Dancing before the creator - Madonna Magazine

Dancing before the creator

Tracey Edstein 25 November 2020

Sister of St Joseph, Lochinvar, Lynette Pearce – everyone calls her Lynnie – has a daily desire, expressed by the poet Tagore:

‘May your JOY find no obstacle
in any reservation or wall of mine
in my frame, in my mind, in my heart.’

Lynnie is a woman born into faith who continues to mine the depth and richness of her Baptism. As the fourth of 12 children, Lynnie’s education in faith began with her parents; Dad a country policeman and Mum, ‘deeply Catholic’. The Josephites at Brookfield in the Hunter Valley persuaded her parents to send the children to the Catholic school. ‘We went in the back of the milk lorry which picked up the milk from Dungog dairy farms. We were dropped at school around 10.30am and collected around 2pm.’

This unusual arrangement meant many missed lessons but a lifelong desire to learn.

A new path

A bursary saw Lynnie board at St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar, and set her on a path she has never regretted. 

She felt called to religious life – ‘the Sisters were always canvassing for vocations’ – but resisted it, until she was taken to the Dominican Convent at Maitland to help clean up after the 1956 flood. ‘I saw how the Sisters loved each other in a difficult situation – maybe religious life would be OK?’  So, the Dominicans played a part in a Josephite calling.

Lynnie recalls, ‘I didn’t like being away from home . . . you miss out on a lot of the history of your family. I left school in December 1956 and I entered the convent on 1 January 1957, at 18. Mum felt it was wonderful. Dad was sad but supportive.’

While Lynnie recognises that, ‘the novitiate study and spiritual disciplines were good foundational processing for true BE-ing, I was still immature’.

Appointed to teach in Taree, Lynnie was as much student as teacher in religion, English, home science, meedlework and garment construction, music, craft and French classrooms. C’était formidable!

‘I owe a significant part of my growth into responsible adulthood to the lay staff and the students of the schooIs. I remember them with love.’

Boarder mistress

After teaching for 20 years, Lynnie became Boarder mistress at Lochinvar. ‘I held this privileged position for 11 years. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the boarders. There was no curriculum to help us navigate our relating, and I grew in their acceptance of me. 

‘In that role you had space in the day to be contemplative . . . that’s when I began to understand that the charism of our congregation was to be contemplative in the middle of your ministry, not to go away and be contemplative . . . that took me further into the presence of God in the everyday world.’

When lay teachers began to replace religious in Catholic schools, there were opportunities for religious to carve new paths. Lynnie welcomed it. ‘I felt a need to take hold of our Christian heritage. I studied theology, scripture and Christian spirituality – I was taken off the railway tracks of religious tradition - not Tradition - and set down in the freedom of a child of God.’ 

Can you hear the deepening understanding of the call of Baptism?

Lynnie’s study bore fruit in ministry as a pastoral associate and then on the staff of the Tenison Woods Education Centre where she explored prayer and discipleship with adult students. ‘I loved this ministry.’

An even more significant turning point was on the horizon for this woman of God who imagined, on entering, that her constant ministry would be school teaching. 

Spiritual direction

‘In the 1980s spiritual direction was being perceived as a need and I felt drawn to it. Our leader showed me an advertisement for formation in spiritual direction at North Sydney. I was accepted and it was wonderful formation. I learned on Tuesday and lived it during the week . . . a long, sure process. I graduated in 2001 as a spiritual director and later as a supervisor of spiritual direction.

‘The “direction” is in noticing the implicit Presence of God in the directee’s experience and helping the directee notice and make it explicit. . . I love this ministry and I love the God revealed to me in my directees’ lives.’

When Lynnie’s mother died, a Sister sent a card on which she had written: ‘What atom is there that dances not in abandon before its creator?’

The words were from Persian poet, Islamic scholar, theologian and Sufi mystic, Rumi. Eventually, the writings of not only Rumi, but Bengali poet, Tagore and Persian poet, Hafiz, began to complement Lynnie’s appreciation of Christian scripture. 

All of this wisdom enriches not only Lynnie’s role as a spiritual director but her very being, and all she encounters.

She is extraordinarily close to her local grandnieces and nephews and is an adored babysitter. Perhaps she says to the little ones at the beginning of a day of adventure, ‘What love mischief can we do for the world today?’ (Hafiz)    

When asked what she looks forward to, she cites Teresa of Avila: ‘God and the soul have fruition of each other in the deepest silence. . . that’s what I look forward to – as well as time with Jesus that’s not bookended by jobs.’