Monica Paula Newman Alexander
(26.11.1922 – 13.05.2015)
Monica was born in November 1922 in London, the eldest of three children in a close-knit, loving, Catholic family. In 1925, the family moved to Surrey and then, in 1931, to Salisbury, in the West of England, where they settled.
Of her own early life Monica said: “I’m very
grateful now that I had a normal home life and went to a
normal primary school and girls’ grammar school”. Her schooling ended abruptly in 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War, during which she served with the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) in a Searchlight Unit near the East Coast.
After the war she trained as a primary school teacher. She taught for many years: in Oxford, in Stockport (in what she called “a quite rough area”) and then in her own primary school, St Osmund’s, in Salisbury. She was a gifted and dedicated teacher, devoted to the children in her care, and she never lost her enthusiasm for education.
In September 1963, shortly before her 41st birthday, she entered the Congregation at Westgate. She had got to know us in Cambridge where she attended summer schools in the Ward Method of teaching young children to sing, in which she was proficient. While in formation, she followed courses in Vatican II theology at Corpus Christi College in London and gained the Diploma in Religious Education.
At first she taught in our own schools in St Leonards and Westgate but, after the latter closed in the early 1970s, she taught for 11 years at St Gregory’s, the parish school in Margate where she became deputy head until she retired. After retirement, she devoted herself to parish work in Ramsgate and to the community there of which she became sister in charge. She loved her time in the parish, preparing families for baptisms, children for first communion, adults for reception into the Church, and much more. In fact, when she left the parish priest told her how much he missed her as he now had to do “all the many things you used to do … and it takes a very long time”.
In 2006, Monica and the two remaining Ramsgate sisters, Eileen and Gertrud, moved into Port Regis, a care home in nearby Broadstairs. She settled happily from the start, entering into the life of this wider community, appreciating the loving care she received, taking into her prayer the worries and joys of the other residents and especially of the staff who looked after her. She was a great listener, but also a great communicator, by phone and, especially, by the letters and cards she wrote to family, friends and the other sisters.
She was a very sensible, serene person. When asked, on a form she had to fill in, what worried or upset her, she put: “Things don’t seem to upset me”. When urged to say what made her feel better if she was upset, she wrote “Having visitors always makes me happy”. She didn’t do a lot of talking though she had quite definite views on certain things. She could say a lot very pithily, for instance: I live one day at a time. It’s enough to cope with”. Right to the end of her life she was alert to the Church and the world: “I’m interested in all that’s going on” she wrote, and “plenty goes on in my head”. She had a self-deprecating sense of humour, and a great capacity for enjoyment; perhaps that is why she was so good at remembering birthdays and feast days. “I’m all in favour” she wrote, “of plenty of celebrating and putting aside for a time all the passing causes of sadness”.
May she now celebrate endlessly in the peace and joy of the Lord she loved.