As the youngest of nine Catholic children, the wife’s two oldest siblings, through no fault of their own, both became nuns. The eldest rather vainly insisted one day, that she was not 20 years older. Careful calculation revealed it was only 19 years, 11 months and 17 days.
Not being terribly Catholic, I knew that priests moved from parish to parish as needed, but thought that nuns more or less served where they enrolled, or were sent where needed – and left there. Watching these two women over the years, I was amazed at the frequent-flyer miles they racked up. Join a convent, and see the world. If I’d known that there was this much free world travel, I’d have become a nun.
They both became School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND). The younger of the two was a better administrator, so she got more trips. She was sent for two years to Le Pas, Manitoba, to organize a school district for Aboriginals, although that was more cruel and unusual punishment than reward. She went for six months of missionary work to Ecuador – in our winter. She flew to Rome, to the Vatican, where she met the then-Pope, and spent six months with a world-wide think-tank group. She was brevetted to Mississippi for two years to reorganize their Catholic school system.
After several years of break-in period at a local Catholic girls’ school, the elder sister went to work at the Mother House in the Hamilton Diocese, which administers most of Southern Ontario. Not exactly world travel, it’s only an hour’s drive away and, if nuns owned cars, she could have commuted home each evening.
She returned after a couple of years, and worked as an aide at the Catholic School Board offices. Finally she was awarded a real trip. While her younger sister, the Sister, spent six months in Ecuador, she was parachuted into the jungles of El Salvador. She returned to Canada, and spent another couple of years at the Hamilton Mother House.
She so impressed upper management with her rigid, assertive attitude, that they offered her a five year post as a house mother to about twenty teenaged Catholic girls at an upscale private school in London, England. These were the privileged daughters of ambassadors and minor foreign royalty.
The boarding house, along with its convent and school, were hundreds of years old. With solid stone outers, there wasn’t much need for interior repair and redecorating. The dining hall had gorgeous oak wainscoting on the lower halves of the walls. Oxidization and polish had turned it almost black, but the grain still glowed beneath the shine.
The same oxidation eventually deteriorated the plaster walls and ceiling and it was finally decided to redo them. The Sister watched in dismay, as the glorious wood was pried off the wall and thrown away. As the tradesmen worked, suddenly something fell from between the wood and the wall, and rolled almost to her feet.
When she examined it, it was a very thin coin. At first, she thought it might be something one of the girls had inserted, a toy, like Monopoly money. A closer look revealed that, as thin and worn as it was, it was a real coin. It is still a prevalent practice around the world to add a coin to a new building or addition for good luck.
Knowing that I collected coins, she held it until she returned to Canada and gave it to me. Study reveals that it is an Edward II, short-cross, silver sixpence, minted between 1547 and 1552 – Eddie didn’t rule very long – back then coins often weren’t dated.
From the wear on it, it probably didn’t get hidden till near 1600, but it gives you an idea how long ago the building was erected. Because of the wear, it’s worth ‘only’ about $25 today, but would have had about that level of buying power when it was minted. Someone was serious about this one. It was more than mere pocket change.
At over 450 years old, it’s the oldest thing I own. I’ve also included a few photos of my older, 1850 – 1900 Canadian coins, including a couple that were minted before the government got around to producing coinage, and allowed individual banks to issue their own.
For those who can’t see the detail, Tails side first;
Pre-1858 Bank of Bank of Upper Two-headed 1965
Montreal token Canada token Churchill commemorative
one sou. one penny crown
Edward VI Hanover Victorian penny
short cross love token 186?
sixpence penny equal