Shortly after midnight on 1st January 2018, God called Norah to begin, not a new year, but the fullness of life with him.
Born in 1935 in Kirkham, Lancashire, Norah's early childhood, with her parents and two brothers, in a hard-working, close-knit community, was happy and contented. After War broke out, however, her father was mostly absent, serving in the army, and Norah would always vividly recall the night an inciendiary bomb landed only yards from their home. In 1946 Norah won a scholarship to the grammar school in Preston run by Holy Child sisters. She received an excellent education, but found the convent school restrictive and difficult to settle into. She would recall that when she left, she had absolutely no intention of ever becoming a nun!
Nonetheless, Norah trained as a teacher at Digby Stuart. Its initial attraction for her had been its London location and its reputation, but as time went on she found herself increasingly drawn to prayer, and attracted by the evident fulfillment of the nuns. However, her family, especially her father, were distressed by her decision. She therefore began teaching in a school in Leyland, and waited, finally entering the noviciate in 1957, aged 22. By the time she made her first vows on the Feast of the Annuncation, 25th March 1960, her family, seeing how happy she was, were won over.
From Woldingham Norah went to Fenham, where she taught in the primary school and studied for a degree in history from Durham University. After time spent in Rome preparing for her final profession - which she made on 5th February 1966 - Norah returned to Fenham and studied for an MLitt at Newcastle University. Then came a complete change - three years in Malta, where she taught in the Society's college of education.
In 1970 Norah returned to Digby Stuart, this time as a lecturer. She remained there for four years, before being nominated for the Provincial Team - a full-time commitment leaving no time for teaching. However, in 1976 the headship of our grammar school in Fenham became vacant and Norah took on this post, overseeing the school's transition to comprehensive. She remained as head for twelve years, and spent one final school year (1988-9) teaching part-time and studying for a diploma in multinational education & careers guidance, whilst also caring for her mother, who died in 1989. Norah always carried with her many happy memories of her time in Newcastle, and an enduring legacy in a broad spectrum of lasting friendships.
In 1989 Norah moved to London, where she lived in the Province's hospitality community and taught at Wormwood Scrubs Prison, continuing this work after moving to Hayes in 1996. Norah found her prison work both humbling and fulfilling, gaining new insights into how hard it is for many people to survive, let alone live full lives. Once again she made many friends, and only left in 2001, as she was already sixty-five.
Norah's life now centred on services to her local community and to the Province, specifically in her work as Provincial Archivist from 2004 to 2012. But by 2012, as her health and eyesight began to diminish, it was time for "full" retirement, and two years later she moved to Duchesne House. Despite her increasing frailty Norah continued to retain a strong interest in people and events, and would attend Province meetings and events and talks at Digby Stuart whenever possible.
Norah's final illness was short, but it was filled with visits from her two nieces and several RSCJ friends, and the love, prayer and care of all at Duchesne House. As the rest of Britain celebrated the New Year, Norah slipped away, undoubtedly experiencing the fullness of the encounter described in this famous poem by Minnie Louise Haskins...
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.”
Norah's Requiem Mass will be at Duchesne House on Tuesday 16th January, at 11am. Please contact us if you require further information.
Silvana Dallanegra rscj