On the Eighth Day of Christmas: Starting anew
On the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Mother Winsome SBVM reflects on the ups and downs of the community life that she has led since she and her sisters were received into the Church ten years ago today. Do you remember what you were doing exactly ten years ago? We do! The community that The post On the Eighth Day of Christmas: Starting anew appeared first on Catholic Herald.
On the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Mother Winsome SBVM reflects on the ups and downs of the community life that she has led since she and her sisters were received into the Church ten years ago today.
Do you remember what you were doing exactly ten years ago? We do! The community that is now the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary were preparing for the biggest move of our lives; both in a spiritual and physical sense.
On 1 January 2013 we were received into the Church through the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, having accepted the late Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation via the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus for groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Holy See. It was a day of great joy, but tinged with some sadness.
There was joy because we were (after a number of years of discernment and sometimes difficult discussions, with Anglican authorities and others) stepping forward in trust and obedience to follow Our Lord. There was sadness because this step meant leaving behind all we had known, and all that was familiar and safe.
We were leaving the Anglican religious community in which we had professed our original life vows; we were leaving our sisters who remained in the Church of England, with whom we had up to that moment shared a lifetime of religious life. We were leaving among our friends some who disowned us for becoming Catholics.
The next morning, with permission from the Anglican authorities, Catholic priests celebrated Mass for us – for the first and last time – in the convent which had been until that moment our home. After a poignant breakfast together, we set off knowing that this was a final farewell to all that had been. Like Abraham, we were going forth without knowing where we were going and to what we were going to.
When discussions about our future with the Anglican authorities were at their height, a sister in her eighties came to me and begged “Reverend Mother, I don’t know how much longer I can go on. I want to die a Catholic. Please, get us into the Church.” And that was it. All discussions came to an end. We would leave with just what we could carry and we would go forward just trusting in the Lord. So, what did we find?
As one sister put it, “the fullness of my quest for truth.” As she explained, “Before, liturgically I had hoped that I was receiving a valid sacrament. Now, at Mass, I am sure!” Another sister pointed out that “as High-Church Anglicans we used to keep one eye on what the Catholic Church was doing and what the Pope said, trying to accommodate as much as possible. Now, as Catholics the Pope is “our” Pope and as members of the Catholic Church we fully embrace all her teachings.”
I am sometimes asked if we have any regrets. Well, the facts speak for themselves. No sister turned back, and were met with great kindnesses. When we found ourselves penniless and homeless we were welcomed into another Catholic Benedictine women’s community, who gave us shelter and a most wonderful and welcome home with them. When we eventually left them after eight months to move to the rented convent where we now are, at Kingstanding in the Archdiocse of Birmingham, there were more challenges, both spiritual and physical.
But God provided for our needs. For instance, an elderly sister developed cancer and had to have a mastectomy; she made a remarkable recovery, using her time in hospital to minister to her fellow patients. There was a cash-flow problem but just when we thought we were about to run out of food, a complete stranger from the local parish suddenly appeared at our door with exactly what we needed for our next meal.
The local parish faithful regularly did a “bit of extra shopping” and brought us their extras. We, in turn, seem to have been able to offer them solace and prayerful support in their times of need. As one told us, “Mum had a peaceful death because of your prayers for her.” Two of our number have died – including the one who wanted to die a Catholic – but both as they wished, in the arms of the Catholic Church and fortified with its sacraments.
So: where are we now, ten years on? The journey hasn’t ended. We are to move in due course to the Prinknash Abbey estate in Gloucestershire, where the monks – our Benedictine brothers in the Subiaco-Cassinese Congregation – have a separate monastery waiting for us when the necessary remedial repairs are completed.
It may take two to three years before these works will be completed, and these days of waiting are still full of challenges – not least at the moment from unruly local youths who repeatedly trespass onto the convent property, intimidating and threatening us. Nevertheless, God has kept us safe and continues to provide. So, would we do it all again? Yes, absolutely. And the next ten years? Watch this space.
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