Ruth Dawson is ordained a priest at the age of 71 after having her faith tested by a series of difficult family experiences.
Ruth, who trained at Lindisfarne Regional Training Partnership, becomes a priest at Heighington, St Michael and Darlington, St Matthew with St Luke.
Born in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, she made her career in the commercial sector, beginning as a secretary and progressing through to Administrative Management and Personnel work.
She said: “Since mid-life I have felt that there was something more I had to give, but the time never seemed to be quite right.
“Then, after retiring, I found I could no longer ignore the pull that I felt to more formal ministry, and so I commenced training to be a Reader. This opened my mind even more and made me realise my deep desire to be involved in growing Christ’s body in the Church through the administering of the sacraments.
“My first year of curacy has been the most challenging. The day after ordination, my youngest daughter told us she had breast cancer, and I began travelling down to Lincolnshire every three weeks to be there for her chemotherapy sessions. Then, in August I suffered a stroke and was hospitalised for almost six weeks.
“On my discharge, my husband, whose health has been vulnerable for a number of years, was once again unwell. The week before Christmas things improved for him and we thought that once again we were “out of the woods”. Sadly, on 29 December, he suffered a massive and fatal heart attack at our home.
“A month later my son was made redundant. All this has proved immensely challenging – trying to rationalise and understand, trying to see where God was amidst all this sadness, trying to discern how I could turn this to a positive in my own life and in my ministry. Trying to embrace new life after illness and bereavement.
“This Easter was a poignant time as my own experiences and challenges made me realise even more the sacrifice Jesus made for us – how hard it is to carry the cross.
“When I had my stroke I feared that I would not be able to carry out my ministry but I realised that it was happening even whilst I was in hospital. I came closer to the suffering of others and I found that nurses and patients, on finding that I was ordained, wanted to talk to me about faith. I feared that my parishioners might feel they could not approach me with their problems because of mine, but in fact my vulnerability gave me more empathy with them and they approached me more. This was even more apparent following my bereavement.
“Thankfully, I feel that slowly I am turning my negatives into positives , with the help of being held in prayer and supported by family, Church family and very good friends. And all the time I feel that my husband is with me, supporting me in what I do.”
Ruth will be ordained Priest by the Bishop of Durham, The Right Reverend Paul Butler in Durham Cathedral at 5.00pm on Saturday 2nd July 2016