The Society of St Margaret

The Priory of Our Lady, Walsingham

Dear Associates and Friends,

The Year of Our Lord 2020 must be recorded as the strangest in living memory, let alone in history. I’ve come to regard the global pandemic as WW3, with an invisible enemy known as Covid-19. Life has been changed in an unprecedented way in recent months, and we have yet to discover what our ‘new normal’ is to be. Many people are getting frustrated and there are, sadly, increasing reports of domestic violence. However, we can see light at the end of the tunnel as the vaccine is just being launched as I write. Our scientists have worked hard and achieved vaccine production in a few months instead of the usual two years – largely, I guess, because the clinical trials have been considerably shortened. Let us hope and pray that the injections will be as effective as Jenner’s first vaccine against smallpox, and that we all keep safe and well.

*Telephone: Please note that the line 01328 820340 has been discontinued *

Our only phone is now 01328 821647 There is an answer-phone for messages!

Updates: Sister Mary Teresa remains in our Nursing Home at Chiswick and is well in herself, but her dementia has advanced considerably so that conversation is very limited. She continues to need full nursing care and is looked after very well indeed, and wheeled regularly to Chapel. We have not been able to visit this year thanks to Covid, apart from Sister Carol’s brief visit in early January.

Sister Columba still lives independently in her Aberdeen flat but friends pop in regularly and do her shopping. She is finding that the limitations due to her age are becoming a trial but she does not stop living her disciplined life.

Sister Mary Angela has recovered well [with additional medication!] from a mild cardiac blip in June but managed to fracture her right wrist in the middle of September and was sporting a pretty blue plaster for a few weeks! She is fortunately left-handed so managed OK, and is back to ‘normal’ now.

Sister Carol Elizabeth keeps well, finds lots to keep her occupied and enjoys a long country walk most days – there is a good choice around Walsingham.

Prisca, our cat, remains well and continues to go into hiding if any visitor appears. She is very good at giving the ‘silent meow’ outside the closed garden room doors when Sister Angela is trying to relax in the chair! Little presents, or remnants thereof, keep appearing – but such is the nature of our feline friends. A comfy chair is usually the preferred place to rest but recently, when we thought she had stayed outside, we found her in the unused basket of the last five years … put out of the way on the bottom empty bookshelf behind a chair in our common room!

Chaplain During the first lockdown our Chaplain, Fr Frank Nichols and his wife Shirley came to the conclusion that they should go to live in Australia – one daughter and family lives there and the other daughter in New Zealand. They moved in early September and, on arrival, they and the other 28 passengers were escorted by police and army through the arrival formalities and on to their quarantine hotel where they had to stay put for 14 days! We were sad to say ‘goodbye’ but will keep in touch, mainly electronically.

We are delighted to report that Fr Glen Brooks, Rector of the Somerleyton Benefice on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, agreed to become our Chaplain. He was installed at Mass in our Chapel by our Visitor, Bishop Peter Wheatley, on the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham: September 24th. It was a private ceremony due to the Covid situation.

Charity of the Year – Tariro: Each year we select a different charity and raise money for it by selling hand-made cards and gifts both in the cloister and the Green room at the Shrine. When we selected our charity, Tariro, for this year, little did we know that there would be no pilgrims staying at the Shrine and our chapel and cloister would all be shut from March. This of course has had an effect on the amount of money we have raised for them and so we will be keeping the same charity for 2021.

However, we have not been idle; our recreation time with a cup of coffee after lunch has seen us both knitting. Sr Carol has knitted several Sisters who are now settling into their new homes, she also has a long waiting list for them to keep her busy. While Sr Angela has knitted several different soft toys from an Angel to dinosaurs, and an octopus most of which are also settled in their new homes. Sr Carol has also been busy making Rosaries and hand embroidered Rosary bags to sell. A friend has made Priory Calendars and notelets with photos of the Priory and the Shrine which we are selling for £4 for the calendars and £2 for a pack of 4 notelets or £5 for both. For more information contact [email protected].

Cottage: In March, just as we were preparing for the busy season for our guest cottage, everything changed with the country going into Lock Down. We were planning to have the cottage decorated so, after it had stood for some weeks half-decorated, the men came back to finish it. We were able to re-open in July, with the first guests enjoying the newly decorated building. Many of our guests were regulars to the Shrine but had never stayed in our cottage before and were delighted to have the opportunity to stay in Walsingham. The cottage has been well used right up until the end of October when we went into the second Lock Down, although we have had to restrict bookings to parties of one household or who have formed a bubble and then to leave 72hrs between guests. We are currently taking bookings for December and next year with the same restrictions and from those in tiers 1 or 2 only. To book please contact [email protected] . Please note that Walsingham is currently in tier 2.

Chapel: The basis of our life is our prayer life, from which flows any ministry we do. Of course it has been wonderful for us at the Priory to be able to continue with the daily rhythm of our prayer life with the 5 fold Office, Exposition and daily Mass. However, with having to keep our chapel closed, like everyone else it has been a sad time being separated from our bigger family, unable to worship together, whether they be part of our family of the Society of St Margaret or our extended family of Associates or our Christian family of friends, pilgrims and our own relatives.

While we have been closed there have been a few minor changes; the statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour went off for a much needed clean up and make over and is now looking more beautiful than ever. After an accident on Holy Saturday while setting the chapel up for Easter, in which one of the altar candle sticks got damaged, we have had a swop round. The silver candlesticks which used to be by Our Lady have now become our altar ones, and the two normally used for acolytes at festivals are now either side of Our Lady. The ‘new’ altar candle sticks are a different size to the old ones so, to fit them, Sr Carol has been busy making hand dipped candles from the old candles people had donated. We also found a use for all the very large ‘old’ Paschal candles which parishes had given to us and have used these to keep a candle burning all though the pandemic for all those affected by it: those ill, the departed and their families, all key workers, those who have lost jobs and all those worried about the future.

Another change we have made is to our timetable. It was impossible to keep a watch going before the Blessed Sacrament with no one else coming in to take a slot and with Sr Angela cooking lunch, so we have moved it to before Vespers. We have decided this works well and so, when we can re-open chapel, we will continue to have Holy Hour from 4pm – 5pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays leading straight into Vespers at 5pm; on Thursdays we will continue to have Exposition and Benediction following straight on from the 9:30am Mass. We hope that the change in time will be more convenient to both pilgrims and locals and that it will encourage more to join us for this very special part of our prayer life.

Sr Carol has also got a small group of Associates (and those enquiring to become Associates) together on a Friday evening at 7:30pm to say Compline via Zoom, if there are any other Associates who would like to join please email me on [email protected] .

The last event in chapel in March was our Lent Retreat, which was much appreciated by those who attended. Looking ahead to next year we have provisionally booked another for 2nd–5th March ’21 being led by Bishop Martyn Jarratt. We are unsure if this will be able to go ahead, but if anyone is interested please contact me on [email protected] .

With our love and prayer for a joyful CHRISTMAS

And a return to ‘freedom’ and normal living in 2021

Srs Angela and Carol