HER attire was customary but her surrounds were quite changed as was the company kept.
Instead of her regular monastic lifestyle, Benedictine Sister Hilda Scott was permitted to attend the September 22-25 Ignite Conference among 1600 participants in beachside Redcliffe, north of Brisbane, a far cry from her home at Jamberoo Abbey on the south coast of New South Wales.
She addressed a morning rally for all participants on September 24, offered various workshops among smaller groups within a range of ages, and offered a listening ear at the “market-style stall” with other Benedictine sisters and priests.
Sr Scott took time to put into words what she witnessed at her first Ignite Conference.
“My impression was the great searching that I experienced from the young people,” she said.
“The questions that they individually came to me with spoke loudly of a great thirst in them.”
Asked what it was they were “thirsting” for Sr Hilda was her straight-talking self.
“It was a thirst for understanding prayer,” she said. “(And) a thirst to understand how to connect with God.”
Throughout the Saturday morning address Sr Scott asked all gathered to close their eyes and tell Jesus they loved him.
She said conference participants “had already been told how much Jesus loved them” and it was “time to tell Jesus they loved him”.
Sr Scott spoke of the enormous love God has for His people and how prayer is simply a communication of that love.
“I told them that prayer is as easy as falling off a log,” she said. “(And) when I finished the rally session there was a tall, young man who came and sought me out. He had tears in his eyes and said, ‘I’ve never told Jesus I loved him before’.”
“There was a sense that some were just beginning to suspect the notion that there is a God, a God who loves them, who takes their concerns seriously and that it is possible to connect.”
As well as a sense of young people “searching” and “thirsting” Sr Scott said she was struck by “the utter excitement” of faith expression in the Ignite atmosphere.
“Some said it was their fourth time at Ignite,” she said. “I asked them if they’d be back and they said, ‘Oh yeah’.”
Yet another Ignite truth for the Benedictine was how “the contingent of older people” present were embraced and appreciated by the young.
“There was a mutual support and mutual enrichment (in the varied ages present) and the seeking and searching wasn’t only limited to the young,” Sr Scott said.
Asked questions centred on vocation and lifelong purpose, Sr Scott said she desired to listen and encourage the enquirer to answer, “What is it you most want to do? What’s the stuff that really excites you?”
She offered counsel based on the importance of listening to God and the voice of the heart, knowing “what’s in the heart, God put there”.
“I told them that when you get to know God, He’s going to take you down the road of your dreams and provide what you need to live those dreams,” Sr Scott said.
“I wanted them to know I was talking to each of their hearts. Every heart out there had it’s own dreams, own hope, own story, own pain.”
“Saying “there was a lot of igniting at Ignite” Sr Scott enjoyed the first-time adventure which permitted her to speak of the joys of a life of active and contemplative faith and to be a witness of religious life.
At 19 years of age, as the eldest of six children who was born and raised in Sydney, Sr Scott knew a life dedicated to God and His Church was for her.
She was taught by the Sisters of Mercy, whom she has “great respect and admiration for”, and later was professed as one of them.
Teaching in schools, ministering in parishes and in adult education, working on the streets among those on the fringes and studying overseas were among her adventures during almost 20 years as a Sister of Mercy, saying, “You name it, I did it.”
When returning from overseas study Sr Scott lived in a caravan park to purposely reach out to children.
“I had a great concern for children because people living in a caravan park have nothing and kids there have a dog’s life,” she said.
“Kids would come to my van after school, we had hot chocolate and when they were with me they weren’t being screamed out.
“I wasn’t doing it in a heroic fashion, I was having the time of my life.”
Seeking a retreat in 1990 Sr Scott visited the Benedictines at Jamberoo and “the contemplative thing hit again”.
In 1991 she joined them, devoting herself to the rule of St Benedict, believing it’s there she can make the most difference, seeking God’s help for a broken world through prayer and hospitality.
Since the ABC aired The Abbey in 2007, where Sr Scott helped five women seek spiritual answers, the community has received thousands of prayer requests.
“Our prayers are offered from the heart of a hurting world,” Sr Scott said.
“People will write and say, ‘I asked you to pray and my life has been turned around’.
“I remember one from a man on drugs. He said he ‘wasn’t frightened anymore’ as he thought we were ‘standing between’ him and hell.”
Admitting “loads and loads of mistakes” Sr Scott can “happily talk to sinners” because she’s one herself, she said.
Also without “many spare minutes” in the day she’s currently assisting two novitiates and two postulants at the abbey saying, “We (the order) aren’t dying out.”
The keen gardener who loves lavender “because it grows so easily” also admitted to enjoying “whipping around on the ride on mower” on the abbey’s large property.
All the while she described herself as “a conduit” for God.
“God does the work,” she said. “I can’t do anything without Him.”
For more details about The Abbey of the Benedictines in New South Wales visit www.jamberooabbey.org.au
To see information about the Ignite 2017 Conference go to www.igniteyouth.com.
By Selina Venier