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Nuns leave Walsingham priory to join ordinariate

By on Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Three Anglican nuns at Walsingham have left their community after they expressed interest in joining a personal ordinariate.

The nuns from the Priory of Our Lady of Walsingham have began a period of private discernment after they decided that they wanted to join any future English ordinariate.

In a joint statement, the nuns explained their situation. They said: “On December 2 2010 Sister Wendy Renate, Sister Jane Louise and Sister Carolyne Joseph left the Priory of Our Lady in Walsingham for a period of discernment with the intention of joining the ordinariate when established. We ask prayers for ourselves and for the Sisters remaining at the Priory of Our Lady.”

The community, which numbered seven nuns belonging to the Society of St Margaret, reportedly voted four to three against joining the ordinariate. The three nuns who left the community are its youngest members. The priory is an autonomous house of the Society of St Margaret and is not linked to the Anglican shrine at Walsingham, which is under the administration of Rt Rev Lindsay Urwin, the former Bishop of Horsham.

Fr Peter Geldard, a former Anglican who has been involved with the ordinariate, said: “Historically Anglican religious are the product of the Anglo-Catholic revival 175 years ago and in the past were very committed to Catholic unity. It has always been a source of surprise to me that so few Anglican religious seem to be interested in Catholic unity or the ordinariate today.

“The community seems to have been split down the middle, with the younger ones committed to the ordinariate while the older ones don’t seem to want to rock the boat.”

According to Anglo-Catholic sources, the nuns were told to leave the convent “at great speed with next to nothing” when they voiced their interest in taking up the offer made in the Pope’s Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. Fr Geldard said: “One could see the nuns’ decision to go ahead as encouraging because it shows the level of their commitment that they are ready to take to the sacrificial road.

“I believe they have been taken in by a Catholic community and are currently discerning whether there is in fact a Catholic community they could join which has a similar charism to their old community.”

They are believed to have taken refuge in the Catholic Community of Our Lady of Walsingham in Brentwood diocese.

The nuns, who fall under the episcopal oversight of the Rt Rev Peter Wheatley Bishop of Edmonton, broke away from the East Grinstead Society of St Margaret in the 1990s over the ordination of women and settled in Walsingham.

Bishop Wheatley could not be reached for comment as The Catholic Herald went to press.

Pope Benedict XVI’s offer in Anglicanorum coetibus extends to religious orders as well as groups of lay people with clergy.

The document says that the ordinary who leads the ordinariate, can set up new institutes of consecrated Life and societies of apostolic life. It also says: “Institutes of consecrated life originating in the Anglican Communion and entering into full communion with the Catholic Church may also be placed under his jurisdiction by mutual consent.”

Last year before the publication of Anglicanorum coetibus, a community of Anglican nuns was received into the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, in Maryland, the United States.

After seven years of prayer and discernment in light of the developments of the Episcopal Church in America, including the ordination of women, 10 Sisters of the Society of All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor were received into the Church with their chaplain. Two Sisters decided not to be received into the Church but planned to live with the rest of their community, remaining Episcopalian nuns. During the period of discernment the nuns read the documents of the Second Vatican Council and grappled with Catholic theology. The community was a branch of an English society based in Oxford and was founded in 1872.

The revival in Anglican religious orders dates back to the middle of the 19th century, with the foundation of the Society of St Margaret in East Grinstead and other houses for men and women connected to the Oxford Movement. Today there are Anglican Benedictines, Franciscans and even Anglican Dominicans.

There are believed to be about 2,400 monks and nuns in the Anglican Communion worldwide.

  • Stephen Flanagan

    Great news and God bless you sisters in your search do hope you retain your habits.

  • MJCarroll

    This is absolutely wonderful news. We should all feel blessed by their arrival in the ordinariate. As I have said before – Catholics need to understand the bravery & sacrifice of any Anglican joining the Ordinariate.

    I am afraid to say that I have heard on the blogs that the Walsingham 3 have not been treated well by the Anglican Church at Walsingham. If this is true then these Anglicans should be ashamed of themselves.

    On the other hand, I hope that the powers that be in the Catholic Church should also be treating these nuns with the respect they deserve.

  • Emerald Negron

    Very cool

  • Emerald Negron

    Ut unum sint!

  • Ned

    God bless the nuns – and our Pope for allowing this. Pope Benedict XVI is brilliant (obviously). As for the nuns, I will pray for you and for your sisters left behind. If you are looking for somewhere to go, may I recommend the Nashville Dominicans. They are a growing community – founded in the 1860s. The median age of the sisters is 36. You can learn more by watching their video “Beloved” available through Salt and Light Television (or contact the sisters directly). I recommend the video to anyone – the message within it is inspiring and wonderful.

  • Hkepfer

    These Nuns are courageous; G-D bless them.

  • Anne

    Naturally the “powers that be ” in the Catholic Church will lovingly welcome our fellow christians,(nuns) from the Anglican denomination. I agree that the treatment they received frim their fellow nuns is not loving and against the ways of Christ.

  • Matt

    Yeah, Anglicans have gone down the liberal toilet, Catholics are English Christianity today.

    The Catholic Church is the original Church of England anyway, and now England is returning to the ancient Catholic faith of it's fathers.

    It's time.

  • Matt

    The Anglican church has shown many signs of decay.

    They charged an entry fee to go into St.Pauls London, I refused to pay, and wasn't allowed in. St.Pauls was full of market stalls for trinkets and memorabilia. I felt like taking my belt off and start flogging, and kicking the stalls over, like Jesus did in the Temple.

    But then I realized, that St. Pauls wasn't Gods house, it was just a tourist attraction.

    No place for the supernatural or spiritual at St.Pauls, it's purely a carnal money making, for show only, type of church.

  • Jbuck

    Perhaps they should contact the Nashville Dominicans in Nashville, Tennessee USA

  • Vicar M

    Dear MJCarroll, Rome should be ashamed of herself for going fishing in somebody else’s pond. We are fighting among ourselves and steeling each other’s sheep. Shame on us all!

  • Faithjunk

    Please don’t call them nuns, they are not. Nuns are enclosed sisters, these are just sisters. What a shame, though, that this has resulted in even more upset in Walsingham.

  • Sisterbarbarassm

     it is not true that the Walsingham Sister broke away from the Society of St. Margaret’s over the ordination of women.The  Walsingham house was founded by the SSM in Hackey about 70years ago, that is long before the ordination of women was an issue.Some of these remarks worry me how many of you know the sisters involved or the sisters remaining at Walsingham, It is not our vocation to judge either group of sisters but to pray that the Holy Spirit will guide both groups into a future that is good for both the Anglicans and the Roman Catholic Churches. 

  • Aunt Raven

    Many Anglicans disturbed that the C of E was ordaining women and practicing homosexuals went to Rome to ask if special provision could be made for their full communion with Rome while preserving their cultural patrimony.  The Pope obliged with the “apostolic constitution” Coetibus anglicanorum, setting out guarantees that former Anglicans would retain their identity and customs within the Church Universal.  I would call this response a generous welcome, not “sheep stealing” –the sheep were begging for admission. . . 

  • Sdevenuta

    I agree on the NOT using the term ” NUNS” as that does refer to enclosure…BUT please, saying they are JUST sisters seems to lower the value of women religious of an denomination. Perhaps that was not the intent of ” Faithjunk” but certainly read that way!