The newest religious community in the UK has just received the keys to its very first convent – a converted barn complex near Dereham in Mid Norfolk. Sr Camilla Oberding, leader of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham (COLW), reports.
On the Solemnity of The Immaculate Conception (December 8), as the youngest religious community in England (founded in 2004) we received the keys to our first convent.
Thanks to the generosity of many founding benefactors, as well as an incredible interest-free loan from the Discalced Carmelite Fathers, we managed to raise the monies necessary to purchase a converted barn on the outskirts of Dereham.
Dereham is centrally located in the Diocese of East Anglia and about 30 minutes’ drive from Walsingham. The converted barn is amazingly monastic in style with cloisters, a double staircase and an upstairs loft space that makes the most beautiful oratory. The house is eco-friendly, running on a biomass boiler, and has the running costs of a small terrace house!
It comes with four acres of grounds and a large outdoor barn, but is also surrounded by some moors so there is a peaceful solitude and silence that will really enable the community to live out its contemplative vocation. It is miraculously suited to our needs – so much better than all the other properties visited that it seemed to be made for us!
Last July, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, COLW received its new decree as a public association of the faithful destined to become an Ecclesial Family of Consecrated Life. This means that, faithful to the original inspiration, we will have three branches: one of consecrated women, one of consecrated men (brothers and priests), and another of lay people.
We plan to call the new house in Dereham the House of the Divine Will and we aim not only to provide formation for novices there but also accompany young people discerning their vocation and support married couples and young families in the vocation they are already living, sharing with them the rich spirituality of Walsingham.
We are still fundraising to pay off the loan from the Carmelites and also to finish renovating the house (total cost £400,000), so that a suitable library and chapel can be built. Together with the loan, the community was also entrusted with a Carmelite library and this will be available for members of the public to access. We are also looking for a volunteer COLW office administrator at the Dereham base so that we are freer to welcome visitors to the shrine and retreatants at Dowry House. We trust that the Lord will provide and we continue to rejoice in thanksgiving for all He has blessed us with so far!
Devoted to Our Lady of Walsingham and to the spreading of the spirituality of England’s Nazareth, COLW helps others experience the joy with which Mary gave her FIAT to God, by offering spiritual direction, vocational accompaniment, retreats and hospitality. Please pray that this new base will further enhance the life and mission of COLW in the service of the Church and the world.
We will continue our work in Walsingham running the Dowry House Retreat Centre which opened last year and working at the shrine.
For further information visit walsinghamcommunity.org