On New Year’s Day 2014 – a year to the day since they were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church – the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary will formally become the first autonomous monastery within the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, under the jurisdiction of the Ordinary, Monsignor Keith Newton.
Ten sisters, formerly members of the Anglican Community of Saint Mary the Virgin, Wantage, will profess their solemn vows at a Mass in the convent in Birmingham where they have been living since August 2013. Mgr Keith Newton will preside.
During the initial stages of their life in the Catholic Church, the sisters have existed as a Public Association of the Faithful, following the Benedictine spiritual tradition and wearing the traditional wimple of the Benedictine Order.
This new step – approved by the Holy See – establishes them formally as a stable religious community and gives them the chance to re-affirm their religious vows for the first time publicly, within the Catholic communion. At some future date, the monastery may seek to associate itself with a particular Benedictine family.
During the Mass on 1 January, in accordance with Benedictine tradition, the sisters will sing three times in English, the ‘Suscipe’: “Lord, establish me according to your word, that I may live; and do not disappoint me in my hope”.
As part of the ceremony, each sister will receive a special leather-bound copy of the Rule of St Benedict.
In order to give effect in civil law to their religious vows, the nuns will also make their wills and sign a deed of covenant ceding all their possessions to the monastery.
Mgr Newton will appoint one of the nuns, Mother Winsome, as the first Reverend Mother for an initial period of three years. Subsequent Reverend Mothers will be elected in accordance with the constitutions of the monastery.
Mgr Newton said:
“On the one hand, this occasion on 1 January is simply a formalisation and renewal of the vows which the sisters have already taken as Anglicans, but it is also a new and exciting step, for the sisters themselves, for the Ordinariate and for the Catholic Church as a whole.
“The strength of their conviction of calling to the Ordinariate and their bravery in leaving their home in response to it is inspiring. They are the praying heart of the Ordinariate and our prayer is that their example and witness will lead to more vocations to the religious life.”