Nun steps out of monastery for first time in 8 years
A FORMER Avon saleswoman turned nun left the Goonellabah monastery for the first time in eight years this week to become an Australian citizen.
Sister Stephanie Marie lives at the Carmelite Monastery on Ballina Rd, where the 15 nuns are not allowed to watch television or listen to the radio. There is no recreational use of phones or email, and no stepping off the premises.
But Sister Stephanie Marie was allowed the rare privilege of leaving the monastery on Wednesday so she could attend Lismore City Council's citizenship ceremony.
It was her first time off the site, apart from medical appointments, since she joined the monastery eight years ago.
It was also the first time the Filipino woman was able to hug her family and friends.
"It's almost like a penance for me coming here (to the ceremony) ... we're always at the monastery," she said. "We even have our own cemetery ready to go."
'I loved Avon'
Before Sister Stephanie Marie took the vow to poverty, chastity and obedience, she was a teacher and sold Avon products in the Philippines.
"I loved Avon, especially all of the cosmetics. I loved bags, dressing up nice (and) the fashion, but no more," she said.
"Because I entered at the age of 35 I had so much experience of worldly life.
"With my Filipino culture, and being an Avon dealer for more than 10 years, and just the fashion of the world, it was hard to adjust."
On Sister Stephanie Marie's second day at the monastery she almost changed her mind and left.
"I had a big surprise - there was no mirror, so I cried, and I said I was the wrong person," she said.
'Our lives is prayer'
Sister Stephanie Marie said it was difficult to understand the calling to the monastery life, but it was all about self-sacrifice to be available for people in the world through prayer.
"I'm not here to satisfy myself," she said. "The whole of our lives is prayer - to pray for the world."
Like the other nuns, she may only see and talk to her family and friends through a barred window.
With no access to media, they have missed Justin Bieber, The Avengers and Donald Trump's political campaign, to name just a few social phenomenons.
The sisters spend most of their day praying and some of their day working.
"Every sister has designated jobs to do," Sister Stephanie Marie said. "We need to have a little income."
Her job is to make candles which are sold in the monastery's small shop.
Another nun also makes candles, while the rest make beads or tend their vegetable and fruit gardens.
To find out more about the Carmelite Monastery visit www.flowerofcarmel.com