Written by Patricia Glinton-Meicholas
Sister Cecilia was born Pauline [Paula] Margaret Albury on Harbor Island into a family of Anglicans. Except for her older sister, this sibling was baptized Catholic because her grandfather had been at odds with the priest at St. John’s Anglican Church at the time of her birth. So it was that, on Sundays, this sister would take the younger children to St. John’s, while she proceeded to Mass at the Catholic Church.
Here parents were George and Romalia Bethel Albury. Mrs. Albury’s name would become legendary in the Catholic School system. Although registered at Harbor Island’s public school, Pauline ran away to St. Benedict’s Catholic School, convinced that this was her place.
The young Anglican was powerfully attracted to the Catholic Church and was finally baptized into the faith on 10th January, 1952 and confirmed on the 2nd February of that year. She knew too that she wanted to become a teacher, nurse or nun to help people. Her sister’s application to Blessed Martin Convent was not successful through some mishap, so Pauline fulfilled this wish of her sister on September 15th, just months after her confirmation. At Saint Martin’s convent, Sister Regina Francis [Eileen Maher, SC] told Pauline that her religious vocation would allow her to pursue the other two callings that attracted her.
With the entrance to the novitiate on 19th March, 1953, Pauline began to be called Sister Cecilia. [Like the other Sisters of the community, she added ‘Mary’ as a forename during the Marian Year, but later dropped it because there was another Mary Cecilia.] Her first vows were pronounced in 1955 and final vows in 1960. There followed her first teaching experiences – first at Our Lady’s then Holy Name, Bimini, St Bede’s in Nassau.
In 1962, Sister Cecilia went to Cold Spring, Minnesota, where she experienced something of a culture shock. She was the only black person among the thirty-plus Sisters there until an American called Sister Joyce joined them. She was no less surprised when she asked one of her classes to do a drawing one day. Every child except one boy, represented her as white. Nevertheless, her sunny nature prevailed and she adjusted to the community to enjoy four years there teaching at St. Boniface [1962-1966]. She was to make fast friends among the children and their parents.
Returning to Nassau in 1966, Sister Cecilia enrolled in the two year teacher education programme at Bahamas Teachers College, in which she received an endorsed from the University of the West Indies. She continued her education at the College of St. Benedict and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. She studied yet more at Barry College [now Barry University], Miami Shores. Further periods of teaching would include tenures as principle at St. Vincent de Paul, Grand Bahama, St. Jospeh in Nassau and Holy Name, Bimini.
Gifted with a beautiful singing voice, Sister Cecilia performed with the well-known Renaissance Singers, directed by the renowned composer/painist Clement Bethel. She also became a member of the Diocesan Chorale under the direction of noted Bahamian muscian Andrew Curry. By the time she celebrated her golden anniversary of religious life in 2005, she had recorded ‘Mary’s Songs’, a CD of her singing – all told, an active and fruitful life for someone who had suffered several bouts of serious illness.
When she retired from teaching, Sister Cecilia became Administrator of St. Jospeh Day Care Centre for the aged, a role for which she prepared at St. Scholastica Home in Minnesota and through a gerontology workshop in South Dakota, USA.
During an interview in 2007, Sister Cecilia thanked God for her vocation and all the people who she met and had helped her in the course of her religious life. Her humour asserted herself when she pointed out that, although religious women were no longer obliged to wear the veil, she continued to do so. She noted, with humour, that the veil was a covering for all the sins she had committed and would commit in life.