A London-based order of nuns is to open its seventh convent in the space of just 20 years.
The Tyburn Nuns, whose mother house is situated near Marble Arch, have started to build their first African monastery in the Diocese of Minna in Niger State in the north of Nigeria.
It will be their 11th monastery, the 10th since the Second World War and the seventh to open in a rapid global proliferation of religious houses under the order since 1993.
The contemplative Benedictines were invited to Nigeria to promote Eucharistic Adoration and to pray for peace in a country afflicted by a bloody conflict between local Christians and Muslims.
The monastery will be dedicated to Our Lady, Queen of Peace, and is expected to be fully completed, with a novitiate, by 2015.
Bishop Martin Igwe Uzoukwu of Minna laid the foundation stone of the monastery at Kafin-Koro last month.
He said he invited the nuns – whose proper name is the Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre – because he wanted a place in his diocese that would serve as a “watershed for prayer”.
“Their specific apostolate is Adoration of the Eucharist so the Eucharistic Adoration will be taking place here and it is Perpetual Adoration morning, afternoon and night,” he said.
Bishop Uzoukwu said he flew to England to visit the order and was so impressed by their apostolate that he invited them to his diocese immediately and offered them land.
Mother Mary Xavier McMonagle, the Mother General of the Tyburn Nuns, said she visited several sites in his diocese before opting for Kafin-Koro.
“As soon as we came to Kafin-Koro and saw all those people and they all waved at us as if we were their long lost friends, and I don’t know why they did, but we felt we were warmly welcome by these so friendly people,” she said.
“So that is how it happened. And then when the bishop brought us and showed us the place he would like us to have, we thought that this was just a gift from heaven, from God.
“The parish priest tells us that he has been praying for years to have nuns here. So I think it is God’s Holy Will.”
The nuns will be the first contemplative religious order in the diocese since it was erected in 1911.
The Tyburn Nuns are themselves a young order, having been formed into a community in Paris in 1898 by Mother Marie Adèle Garnier, a French mystic.
They soon fled to London to escape anti-clerical laws and in 1903 established themselves just yards form the site of the Tyburn gallows, where 105 beatified and canonised Catholics were martyred during the Protestant Reformation.
After the Second World War, the order expanded to Ireland, Australia and Peru and since 1993 the nuns have opened houses in Scotland, Ecuador, Colombia, Italy and two in New Zealand.
There are about 80 nuns in total and six will be sent to build the new monastery in Nigeria. The bishop is hoping that a chapel will be open on the site by March.
Five local women have already expressed an interest in joining the order.