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TIMES OF MALTA  Sunday, May 24, 2015, 08:01 by Claudia Calleja

Softly-spoken Sister drops in to say a little prayer with people of Luqa

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Men sit in groups around wooden tables at a Luqa bar, sipping their Saturday morning tea-in-a-glass, when a soft-spoken nun walks in.

“I’ve come back to pray with you,” Sr Mary Spiteri, 72, tells the three men sitting closest to the door of the Luqa Shooters’ Club. They respectfully pause their conversation and join her in making the sign of the Cross.

Sr Mary stands by their table as she says the Hail Mary, followed by another short prayer to Our Lady.

“Pope Francis wants us to get out of our convents and go among the people and spread the word of God,” she tells them and they thank her for her work.

Sr Mary goes bar-hopping – she walks around Luqa dropping into bars such as band clubs and political party clubs – to say a little prayer with the people there.

Karmenu Busuttil tells her he admires her courage.

“This must be a big sacrifice for you. I don’t think it’s easy for a nun to walk into a bar full of men, to start with,” he tells her, adding: “And, you never know how people react to seeing a nun, after a drink or two.” But Sr Mary immediately assures him that, so far, she never experienced any problems.

I don’t think it’s easy for a nun to walk into a bar full of men

“People are always nice to me. They offer me tea. The other day it was the birthday of a young man and there was cake too,” she smiles.

For the past 10 years Sr Mary, a Franciscan Sister of the Heart of Jesus, has been living in the convent in Luqa where she helps run the adjacent kindergarten. She became a nun when she was 17 years old and never regretted her decision.

“I always say that, if I were reborn, I would become a nun again,” she says, recounting how she spent 27 years based in a school in Australia then returned to Malta where she taught in schools in San Ġwann and Birkirkara, before moving to Luqa.

Sr Mary had been toying with the idea of “sowing prayers” in bars for a while but, she confesses, it took her a while to pluck up the courage.

The idea first popped into her mind because, every day, when she walked to Mass, she passed in front of a bar and sometimes heard swearing. So she thought it would be good to do something about it by spreading the word of God in such bars.

Then, last November, she saw a group of Ursuline nuns, who became known as the Ekklesia Sisters, take part in the Malta Song for Europe contest.

“I thought that, if they had the courage to go on television and dance to praise the Lord, why shouldn’t I go and pray in bars to praise the Lord?” she says, adding that God then gave her the strength to follow through.