Mind

These 12 life lessons from a 90-year old nun will make you want to live a happier life

A “cheeky little woman” talks us through her 70 years as a nun and shares some of the gems she’s learned along the way.

By Fiona Ralph

Sister Anne de Stacpoole has been a Catholic nun for 70 years. The 90-year-old joined the Sisters of the Sacred Heart at the age of 20, after spending two years studying science at Otago University.

In 1954, when she was sent to the convent in Auckland's Remuera – also home to Baradene College of the Sacred Heart – there were over 30 nuns; now there are just eight on the campus.

At that time the order was enclosed and Sister Anne was restricted to the school property while living there. However, nuns could be posted anywhere in the world and she went on to serve in Uganda, Kiribati and Australia.

In the early 1970s, as rules relaxed, she gave up wearing the habit. After more than 20 years in the uniform, the biggest question she faced was: 'What to wear?'

Now back at Baradene, she spends morning teas with the staff, chats to students and publishes her own prayer books. Here, she shares some insights from her life.

Stay adaptable
Things have to change. And you have to keep changing to meet the challenges of the present day.

No need to apologise
Don't say sorry when there's nothing to be sorry about.

Change of plans
I went to Uganda in 1962. When I left I thought I'd never come back, but I only lasted four and a half years. I came back with my tail between my legs, with hepatitis. It took me a long time to get over the illness. It was 15 years before I really got back to the cheeky little woman that I am.

Working it
I had to beg money from all over while in Kiribati. We built classrooms and toilet blocks and houses and funded things for schools. I was really good at writing to the right organisations. I worked hard for the people.

A quieter life
I offered to go and look after the Sisters of the Sacred Heart retreat in Orewa and live a more prayer-filled life – something quieter, on my own. When you work very hard, you like to pray. But I wasn't very good at being quiet.

Keeping on
They all tried to tell me that I was getting old. But I like doing things. You don't know what it's like to get old. It takes you longer [to do things] and there's days that you're not as sparkling as you want to be. I've still got a bit of a brain and I've started to make some little prayer books which I'm trying to get out into parishes.

Getting to know God
I went to Erskine College in Wellington, which was the sister school of Baradene. I went there at the age of five so I knew the way of life of the nuns, but I wanted to know God more, have a love affair with Jesus, and that has just always kept me going. There's been tough times, some very tough times, within and without. Uganda was very tough at times, but you kept on at it.

Be yourself
Don't be persuaded by the crowd. Do the things you
want to do
, the things that you feel inspired to do. Don't let life go by.

Choose values
Get values that clothe you for the rest of your life – if you're honest, you're always honest.

Make it stick
You have to make choices. You can't marry Johnny and Charles (well, you probably can these days!). You can't have everything. People today, they want everything. You can't do it all. Commit yourself to one thing.

Judge less
People have to do not only what's right for them, but what's possible for them or what's available for them. I mean, somebody who steals to feed his younger sister – okay, it's a wrong thing to do, but he has no other choice. It's so easy to judge.

Global outlook
Even if I hadn't become a nun I would still have a global view of life, I don't think that's due to being a nun. I'm global-minded.

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