Grace and blessing: the unfolding story of a new Catholic community
by Mother Winsome SBVM
(for Part One – “Hope and Grace” – click here)
To those who are called and give their life to God in total surrender and self-abasement, the Consecrated Life can bring freedom and unimaginable joy. However, such joy does not mean unmitigated worldly happiness. The Religious Life can immerse us into an ocean of trials, tribulations and unremitting challenges. But we can never outdo God in generosity. In return for our self-offering, God offers us showers of blessings and graces in abundance. Tribulations; these arise at times and places we are not expecting and God uses His inexhaustible treasury to surprise and delight us in ways and through people we least expect. I speak from the recent experiences of my own community, the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary (SBVM).
I am going to share something of our unfolding story. I have spoken elsewhere, of the beginning of our story; how twelve Anglican Sisters became Catholic Sisters. Today, I will describe something of how our journey has continued; how our physical journey of trying to find a building to live in has impacted upon our spiritual journey of making a spiritual home for a new community and how the corporate journey has affected each sister’s personal story. Finally, I shall seek to draw out from it all, our experience of God’s grace and blessing and what this reveals about the loving God we believe in. But let me begin with a brief recap.
Our Catholic community is known as the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was officially erected as a Public Association of the Faithful within the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham when we were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church on 1st January 2013. We were then twelve sisters. Eleven of us were from the same community.
Our former community, the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) based in Wantage, Oxfordshire, was one of the oldest Anglican communities in the world. It had been founded in 1848 as part of the Oxford Movement – a movement of High Church Anglicans who sought to reinstate Catholic traditions in Anglican liturgy and theology. We wore a traditional Habit, sang Gregorian plainchant, reserved the Blessed Sacrament, took vows for life of poverty, chastity and obedience and basically sought to replicate the practices of a traditional Catholic monastic community – except for the fact that we were Anglicans.
Within the Anglican Communion there is no Vicar of Christ and no Magisterium. In the Church of England decisions which have profound theological implications can be taken by an elected synod, some of whom may not have had any theological or other appropriate training. Some aspects derived from the wider Church of England over which we had no control, impacted upon our community. Some sisters who sought a return to the authentic understanding of consecrated religious life looked to the Catholic Church.
(To read the complete talk, click here)
(To find out more about the Sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary, visit their website here.)