The Cenacle Sisters of England and Ireland

Kate Stogdon

I have been a Cenacle Sister since 1989 and have lived both in the north and south of England, in a variety of community and ministry settings. During that time I have been involved in spiritual direction, retreats, and have taken a particular interest in how spirituality interacts with justice, peace and integrity of creation. I particularly enjoyed the time I spent working with women refugees and asylum seekers in Manchester and London. Currently I live in community in South East London and I form people in the art of spiritual direction and teach theology and spirituality in a variety of higher education contexts. I also continue to offer spiritual accompaniment to women and men who want to explore more deeply their relationship with God. I have been fortunate during my years in the congregation to have developed working relationships with sisters in different parts of the world. I was very involved in the process of unification of the three former provinces of England/Ireland, France/Togo and Italy into one new province of Europe-Togo in 2011. It has been a challenging, exciting and hope-filled experience. It has brought new life and energy to all of us, including me. One of the most rewarding things I do is to support our sisters in temporary vows and I always enjoy their enthusiasm and passion.

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When did you first become aware that you might have a call to religious life?

When I was at university in Manchester and thinking about what I was going to do next I began to have an insistent, uncomfortable feeling that I might have a religious vocation. I wanted to run the other way because I found it deeply embarrassing! Eventually, I decided that I would go and take it one step at a time.  It has involved a lot of steps over the years … but I’m still here.

Why did you choose the Cenacle Sisters?

Once I met a few sisters I just knew. It was a gut feeling, a realization deep down that I had found where I belonged. There was a resonance, a drawing, an acceptance and a calling towards something more.

What is the best thing about Religious Life?

I love being part of something larger than myself that stretches me and invites me to live my life with integrity and continually invites me to deepen my relationship with God. Again and again I am invited to go through a new door, to meet new people and to discover the many gifts of life.

What have you found most difficult?

The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience can be difficult to live some days. To really live them.

What is most rewarding about your current ministry?

I help to form spiritual directors and to train people for pastoral ministry in the Church through teaching courses in theology or spirituality. I love what I do. I try to affirm what people already know and encourage them to build on the experience of life that they bring to their studies. I find it very satisfying when my students discover their own potential and deepen their knowledge of how God is calling them in their lives. As a spiritual director I feel in awe of how God works so faithfully in many different circumstances.

What is the most challenging about your current ministry?

I find it challenging to wear lots of different hats and to move from one thing to another so quickly sometimes. I have to do a lot of multi-tasking and juggling. I learn over and over that it is God’s work and if I can allow God to support and lead me the ‘how’ to live life more fruitfully is given.

What supports you in your ministry?

My sisters, my colleagues, my friends and family, the people to whom I minister all play their part. Fundamentally though, I find my deepest support from my relationship with Christ and taking time to nourish it.

Any tips on how to pray?

Be yourself. Be real. Take time (even just a little bit) every day to communicate with God, about everything that is truly important to you. Stay with the struggle (it’s a sign something’s trying to happen). Find a faith friend and share what gives your life meaning. If you pray by walking, walk. If you pray through dancing, dance. And above all, trust. Trust yourself, and God. Your way through life will be shown. God made you the way you are for a reason. You can only pray authentically by accepting and being the person you are. But always stay open to the possibility of change! 

On internationality

It’s so important to me that I am part of an international congregation, which means I am just one of many Cenacle sisters of different ages, living in different contexts around the world. As we struggle to understand each other, to communicate, to celebrate, to pray together I endlessly discover ‘this is what it means to be human … this is what it means to be Church … to be companions on the journey’. It can be exasperating, exhilarating and exhausting all rolled into one. But one thing I can tell you, it’s never dull. As Cenacle we form one body, but it is not just made up of our sisters. Through our different forms of membership our auxiliaries and lay Companions and all those with whom we work and minister are also connected.

On vocation to religious life

Through my involvement in the Religious Life Institute (Heythrop College) and my work with people in initial formation I have a passion for spreading the word that religious life is not dead! God is still calling women and men to religious life and I am sure it is going to develop in ways that we cannot even imagine at the moment, which will take us more deeply into an interconnection between Gospel living and the world of our time. It may take a different form but it will still be radically recognizable as the following of Christ, chaste, poor and obedient.

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