jenny’s investiture goes on to say that she converted to Catholicism in 2006 and entered the Abbey of Regina Laudis as a postulant in 2013. In December 2016, the Abbey celebrated her Monastic Investiture as Sister Christopher.
The Abbey is located in Bethlehem, Connecticut. According to their website, they have workshops for wood turning, candle making, soap making, pottery, and blacksmithing. They raise Belted Galloway cattle for beef and leather, and sheep for wool and sheepskins. They have dairy cows as well, and use the milk for making cheese, as featured in the Netflix series “Cooked.” They also, as my mother said, tend to vegetable gardens and fruit plots but from what I can tell that seems to be more a source for their own meals rather than something they sell.
They have a theatre, though it appears to be closed now because of the pandemic; the last production listed is “Godspell” performed in 2019, and in non-pandemic years, they display an 18th-century carved nativity scene featuring 68 figures.
It sounds like a peaceful life filled with hard work, prayer, and artistic creations. My Google search also turned up a blog post with a photo of my cousin feeding a wild bird out of her hand. I don’t know what drew my cousin – now Sister Christopher – to that life, but in this fast-paced, stressful modern world, I can certainly see its appeal.