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The Priory of Our Lady – Newsletter Advent 2017
Dear Friends and Associates,
The year is racing by, but the seasons seem to be totally confused as we rarely needed a coat during most of October and the first half of November – except when it rained! There are still beautiful golden and bronze leaves on many of the trees in late November, gleaming in the sunshine on a frosty day. We are living through a time of political turmoil with acrimonious sessions over Brexit, and yet a prominent male touching a female’s knee is considered to be headline news rather than giving any follow-up of the earthquake that claimed about 500 lives in the Iran/Iraq borderland. Worldwide we hear of much political bickering in the pursuit of power in our individualistic age, but with the underlying sinister threat of pushing a nuclear button. Cruel terrorist acts, ethnic cleansing, persecution of Christians, thousands fleeing for their lives and adding to the huge numbers of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, so many suffering, sick and starving – some as the result of natural disasters … the list is never-ending. And yet we can give thanks for the hard work and self-sacrifice of Aid Workers, our Armed Forces serving in places of danger, our Emergency Services, Healthcare staff and countless people who act as good neighbours. We are blessed with the wonderful example of a lifetime of service and commitment by Her Majesty, the Queen and other members of the royal family. She speaks more and more openly about how her faith guides her, and she must be the first ever reigning monarch to have celebrated her seventieth wedding anniversary. And now we look forward to celebrating the birth of the King of kings and Lord of lords, praying that His reign of peace may truly begin in our hearts and throughout the world.
Sisters Angela and Carol continue to maintain the daily round of worship and prayer in the Priory, though it can be a challenge when one of us is away on holiday. It is a joy when pilgrims join us for Mass and/or Offices, but we are never alone at prayer since we are surrounded by that unseen cloud of witnesses. Thus the Office is said aloud in Chapel, even when we are physically alone. Sister Angela has had a year of ‘milestones’: her 75th birthday at Pentecost when the Shrine Refectory was packed with pilgrims who sang their greetings; a gathering of her medical school year celebrating the 50th anniversary of qualifying as doctors; on St Nicholas’ Day she will celebrate the Ruby Jubilee of her Profession.
Sister Mary Teresa has now been discharged from the Charing Cross fracture clinic having been told, in effect, that nothing more can be done for her broken arm that remains supported by a brace. There is insufficient healing for weight-bearing so she cannot push herself up or out of the bed, or from a chair, or walk with a Zimmer. She saw a senior doctor who told her that she could not return home to Walsingham as she needed the nursing care provided in Chiswick – the place she chooses to be if she can’t be at the Priory. Her short-term memory loss is, sadly, more noticeable but she still enjoys a game of Scrabble! Sister Carol has managed to visit her several times when she has visited her mother in Wandsworth and when going through London for a conference. One of our local Associates visits at intervals too.
Sister Columba continues to live a disciplined life in her ground-floor flat in Aberdeen, where she maintains a very colourful little garden in the front, and a small back garden with a lawn and border with well-chosen plants as it gets very little sun. Sister Angela spent a week in the city in October, staying with a friend just south of the River Dee, and was able to explore some old haunts on foot and on bus rides. Much has changed since she lived there in the 1970s! The former Convent is now a residence for medical students and it was only possible to view it and the Chapel – Sir Ninian Comper’s first completed work that was deconsecrated a decade or so ago – from the outside. There was a big celebration on the Sunday combining the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Church of St Margaret of Scotland and Sister Columba’s 50th anniversary of Profession. Fr John Comper had asked John Mason Neale to send a couple of Sisters to help him with his mission in the slum area of the Gallowgate at the beginning of the 1860s – there really was a gallows there until the end of public hanging in the mid-twentieth century – and the Aberdeen Convent was the second foundation in the Society of St Margaret, becoming an autonomous House in 1862.
Sister Alma Mary remains well and generally contented in herself, and usually greets visitors with her beautiful smile of welcome. She tires more quickly and her dementia continues to progress – she is no longer able to coordinate and get herself up or walk about, but is able to move all her limbs. Courtenay House, Tittleshall is closing shortly and, as from 23rd November, she is resident at Dorrington House,
2 Westfield Avenue, Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk NR23 1BY. This is only five miles away and on a bus route, so visiting is much easier and some of our local Associates may be able to pop in to see her. She reaches the grand age of 90 on 21st January 2018!
During July we had the joy of receiving eight new Associates, five actually on St Margaret’s Day, and two more during November: Helena Walker, Michael Shepherd, Brenda Lacey, Jean Bates, Paul and Sharon Christodoulou, Pauline Scott, Fr Andrew Tweed, Petter Kringberg and Pauline Appleby. Another half dozen people have enquired about becoming Associates. This is most encouraging as it means that the cloud of prayer support is increasing, and we trust that vocations to Religious Life in this Priory will be a result. We are sad to report the death of Associates Prudence Williams [2nd May], Barbara Mannall [12th May], Paul Underhill [26th Sept], Peter Davis [26th Sept], and Alison Hughes [6th Oct]. We have greatly appreciated their support over the years and assure their families and friends of our on-going prayer.
Lamps in chapel
When someone is in need either physically, mentally or spiritually it is always a great comfort for them to know that someone is praying for them, not only those on earth but the Saints who have gone before us. We see Our Lady at work as intercessor at the Wedding of Cana, interceding on behalf of those at the wedding when she turns to Jesus to tell him that they have run out of wine and she continues to intercede for us in heaven. Whatever our needs we can ask Our Lady and all the Saints to pray for us.
