The Raffle Ticket Missionary
I guess my story starts way back on the 6th June 1981. That was the first time I went to St. Peters Church Dagenham.
Dagenham is an industrial town about 15 miles from the centre of London. St. Peters is one of only four La Salette Churches in England;
and I must admit I had never heard of La Salette until I went there.
One Sunday after Mass the parish Priest approached me and asked me to join the choir! ME!…. I thought he must be joking. I could not sing;
but anyway I said yes, as we always say “yes” to Father don’t we?
The following Saturday the phone rang; it was Father asking me not only to sing, but also to lead the congregation.
There was no choir, I was the choir… this time I didn’t think he was joking, I thought he was crazy! I could not sing;
I had not sung since I was 11 years old. When the music teacher at school taught me to sing a lovely little song called Bless the House.
I was so proud that I could sing it and remember all the words as well!
I rushed home and asked my mother if I could sing to her. My mother made me stand in the kitchen to sing, while she sat in the living room
laughing; she laughed so much that the tears ran down her face. I was just 11 years old!
So that put an end to my singing. I never sang again.
Yet, here was a Priest asking me to stand up in front of the whole Church and sing. Surly they would all laugh at me just as my mother had;
but what could I do? I had no choice.
Yes I did sing, and I was so scared that you could have stuck pins in me; I would not have felt them!
But thanks be to God they did not laugh and the following Sunday I was asked to sing again.
After two months, I decided that if the poor people had to suffer the terrible noise I was making (as you could hardly call it singing);
I had better have my voice trained. Which I did; I have been having lessons for 22 years
(so you would think, I would have learnt how to do it by now, wouldn’t you?).
Since that first Mass, I have sung every Sunday in church; and at numerous weddings and funerals. I have also performed in several operas,
oratorios and concerts. I have even been luck enough to audition at both the English National and Covent Garden Opera Houses.
So I have much to thank the Grace of La Salette for.
In 1984 the Church decided to go on pilgrimage, to La Salette which is a Catholic shrine in the French Alps.
To enable someone to go on the pilgrimage who could not afford the fare; they raffled one place on the trip.
The tickets cost £1. And along with most members of the Church I bought one.
Can you imagine my supprise when I won!
Yes I had actually won a 12 day all expenses paid pilgrimage to France; and for only the price of a £1 raffle ticket!
I think it was the first thing I had ever won. However winning the trip was not luck or chance,
Our Lady had plans for me. I had no idea then what that raffle ticket would lead to!
Since that first trip way back in 1984, I have been back to the Holy Mountain over 20 times!
Every year my husband and I try to spend ten days there; just to relax and refresh the spirit.
Every time we visit La Salette some wonderful things happen. We now have dozens of good friends all over the world; and several friends
say that when we pray for their special intentions at La Salette, God answers their prayers.
So now every time we go, we take hundreds of petitions with us.
For many years, I had been sponsoring a child in the third world, and raising money for missionary work.
Then in 1992 I had a real desire to do more than just raise money.
I wanted to go and feed and comfort God’s people……
I wanted to be a Missionary!
Now that really is crazy! Me a middle aged woman wanting to be a missionary. Our Lady of La salette really does have a lot to answer for!
But you know, no matter how hard I tried, the desire didn’t go away. In fact it just got stronger and stronger!
So after much prayer and heart searching, I wrote to the Superior of the La Salette order (who just happened to be a friend).
I told him what Our Lady was calling me to do; and asked for his advice.
He wrote back and said, we would talk about it when we both are at La Salette in September.
September was several months away! No problem, if I had to wait until September that was okay.
I just had to be patient (not a quality I am known for) and wait.
While waiting for September to come, I wrote to the Bishop’s Office; asking for advice, as to what sort of qualifications a missionary needs;
and how does one go about getting them. I had absolutely no idea about missionary work, in fact I had never met a lay missionary!
But, I never got a reply from the Bishop’s Office.
I truly believe that everything that happens to us and every “chance meeting” are all for a purpose it is all part of God’s Plan….
Nothing happens by “CHANCE” everything is for a purpose, even down to buying a Raffle Ticket!
September eventually came, along with the long awaited for meeting.
I spent several hours walking with my friend in the beautiful mountains; but never once did he mention my mission.
