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The year is rushing by, the clocks have gone back, and the days are getting shorter and often darker due to inclement weather. The trees have suddenly shed their leaves, skeins of honking, migrating geese fly overhead, shrubs and plants are cut back, gulls and rooks circle over the bare, newly ploughed fields; darkness and destruction seem to be enveloping all as we look towards Haiti, following Hurricane Matthew, and the ever-turbulent Middle East. But new life germinates in the dark – the seed planted in the earth dies before it breaks open to produce rootlets and a shoot that grows towards the light, and the seeds of the Church are the Witnesses (Martyrs) of the Faith. Darkness, or ‘not knowing’ is a time of waiting and preparation and that is what Advent is all about – our Lord and Saviour planted in the Virgin’s womb, developing and growing in the dark until His birth is announced by choirs of angels and the light of a star. May we each look into the depths of our heart, beseeching the Light of Truth to weed out all that blurs our vision and separates us from Him, so that Jesus may be born anew in each of us.
It has been a strange year: Sister Teresa fell on 28th January, breaking her right upper arm, and she writes: ‘As you probably all know, I am at present still with our Sisters at St Mary’s Nursing Home in Chiswick, as I needed full nursing care which I would not have been able to have at home. We had no idea what a long time the healing process would be, but I remain positive about the future and am thankful to say that I have no pain, feel very well – and long to get back to something like normal. My arm is certainly improving, but I am still unable to use it fully – e.g. I cannot write properly as yet, relying on one finger of my left hand on the computer for this. It was thought that complete rest would fuse the broken bone, but it has not, so an operation is set for Dec. 1st in Charing Cross hospital. I shall then return here to convalesce and get the use back into my arm. Please pray for me and the whole situation. I have been confined to a wheeled chair as it is not possible to put pressure on my arm to use the Zimmer – how I wish the operation could have been done when I fell. I am well aware how very blessed I have been to be looked after here with my Sisters in Chiswick, with the daily Mass and Office, the regular routine of the Religious Life, full nursing care – and so much else. I shall never be able to thank them enough. This is a wonderful place with every possible care, lots of things going on and a glorious garden.’
Sister Alma remains in Care at Rebecca Court, Heacham but, sadly, her Alzheimer’s is progressing with some associated behaviour and communication problems. She is well looked after and we manage to visit her twice most weeks. Sister Columba celebrated her 90th birthday in October and continues to live independently in the little flat in Aberdeen, maintaining a disciplined life of prayer, and usually getting a lift to Church. The retired Bishop of Aberdeen usually celebrates the Eucharist weekly in her little Oratory and reserves the Sacrament so she can maintain daily devotion to the Real Presence – a basic of our life.
Associates: We were delighted that our Visitor, Bishop Peter, received Mrs Irene Childs and Paul Stead as Associates during the St. Margaret’s Festival Mass, and the other Associates present renewed their commitment. During recent weeks, several pilgrims have expressed the desire to become Associates and are preparing to be received at Mass on St. Margaret’s Day – 20th July 2017. We hope that as many of our Associates as possible will be with us to support and welcome them.
Mrs Elizabeth Brannagan moved from Walsingham to Manormead Care Home, near Guildford, in May so she is nearer her family. Sr. Angela was south of the Thames in June and visited, finding her happily settled in lovely surroundings. We miss her joining us in Chapel for our daily Mass.
We record with sadness the death of Fr. Michael Mannall in July – he spent his final eight weeks in hospital, was fortified by the Rites of Holy Church, and Barbara was with him. His ashes are now interred at St. Giles Houghton where he assisted for many years, and overlooking the area he loved.
Dedication Festival will be celebrated on 11th May 2017 and the preacher will be Fr. Paschal Worton. Our many friends are invited, but we regret that there is not enough room for our Associates as well.
Guests: As increasing numbers of people are finding, St Margaret’s Guest cottage is an ideal place to stay either for a quiet time away from it all, or if you wish to visit the Shrine but prefer somewhere a bit quieter to stay. We’ve also had some unusual bookings; being used to celebrate that Big Birthday with a difference (one using our chapel for their celebration Mass, the other just to get away from it all) and have a booking for next year from a Wedding party. All guests are welcome to join the Sisters in chapel and attend any of the Shrine Liturgies, and may be either self-catering or book into the Shrine refectory for meals there.
Also for Priests, Religious or Associates wishing to have a quiet time, we have rooms available in the Priory. Guests have their own kitchenette (with microwave, fridge, toaster and kettle), and sitting room.
We are now taking bookings for 2017, prices are £35.40 per person per night (£21.25 for children 5-16yrs). To book please contact Sr. Carol.
School: For the past 3 years Sr. Carol has been going into Walsingham Primary school with the Yr4God team doing Open the Book. This year, with no Yr4God team at the Shrine, I have been joined by a new team consisting of people from either the Shrine or the Parish. We take our packed lunch in and join the children having their lunch and out on the playground before acting out a Bible story. The children love to join in taking parts in the story, doing their own reflection at the end and saying the Lord’s Prayer to which they have put actions.
Chapel: Don’t forget, if you are staying in Walsingham, either in our cottage or at the Shrine, you are always welcome in chapel. It is open from 6:30am until after Compline and anyone may join us for our Offices, Mass or Exposition or for some quiet prayer. It is always lovely to welcome groups for Mass and coffee and chat afterwards (please let us know in advance to make sure we have enough chairs/coffee!).
Please contact Sr. Carol if you would like one of the lamps in chapel lit for a special intention. We ask for a suggested donation of £2.50 per week and the person will be prayed for every evening during Compline.
Volunteers: Can you help us? We are looking for volunteers who can help us either on a regular or occasional basis. There are several things which you could help with including doing some weeding, giving lifts, making cards/gifts for us to sell for our charity of the year, chapel flower arranging, helping us cover the Exposition Watch in chapel, polishing the brass/ silver in chapel, or doing odd jobs around the Priory. If you can help us please contact Sister Angela.
This year’s charity is Aid to the Church in Need and our sales have so far raised a little over £1,000.
Our charity for 2017 is the devastated island of Haiti where our American Sisters have a branch house.