Reflection on vocation of Nightingales

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale

Recently we have celebrated Vocations Sunday.  Much was spoken about of the vocation to the priesthood and the religious life.  When I trained as a nurse nursing was seen as a vocation.  We worked long hours, did things which no one should need to have to do and we were paid little.  And we loved it; it was real calling, a true vocation.  I was trained at the Nightingale Training School, St Thomas' hospital and so am described as a Nightingale.

Now I am a school chaplain.  Chaplaincy involves being alongside the other.  Being touched by the other and what affects them.  Chaplaincy is about being with people in need whether in prison, in hospital, or during other particular periods in life. 

'Remember we are not so many small selves, but members of a community.  A real nurse sinks self'. These  words by Florence Nightingale used in Westminster Abbey during her memorial service in May, and relevant for any chaplain.

To celebrate the centenary of the death of Florence Nightingale in 1910 a group of Nightingales went on pilgrimage to Scutari in Turkey, to visit the Florence Nightingale Museum in Selimiye Barracks.  Carrying a Nightingale lamp and proudly wearing our 'Nightingales' (the name we give to our training school  badge) we were taken to Miss Nightingale's old rooms.  The rooms are simply furnished and contain lots of,pictures.  Our group had memories of our time at St Thomas' stretching back to the 1940s.  We thought about what Miss Nightingale would have felt at our tribute,pilgrimage, she was known to hate any adulation.  We then read some scripture and some of the prayers used the week before during her centenary memorial service. 

Later reflecting on our little service we realised how it brought back memories of the daily prayers on the wards at St Thomas'.

My weekend with all those incredible women who have done so much caring for the world around over the last sixty years made me feel very humble, but again so proud to be a member of that group.

Back at school in my role as school chaplain I recognise how my own vocation has developed and changed from my early calling to be a nurse, through the years training and practising as a nurse in many areas, through parish secretary, and further academic study to chaplaincy in many fields, as well as being wife, mother and grandmother.   We all have a vocation, but it is whether we listen to that call and follow wherever it leads.

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