We are introducing a new monthly blog series called #OneDiocese. This series will feature members of our diocesan community, including volunteers, officers, teachers, clergy and all the people that support and work for the Diocese of Gloucester in various different ways. The aim of the blog is to share stories and nurture and foster a stronger sense of community across our diocese.
“I fell in love with The Eucharist at the age of five. I was a pupil at St Joseph’s Catholic School — set in the heartland of the American South in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Somewhat surprisingly, given this location, my faith life was an extraordinary combination of “the best of both worlds”: Catholic and Protestant. My mother’s background was Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian, whilst my father was dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist. Their compromise was a hybrid existent whereby my siblings and I attended Catholic School during week, and Baptist Church at weekends.
“On Sundays, at my parents’ church, Sunday School was run – by my Dad – with military precision and homework. Dynamic pastors preached for at least 45 mins, and Baptism was a “freewill choice” and made by full immersion. Alongside this, Catholic liturgy and spirituality during the week at School was one of my earliest joys. It was as if someone had opened a window, allowing in a fresh, summer’s breeze. Stillness. Silence. Ritual.
“Every Friday, we were trooped into the vast parish church for Holy Communion. Rules being rules, us Protestant kids weren’t allowed to receive Communion. But rather, had to sit there, week after week – and watch. It may not have been the intention, but, for me, being excluded from the Eucharist had the palpable effect of making me desire it above all else. It should not have come as a surprise, then, to my father that my greatest act of teenage rebellion was being re-baptised and confirmed as a Catholic at the age of 14. My Dad’s shock and dismay was compounded, however, when I announced one evening at supper, that same year, my intentions of becoming a nun. Without even looking up from his plate, my father said: “No, you’re not.” Later, with a bit more patience, he asked me to wait. To go to University, first, and then decide. If my calling was real – it would wait. Off I went, then, to Holy Cross College, a wonderful Catholic University, in leafy New England, run by Jesuits. And so, another window opened.
“At Holy Cross College, I encountered one of the most significant figures in my “Spiritual Hall of Fame”, Sr Honora Werner, O.P., an amazing Dominican Sister, preacher, spiritual director and chaplain. She and I had numerous conversations about vocations. I recall rushing into her office the day after I had had a vivid and deeply moving dream, in which I saw myself celebrating the Eucharist. I saw myself standing on a platform, in a vast field, breaking a large round loaf of bread into halves, and lifting them up in my hands. The sky was dazzlingly bright and blue. This dream was as piercingly clear and real to me as looking into a mirror. After sharing this dream with her, we sat for a moment in silence. When Sr Honora finally spoke, her words were ones of empowerment and resolve. Sr Honora had faith in my dream – she believed in it and in me. She encouraged me to follow God’s call wherever it might lead. “You must pursue it,” she said definitively, despite the fact that pursuing ordination for me would mean walking away from the Catholic Church altogether. A Church to which Sr Honora had devoted her life.
“That dream, of my 18-year-old self, has comforted, anchored and sustained me throughout my life. Particularly, as I battled uncertainty, doubt, fear, career changes, exhaustion, bewilderment, marriage, motherhood, etc. in my very pursuit of it. Dreams do come true, in one form or another, however for me, this one came true literally. Oddly, due in part to the challenges presented by the current COVID pandemic.
“Due to the restrictions, we made the decision to hold our Easter Day 2021 service outside. A member of our Benefice offered us use of their fantastic barn. In the haste of preparations, I hadn’t appreciated the resonance of actually presiding out of doors. It was not until I was actually standing up on the specially constructed platform, in the middle of a vast field in Haselton, under a glistening blue sky, surrounding by hay bales and dozens of smiling faces, lifting my hands to break the bread, that I became aware quite profoundly, that I was in fact living my dream. If we only dare to dream and to trust, God is faithful and takes the hodgepodge, patchwork of our lives and weaves them for His Glory.”
The Revd Dr (Mother) Alycia Timmis
Priest-in-Charge, Northleach Benefice (since Feb 2021)