Are you, or someone else in your life, in need of prayer at this time? If so, we have 8 lamps burning beside statues and Icons of Our Lady, Our Lord and St Margaret in chapel and the Cloister, all of which are lit for a certain prayer intention every day. You can sponsor a lamp for £2.50 per week, the intention will be prayed for as the lamp is lit each morning and also daily at Compline.
If you would like to sponsor a lamp please contact Sr Carol.
Approximately every 5 years every Religious Community has to have a Visitation, we were overdue ours and so at the end of July Bishop Peter Wheatley and Sr Margaret Theresa SLG spent a few days staying with us to conduct one. During the Visitation they talked to both of us separately and together and also met with our Trustees, Fr Adrian, our chaplain, and Fr Kevin Smith, the Priest Administrator of the Shrine. They finished off by giving us an idea of what the report would say and then sometime later the written report arrived.
The report stated that “There is much for which to be thankful in the life and witness of the Sisters. We were impressed by the godly dignity of the resident Sisters: their faithfulness to the Rule and the Office, their sense of ‘boundary’, being engaged with the village and pilgrims but setting the right tone and avoiding gossip.” It also stated “that the ‘practicalities’ of life are well cared for.” They noted that “The Sisters now take their midday meal in the pilgrims’ refectory. This mixing with pilgrims and staff is welcomed by all and is much to be encouraged. People can talk to the Sisters more informally and there must be benefit from such unpressured listening by those accustomed to be still.”
One of the recommendations of the report is that Monday could be observed as our Sabbath, having the whole day off rather than just a half day as has been the custom. We continue to have our Monday Mass in chapel, but we now say our Offices privately and the rest of the day is free. Another recommendation was that we could re-introduce more singing to our Offices; we have started to do this gradually and are now singing the Magnificat, the Lord’s Prayer and the Nunc Dimittis.
1st Professed conference
On 18th Sept 9 of us from several different Communities gathered at Mirfield for our annual 1st Professed Conference. The conference started off on the Monday afternoon with us arriving in time for Evensong and time to settle in. The theme of this year’s conference was Good Communication. One of the great things about these conferences is to be able to spend time relaxing and catching up with those who are also going through the same stage of Religious Life as us. One of the Brothers produced a photo which included most of us from 5 years ago, at the Novice Conference at Fairacres. It was interesting to see how many of us had continued with our Religious Life; a couple of the group had taken their Life Profession earlier this year, and a few had left their communities.
Tuesday, our first full day, was to be a moving and thought provoking quiet day, led by Fr Richard Bastable. This was divided into three short sessions, in between which we had plenty of time for reflection: The 1st Session was Verbum Dei: The God who speaks. ‘We know God to speak to us through the words of scripture, through the sacraments, through prayers, and through each other. God’s supreme act of self-communication is in his Son, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.’ The 2nd Session was Verbum quod factum tacet: The Word is silenced. God speaks his word, but we have silenced that Word. Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is silenced by the death on the cross. Lastly, the 3rd session was Verbum resurget: The Word is raised.
On Wednesday we had a series of workshops led by Mikhala Richards, looking at the way we communicate with other people. We all have an inner ‘child’ in us and also an ‘adult’ side of us. We talk to others on all sorts of levels; sometimes we talk as the ‘adult’ in us and sometimes as the ‘child’ in us, and depending on which of these roles we are taking at any given time, that will determine how we talk to others. One of the activities we did was to pick out from a selection of small toys (lions, tortoises, snail, etc.) what we thought represented us in our ‘adult’ state and which was our ‘child’ state, sharing our thoughts with our partner. Later on one of each pair was asked to talk, while the other just sat and listened without interrupting. The final activity of the day was to look at different scenarios and discuss how we would deal with them.
Our last full day, Thursday, was a free day and so one of the other Sisters and I walked down into the village, stopping for a coffee and putting our communication skills into practice with some of the local residents.
Friday finished after breakfast when we said our goodbyes; some will meet again next year but several hope to have moved to the next stage and be taking their Life Profession during the next year.
Monastic Taster Day
From Mirfield I travelled back to London for the Monastic Taster day which took place at St John the Divine, Kennington on the Saturday. Ten men and women who are exploring their vocations gathered with several representatives from different Communities. The day started off with coffee and a chance for the Nuns and Monks to introduce ourselves. We then gathered in the church for Midday Office followed by Mass said by Bp Jonathan Baker. It was then time for a simple lunch, giving us an opportunity to chat informally to those around us. After lunch it was the turn of Br Finnian Nov SSF, myself and lastly Br Katleho Nov SSM [Society of the Sacred Mission!] to tell our personal stories about how we came to join the Communities we are with – all very different stories. Later we were split into 3 groups for discussion about Religious Life before we stopped for tea and then finished the day with Vespers. Sr Carol
Dedication Festival: 10th May 2018. Preacher: Fr Allan Townsend
St Margaret’s Festival: 19th July 2018. Preacher: Fr Tony Noble
Charity for 2018: Winston’s Wish, a charity for bereaved children.
With our love and prayers and greetings
for a joyful and blessed Christmas
and a peaceful 2018
Priory of Our Lady, Bridewell Street, Walsingham, Norfolk NR22 6ED.