So I decided that as I had not received a reply from the Bishop’s Office, and now no words of advice from my friend the Superior;
and believing all things are for a purpose, maybe I was not meant to become a missionary.
However on the 1st October the feast of St. Theresa, the patron saint of Missionaries;
the Superior said “Oh Nickie about your missionary work; I want you to meet two La Salette Sisters from the Philippines,
but they are leaving tomorrow. So you must meet them tonight”.
He arranged the meeting with the Sisters, and we talked for hours about their missionary works in the Philippines.
The out come of the meeting was, that I was invited to join them in the Philippines the following Easter.
However that was not meant to be! Again Our Lady had other plans for me.
At the time of my meeting with the Sisters, I was awaiting surgery on my right elbow.
I had a calcification in the join and was unable to use my arm at all. This made my job as a driving examiner very difficult indeed.
I needed to be able to use my right arm, to steer the car, in order to avoid hitting other vehicles!
Yes honest, you would be surprised how many times examiners have to take “avoiding action”!
Anyway the surgery was due in December so I still had plenty of time to recover before Easter; or so I thought!
Instead of recovering after the surgery my health seemed to get worse. Three discs in my spine collapsed and I had to wear a body plaster
for almost four months!
Then it was discovered that I had advanced osteoporosis and arthritis. By this time I was in constant pain; and going from one hospital
appointment to another. But I never gave up hope of my missionary work;
even when I was confined to a wheelchair, the dream was still there.
For someone as active as I was, a working mum with all my Church work and singing six evenings a week;
having to go to the bathroom in a wheelchair was quite a shock.
But as I have said before and will keep saying I truly believe all things are for a purpose.
Two years passed and my health did not improve. I continued to keep in touch with the Sisters, and met up with one of them that September
at La Salette. She was now working in France and was hoping to return to the Philippines for Christmas.
She said how wonderful it would be if I could go with her!
So we stood with our arms around each other,
and prayed to the Blessed Mother that somehow we could be together that Christmas in the Philippines.
My husband was not with us at the time, and later I just mentioned that Sister was going home, and wished I could go to.
What a nice dream and it doesn’t hurt to dream does it?
Three or four days later we were driving back up the Holy Mountain to La Salette;
talking about something quiet different, when my husband suddenly said,
that in December he had an endowment policy maturing, and that I could have the money for my trip to the Philippines!
I was truly amazed that he had even given it a second thought (I had tried not to), let alone worked how it could be financed.
Yet another Grace of La Salette.
We arrived home on the 13th October, and I left for the Philippines on the 25th November, just me and my wheelchair!
The Sister had to cancel at the last moment and could not make the trip until mid December.
Everyone thought I was crazy; I could not walk 20 yards, and here I was flying thousands of miles on my own, to the Philippines,
where I didn’t know a soul for a two months stay in a convent!
But all things are possible with God and I know “I can do all things with Him who strengthens me”.
I enjoyed staying with the Sisters, but was not really sure why Our Lord had sent me there.
Until I went to visit our convent in Santiago City Isabela for a few days.
In Santiago we went to visit an orphanage, then I knew why I came; it was for those children!
But it was time for me to go home, as I had an appointment with a bone specialist that I could not cancel,
Before I left the Philippines I prayed in the little chapel for several hours, that if it is God’s will that I should come back for the children,
He would make His will very clear. As like most people I am very blind and stupid sometimes.
Of course He did make His will very clear indeed!
When I arrived home a letter was waiting for me from my employers, saying that I would have to retire on medical grounds.
Very much to my surprise they gave me a cash settlement, which was enough to pay my fare back… God had answered my prayer,
and I said “Yes Lord thy will be done” So I returned to the Philippines and started my missionary work.
Little then did I know what the next few years held in store for me!
So you see, my illness is a great, great blessing from God and I would never ask to be healed,
because I feel I would be saying to God that I no longer wanted to carry my cross and do His will,
and that is not true!
My disease is a true gift from God and one for which I thank Him and praise Him for daily.
For if I were well I would still be working and singing full time and not here with you now!
So that is how the door of my life as a driving examiner closed and the door of my life as a missionary opened……….
AND ALL BECAUSE I BOUGHT A RAFFLE TICKET!
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