The Revd Barbara Mapley recently spent 12 days at St Mary’s Convent as Oblate in Residence. As an Oblate of 24 years standing, Barbara was one of the first people to take up an invitation of the Sisters to spend an extended period of time with the Community in this new role.

“You have to be prepared to do anything,” said Barbara. “I would have been happy to clean the toilets, but the task the Sisters asked me to undertake was to be Sacristan.” For nearly two weeks Barbara prepared the Chapel, dressed the altar for the Eucharist and made sure that all the other items needed to celebrate the five offices a day were ready and prepared.

“The Sisters have a very particular way of doing things, which they taught me. It was a steep learning curve but I had a wonderful time. I wanted it to be seamless and it was nice to be able to allow the Sisters to come in and simply pray the office,” she said.

When Barbara joined the Sisters, she told Sister Stella, the Sister in Charge, that she wasn’t an early bird and consequently might not be joining the Sisters for the early morning service of Lauds. “ But God has a wonderful sense of humour,” says Barbara. On the first morning she woke at 5.30am and from that moment onwards didn’t miss an opportunity to join in the rhythm of worship, which she describes as “a sheer joy”.

“It was a privilege to spend time living in the Community,” says Barbara “I have such respect for the Sisters and the amount of work they do behind the scenes is enormous.”

Speaking about other Oblates following in the role, Barbara says that its important to go understanding that this is about working for the Sisters; it’s not for the individual. Everyone will bring different talents which the Sisters can use.

Having returned home to Oxfordshire, Barbara says she wished she could have spent three weeks with the Sisters rather than just 12 days, “although I might have had a disgruntled husband if I had,” she reflects.