It was sad to read this week news of the death of Sr Janet Mead. Her version of “The Lords Prayer” (which was an international hit record) came out around the time of my First Holy Communion. There are so many things I remember about that time of my life, and the song is one of them. I remember it as a time of my life when I became quite deeply religious.
I think there was a bit of interest in me from the priests and nuns, and not in the way that’s sadly become all too familiar. I was a smart working-class kid, quite good at public speaking, and I think they thought I could be a future Priest or Brother. Who knows? By now I could be living in Rome!
I used to regularly play an album called “Hymns Of Praise” – or named something like that from K-Tel – (which featured Sister Janet’s version of “The Lord’s Prayer”) and even had an “altar” of sorts in my bedroom, displaying lots of religious artefacts. Unlike many parents who might otherwise encourage an interest in religion, mum was deeply concerned about this.
We were Catholics, but not CATHOLICS! Mum would say The Rosary every night before bed, but none of us ever went to a Catholic school, and we didn’t attend church. Instead, I went with my cousins to Sunday school at the Presbyterian Church. Mum ordered me to dismantle the “altar”.
After that, I never considered a religious vocation ever again.
But I continued to be fascinated by the nuns, in particular. I know many nuns have done terrible things, but the ones I had contact with as a young person always seem like such good-hearted souls.
My “favourite” nun in Lismore was Sister Elaine. I THINK she might still be alive, though probably very, very old. I remember reading a few years ago that she had gone to live and work at a leper colony in Peru, though I can’t be sure that’s true.
It’s not often that I mention my work here, but thought I’d share a piece I did for my radio show which tells the story of Sister Janet, and how her international pop song fitted within the context of the Catholic Church at the time, and her own religious vocation.
Keen to find out more about her work, and how a “pop song” fitted in with her vocation as a Catholic nun, I spoke to Noel Debien from ABC Religion & Ethics.
“It was a very big deal. She would get 2,000 people to the cathedral in Adelaide to these “rock masses” for this type of music that she was composing and recording and performing and it was unexpected. A lot of what her parents would have learnt at school would have been Gregorian chants. It was only three years beforehand that the mass had gone into English officially. There just wasn’t much music around in English for Catholics to sing, so she was in part filling a void.https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/editorschoice/janet-mead/13732262
The entire piece goes for about 25 minutes, but well worth a listen.