Growing in Faith

'Softly prophetic' way of discipleship has much to offer the church

Judith Scully "fell in love with God" and became a nun as an enthusiastic teenager, but later left the religious life. She reflects on how she and others like her continue to live out their discipleship in new ways.

By Judith Scully

February 6 2020 

At some point in my early teens, just when I was discovering there was more to the opposite sex than beneath-my-notice little brothers, I fell in love with God. Which is why, aged 16, wearing a fetching little hat and my first pair of high heels, I left my weeping parents on Spencer Street railway platform and choofed off to be a nun.

In the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, it was a matter of pride in Catholic families when one of the children left home to become a sister, priest or brother. Occasionally, such vocations tapped into left-behind parental dreams of religious life or priesthood. Sometimes, too, young women or men chose religious life as a means of escape from poverty, sexual abuse or alcoholic violence. None of the above was true in my case. God had called and I was answering. “You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced” (Jeremiah 20:7).

I remember almost nothing of my last weeks at home, just my father hugging me minutes before driving me to Spencer Street station. I think he was crying, though I couldn’t really see, but I remember his words: “Don’t ever be afraid to come home if you need.”

Nearly 18 years later I did just that ...

Judith Scully is a retired pastoral associate. This is an edited excerpt from her book A Gentle Unfolding: Circling and Spiralling into Meaning (David Lovell Publishing, 2017). Her website Words from the Edge can be found at

To read this article in full and others like it, please subscribe here.