‘I travel across Europe quite a bit,’ says Lynne Baron, reeling off a list of destinations: Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Romania and Germany. ‘It’s a really exciting, broadening, challenging life,’ she adds. It could be a sales pitch for a job as a jet-setting executive, but think again.
Sister Lynne, to use her official title, is discussing her life as a nun – a religious sister with the Faithful Companions of Jesus. It is a life she entered early, at 22, fresh from having gained a degree in Physics and a PGCE at Manchester University. ‘My family had significant questions,’ she admits of her choice at the time, yet the intervening quarter-century has assuaged those doubts. ‘They’re very proud of it. They can see a real value to it. I’ve done things I wouldn’t have otherwise done.’
This includes teaching stints in Middlesbrough, London and Liverpool – the last-mentioned a nine-year stay at Bellerive Catholic College until 2011. Prior to that was a year in Romania working with refugees and children with Down’s Syndrome. Subsequently she was university chaplain at Goldsmiths, University of London. And now she is back in Liverpool, working on vocations from the FCJ’s St Hugh’s community house in Wavertree.
‘We’re trying to start new project, a new focus for our community here involving young people and mission. My main ministry for the last seven years has been vocations work for the congregation across Europe. We’re in eight different countries and we’re in a fortunate position where we do have vocations and have young women discerning religious life with us.
‘I do spiritual direction and accompaniment of people considering priesthood and religious life generally, and I also work with young people at that point in their life where they’re trying to make decisions and bring their faith into their decisions.’
Preston-born and bred, Sr Lynne first gained a sense of her own vocation during a school retreat in the Lake District aged 13. ‘I had an experience of prayer that made me begin to see God as real – it was first time God felt present to me and probably changed the way I thought about my faith,’ she explains. ‘I didn’t think about being a nun at that point but I did really begin to look into my faith and try to understand it more. At university I was very involved in the Catholic Society and it helped me deepen my faith a lot more but I was also having a great time socialising and doing the normal things of university life.
‘I had a boyfriend but as I was coming to end of my degree and we were thinking what our life together might be, I began to feel, “What’s going to be the priority for me?” and this question of how I was called to commit my life to God came back much more strongly.’
It begs the question whether she finds similar conviction in the young people she encounters today. ‘I think young people want to find places where they can commit and can put their energy. There’s a real sense with a lot of them of a very deep faith but there’s probably an uncertainty about life that has increased if I compare it with when I was thinking about religious life. There is less trust, for example, in our politicians and big institutions – “What can we trust?” – and that has shown itself across politics, across banking, across education, across the Church and that raises a level of uncertainty for young people which makes choosing harder.’