The world and 33 acres

Yesterday we returned home from our Janet Stuart centenary conference, a lovely, enriching event attended by numerous RSCJ, colleagues and alumnae from more than a dozen countries. Many came from countries and from schools and colleges visited by Janet during her three years as Superior General - including an Australian whose mother was a little girl when Janet visited her school early in 1914.

The irony is that Janet never imagined she would travel as an RSCJ. In 1882 she was an independent, active young woman in her early 20s facing a compelling call from God which she knew would mean a more sedate, restricted life. On retreat at the Sacred Heart Convent at Roehampton she asked herself whether she could give up her riding and travelling for a circumscribed life possibly always lived within the same 33 acres; but God's call being stronger than her fears, she entered a few months later.

She did, in fact, spend the majority of the next 32 years within those 33 acres, which became her beloved home. But she also travelled the world, visiting places she could never have imagined seeing way back in 1882, when all she could see were those 33 acres. If nothing else, her life reminds us that however much we may feel we are giving God, God's generosity and delight in surprising us are always far, far greater.

And a century later the world has come back to her, in huge numbers, to celebrate her life and legacy. From Australia and New Zealand, north and south America, Asia, Europe and Africa, we gathered, starting in Roehampton, the place of Janet's beginning as an RSCJ, and also of her end, as this is where she died and was laid to rest. After a first visit for many to Cottesmore, where she began her life and her quest for God and her life's meaning, we moved on to the lovely setting of High Leigh Conference Centre in Herts.

And now, enriched by a few days of inspiring input, prayer together and time spent deepening old friendships and forming new ones, we return to our homes and ministries around the world, each one taking back something of Janet Stuart's spirit and legacy with them. In a way, it's as if Janet, after a century within Roehampton's 33 acres, is now travelling the world all over again...