A visit with the Sisters of Saint “Jam and Marmalade” in Siolim
“Roger” is a nun. Born Rosalia Pimenta, she is one of ten siblings and one of three nuns in the family. She lives in Mangalore but was staying at the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Siolim, Goa to visit her blood and spiritual sisters. She invited Aloysius (who married her sister Hazel) and myself to drop by the convent for a visit while she was there.
“I’ve never been inside a convent before,” I told Aloysius on the shady, winding drive. I memorized the curves and signs along the way for a return visit by bicycle – when I finally got one. “Is it like an Ashram, where you can stay for while as a visitor?”
“Well, they are looking for Novices,” he replied with a grin. “Have you considered becoming a nun?” He related a quick story about how three of my uncles had told the Father of the boarding school that they were attending that they were considering becoming priests, just to secure the extra servings of pudding the brothers offered to sweeten the deal.
“Well, I am single,” I joked back, thinking that traditionally nuns wore white robes because they vowed to be “Brides of Christ”. “I guess that would be a good way to find a husband!”
“You couldn’t ask for a better one!” Aloysius responded without hesitation, and we both had a good laugh.
A D.Y.I. blessing?
The convent turned out to be a large house in a residental laneway. A religious Grotto and a friendly beagle flanked the front door and when it opened, we were warmly greeted by Sister Rosalia, the four resident nuns and seven young “candidates” from Hyderabad.
Naturally the place was simple and spotless, but not spare. Calendars with richly painted Christian imagery hung on most walls and, in the stairway window, a vase cut from an old sacremental wine bottle held rooting ferns. A tour revealed computers in the Sister’s rooms, a spacious second-floor dormitory with teak beds, and a rooftop area with covered washlines (for the rains) and large solar panels (for hot water).
Tiny Sister Monica brought us sweet, milky coffee in fine china cups (“from my family’s ancestral home,” said Sister Rosalia) and a plate of chakli (spiral fry cookies). The five Sisters gathered around us at the table and Aloysius picked up lapel pin with the letters “JM” on it.
“What’s this?” he asked jokingly, “The Sisters of Jam and Marmalade now make jewellry?!” I was surprised by how rollicking and light-hearted the conversation was – having cliched images of how nuns carried themselves. They seemed sharp and savvy, and had seemed to have kept their relationship with their faith honest and modern.
Aloysius caught them up on all the news and gossip and added a few family anecdotes for good measure. He told them I planned to tour around Goa with a bicycle and – unlike her blood sisters who voiced their concern, Sister Rosalia threw open her arms and exclaimed, “Absolutely! It’s beautiful here!”
It felt good having my vision endorsed by a fiesty nun. I imagined myself returning to the convent in the future to drop by for tea and ask for a blessing. I asked Aloysius if nuns could give blessings and he said yes, a personal blessing.
“What about an official blessing?” I asked.
“You would need a priest for that, but – you can bless the cycle yourself – there’s a bottle of holy water inside the house. Splash it on your self and the cycle and ask God for the blessings directly!”
A D.I.Y. bike blessing – I like the sounds of that.