The circles in life
In January 1967, a five-year-old boy sat upright in class ready for action. It was grade one, his very first day of school in a small country town in outback Queensland.
In her white veil and habit, Sr Francesca stood at the front of the class pointing at the blackboard. She drew one circle and below it, two circles. How many circles come next, she asked?
The boy thrusts up his hand. “Three circles, sister.”
Well done young man. May you be a great mathematician, a philosopher perhaps or even a pope!
And so my schooling began with Sr Francesca my first ever teacher. By grade two my family had moved out of town and I would not see Sr Francesca again.
It was 45 years later and I was working at the Australian Embassy in Dublin when I met a group of Irish religious sisters recently returned to their native land after many years in Australia.
They were Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart; the order founded by St Mary of the Cross, Mary MacKillop.
I mentioned that my grade one teacher mega moons ago was a Josephite nun. “Sister Francesca I think her name was,” I said.
“Oh, yes, that would be Sister Fran,” they said. “She’s still alive, living in Brisbane.”
I almost fell dimple over pimple.
A year later I was back in Australia and there she was , my Sr Francesca, in her late 80s, living in quiet retirement in a Brisbane convent.
She baked a cake to celebrate the reunion and we had a good chinwag about times past.
We are still in touch. Sr Fran has still got her pluck and vigour and still writes as clear as the day she drew circles on our grade one blackboard.
She is nearing 95 and recently celebrated 70 years in religious life.
We both ponder the connect-the-dot mysteries, spiritual and otherwise, that brought teacher and pupil together after all these years.
“One circle, then two circles. What comes next?”
We could never have guessed.
• Don Smith is a parishioner at Mary Help of Christians Parish in Pearce.