'THERE HAS BEEN MUCH OUTPOURING OF GRACE IN MY LIFE.'
an interview with
How has living a single life brought you closer to Jesus Christ and the Church?
While walking along a beach a few year ago I felt great joy as the song “come back to me with all your heart, don’t let fear keep us apart” … played in my head and heart. I didn’t think much of it as I often have music running through me but it happened again and again over a prolonged period. I have always meditated even when I was not a practicing catholic and I find that walking meditations are a great way to find peace.
My full return to Jesus Christ took some time from that first point, as I resisted, hard! I continued to meditate and take quiet time to open my heart. I was in a relationship at the time and it had started to fall apart. I worked hard to stay in love and not to become bitter and unforgiving. The only way I could do that was to give my pain and heartache to the Lord and ask for strength to get through everything I needed to get through.
Later that year I moved to Sway, in the New Forest. At the time, I had no idea that I had moved to within walking distance from a Dominican Priory. I had a look online to find out more about what was behind that sign. The first thing I learned was that it was not full of monks but sisters, (for some reason I thought a priory was for monks!!) But the real find for me was that they had adoration every night and they openly invited the public to come and join them in prayer and meditation in the chapel. I love adoration; as a teenager we used to go as a family to adoration every first Friday of the month to pray for vocations.
Eventually, I ventured out into the night to adoration. I wanted to remain anonymous and I knew that after compline the sisters would have grand silence, so I felt like it would be safe to go along. Some years earlier I had, during meditation, seen a picture of a procession of people in twos, each of them in white and carrying candles. The message was clear to me at the time: they will show you the way. I had always believed that the picture was of angels.
After adoration the sisters have compline followed by a procession around the chapel whilst singing the Salve Regina and carrying candles. I was in tears as I recognized my picture from years earlier. I remained anonymous for many months and the sisters respected this but during that year I gradually returned to the full practice of my faith. I came home.
Why choose to live the single celibate life by choice?
I have a hectic life of work and travel as I am responsible for multi-million-pound projects. For much of my life I have been driven by money and ever improving career prospects. Now, however, the most important thing for me is my peace: peace with myself and peace with God. I am focused on opening my heart to the Lord through prayer, meditation and action. Each day I pray the rosary and the Magnificat, I meditate and pray at home, in chapel, on the train to work whether that is en route to London or other parts of the country. I have a rosary app for my car for long journeys. If I am working from home, I will slip out in my lunch hour to attend mass whenever I can and I always go to adoration and compline.
'Right now, it is important for me to be single and celibate to have the time and emotional space to continue to pray, meditate and offer my heart to God each day.'
What freedom does living the single life allow you that perhaps another vocation would not?
There are many blessings and I particularly enjoy being a part of the lay community which surrounds the Dominican Sisters at the priory in Sway as I feel a real sense of belonging there. I make time to meet with a friend every couple of weeks to read scripture, pray and share how God has been working in our lives. Being single allows me the freedom to go to Mass any day that I am working at home and at the weekend with no conflicts. I can also make time to go to adoration most evenings. Annually, I go on the Dominican walking pilgrimage to Walsingham each year and I am able to support their evangelisation work at the annual ‘Fanning the flame’ camp.
How has living your vocation brought you joy?
There has been much outpouring of grace in my life and I couldn’t even begin to describe it all. Right now, it is important for me to be single and celibate to have the time and emotional space to continue to pray, meditate and offer my heart to God each day. I have had offers from friends to help write profiles for dating sites, I have met old flames and others who have invited me out but I have said no to all of them. The most important thing for me right now is to continue to grow in my faith and in love of God, right now I am called to singleness to achieve that.
Who inspired you on your journey to discovering your vocation?
It is Our Lady who has gently led me back into communion with her son. When I arrived in Medjugorje for the first time, the four days I was there my heart did not stop singing “My soul is filled with joy as I sing to God my Saviour…”. I am so happy to be back in full communion with the Lord and am learning more about my faith every day. I have made changes in my life as I have grown in faith and want to continue to grow in love.
'I can honestly say had I not been single it would not have been so easy for me to respond to this God-given call without hesitation.'
Can you describe a highlight of your vocational calling?
One Christmas I wanted to do something different. I was thinking of taking off and travelling to Lourdes or Medjugorje. At the beginning of December, I prayed to Our Lady through a Novena to the Immaculate Conception. Following this prayer, a friend sent me a link on Facebook and said that they were looking for volunteers over the Christmas holidays to work with the Yazidi refugees in northern Greece.
I decided to apply but was hit with a crisis of confidence as I was filling out the form as I felt I wasn’t qualified to do this voluntary work. Nevertheless, I submitted my application and was asked to undertake a skype interview. I was so encouraged by the interview as they asked me to teach music, piano, guitar and help in the warehouse. I agreed and before I knew it, I was on my way.
I arrived in Serres on the 21st December, it was minus 4 degrees with a horrible wind that made it feel much colder. I was aware that I had actively chosen to displace myself this Christmas, in a foreign land, away from my home and all its comforts and easy access to my place of worship. The Yazidi people on the other hand had been displaced by war, everything that was familiar is no longer familiar. Everything they had and worshipped was gone. They could never go home, many had lost loved ones, they had experienced unimaginable horrors, they have to learn new languages, learn about new cultures and adapt quickly just to survive.
I spent two and half weeks volunteering: building tents and painting; teaching music to children and adolescents; running morning fitness classes that included stretching and other exercises for the women; speaking English with anyone who wanted to practice it and learning some Kurmanji in the process; working in the warehouse; helping newcomers find clothes and provisions; and filled bags with Christmas presents for the children in the camp. We communicated using our hands, feet, facial expressions and any props we could. We laughed, played, ate and danced together in freezing temperatures and sometimes difficult environments.
I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to step up while others were away and I can honestly say had I not been single it would not have been so easy for me to respond to this God-given call without hesitation.
While I was there, I prayed a second novena to our lady of the Immaculate Conception in the hope that I would find a church for mass at least on Christmas day. Although there were no Catholic Churches in Serres, on my last day when I reached Thessaloniki, I found the only Catholic Church that I could find anywhere, it was the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception! When I walked in for mass in the crypt I saw Our Lady above the altar to the right with the Angel Gabriel just beside her. I smiled in my heart and said “Thank you, Our Lady.” I felt she was next to me, listening to everything I asked. “I am with you Jacqueline” was the reply, which moved me to tears. What joy! What grace! My work was done in Greece, I was on my way home.