News from Walsingham

Yesterday a press release announced that Sr Wendy Renate, Sr Jane Louise and Sr Carolyne Joseph had left the (Anglican) Priory of Our Lady of Walsingham “for a period of discernment with the intention of joining the Ordinariate when established”. Except to those who know the community concerned (we don’t), the announcement probably meant little. Indeed, if you look at the comments on certain blogs, you will find the matter treated with a levity and lack of charity that gets blogging a bad name.

It is worth thinking about the story behind this announcement. Both those who have left and those who remain deserve our prayers and at least a suspension of judgement. It is not easy for anyone to abandon that which is familiar, still less that which is greatly loved and has been the subject of a vow. The first Cistercians were abused as renegades and vow-breakers because they saw fidelity to what they had professed as obliging them to move away from the monastery of their profession. Their doing so greatly enriched the Church, but it was not obvious at the time. I’m sure many of their old community felt the loss of their brethren deeply; and in a curious way, their going does seem to have had a beneficial effect on Molesmes which was shaken out its complacency into a reform of its own.

Can we hope for the same at Walsingham? I don’t know, but I admit to feeling uneasy. As far as I can see, none of the provisions announced for the Ordinariate concerns religious. If you look at the Ordinariate web site, there is a link for clergy and a mention of future details for the laity. That reflects pretty accurately the “invisibility” of religious in most people’s thinking and the fact that there are comparatively few religious in the Church of England. There is no suggestion that the three Sisters who have left are thinking of applying to join an existing Catholic community so the path ahead is far from clear.

We have discussed the Ordinariate  in community many times and it is interesting that whatever our personal background, Catholic or Anglican, we are having difficulty in seeing what the Ordinariate offers that the Church as a whole does not. So, prayers for the Sisters who have left Walsingham, prayers for the Sisters who remain; and prayers for all of us, Catholic and Anglican, who must get to grips with what the Ordinariate is meant to be.

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10 thoughts on “News from Walsingham”

  1. Well I, for one, am very excited about the Ordinariates.
    Anything that brings us all closer together in unity as Jesus said is great. I look forward to welcoming our Anglican brothers and sisters with much love and joy.
    It’s a pity the nuns couldn’t come to an agreement like the Anglican nuns in Maryland, USA, who voted to convert together. Out of 12, only 2 voted to remain in Episcopalean church. But they are all still living together in the same monastery, in peace and harmony. The pastor who ministered to their needs also converted to the Catholic church so the continuity was maintained. You can read about their story here:
    http://www.catholic.org/hf/faith/story.php?id=34329

    Pity you don’t have more space. The 3 nuns could have spent some time with you, enjoying and sharing in your worship of the Lord. 🙂

    • Thank you, Terry. It is, I think, a very complex question, not susceptible of a neat answer. Knowing what it is like to set out into the unknown after many years in another community, I have an inkling of what the three Sisters will face; but I can also sympathize with those who have not been led to the same decision. Many of our Anglican friends are deeply troubled by what is happening to their Church, which is why I am so keen to stress the importance of prayer and maintaining charity.

  2. “As far as I can see, none of the provisions announced for the Ordinariate concerns religious.”
    Article VII of the Apostolic Constitution specifically refers to ‘Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life’.
    One’s prayers and admiration go out for these three brave Sisters who have made the pioneering step – always harder that that of those who follows. But, I am convinced, their courage and example will be seen by history as the first of many.
    May God bless them and sustain them at this trying time.

    • Thank you, Fr Peter. I wasn’t referring to the Apostolic Constitution but to the concrete, practical provisions of the Ordinariate in this country which I thought were not yet in place for religious (we have the timetable and procedure for former bishops and priests of the Church of England but nothing I can see has been published for religious). I would be grateful if you would direct me to them as it’s important to know.

    • Thank you, but having looked at what you say, you are repeating what is in Anglicanorum Coetibus whereas I was talking more nuts and bolts and wondering what, in practical terms will be arranged. I apologize for not making myself clear.

  3. Thank you for your reminder to all of us to remain charitable in regards the Apostolic Constitution. I have been rather troubled by the sense of triumphalism sneaking into some Roman Catholic blogs and journals. Rather, it is a time for increased humility and prayer and extraordinary sensitivity to our Anglican/Episcopalian brothers and sisters.

  4. Thank you for your reminder to all of us to remain charitable in regards the Apostolic Constitution. I have been rather troubled by the sense of triumphalism sneaking into some Roman Catholic blogs and journals. Rather, it is a time for increased humility and prayer and extraordinary sensitivity to our Anglican/Episcopalian brothers and sisters.

  5. Thank you for your reminder to all of us to remain charitable in regards the Apostolic Constitution. I have been rather troubled by the sense of triumphalism sneaking into some Roman Catholic blogs and journals. Rather, it is a time for increased humility and prayer and extraordinary sensitivity to our Anglican/Episcopalian brothers and sisters.

  6. Perhaps the only thing that should be added is that any communities of religious in England and Wales who are contemplting joining the ordinariate should make themselves known to Bishop Hopes who is coordinating these matters.

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