The Society of St Margaret
The Priory of Our Lady, Walsingham
A recognised community within the Church of England
John 20:19 ‘Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, peace be unto you.’
How often do we let fear stop us from doing things? Do we, like the disciples, shut ourselves away out of fear? For us not fear of the Jews but of things we see and hear around us; the news full of the war in Ukraine, and Sudan, violence in our own country and the cost-of-living crisis. Often our fear is of what might happen in the future; a fear of change.
As I sit here typing this I can hear the sound of the Hercules flying overhead. It has become a familiar sound in Walsingham as it flies overhead a couple of times a week doing large circles out to the coast and back inland.
It made me think how our rhythm of life goes round in circles; each time we recite the Rosary, say the Angelus or the Litany of the Holy Name, the churches festivals, our regular prayer life of the Offices and Mass each repeating daily, monthly or annually.
If you track the plane, you will notice that it isn’t following exactly the same route each time, it will also not be exactly the same, it will have less fuel, the pilot will be more experienced and the plane may be flying higher or lower and it is the same with us; with each repetition we grow in faith and understanding and grow nearer to God.
Of course the plane doesn’t keep going round in circles forever, at some point it has started going in that particular circle and it must also and return to the airport. It is the same with our lives, as time goes by, we may take on new responsibilities and relinquish others, each is called to do something for a time. This may be a new job or retiring, becoming a Christian and being baptised and confirmed, or getting married or starting a family. This is true in the Religious Life, when we start as a Postulant we don’t take on any responsibilities. As the years go by and we are clothed as a Novice and then make our Profession we may be called to do different jobs within the Community such as being in charge of the kitchen or laundry or Guest Sister, and then as we grow older we may have to relinquish some of these jobs. However, our rule tells us that those who are less able are ‘still able to make a great contribution to the common life and that old age should be seen as a time when a Sister’s life of self-giving is being completed, until all is given in death.’ And of course this is true to all walks of life, when people get older or infirm they still have a lot to offer.
When Jesus came amongst disciples his first words were ‘peace be unto you.’ When we let Jesus come into our lives he doesn’t take away those difficult times, but we should trust in Him and not be afraid; he gives us an inner peace. In prayer we offer up to God all those things and people who we are concerned about; those who are sick and the suffering and finding life difficult.
Living as a Sister in Walsingham means that we are in the privileged position of pilgrims often talking to us and asking us for prayers, and recently when I was assisting with the Fan the Flame mission in Gillingham, several people just stopped for a chat. Many of these had had a bad time in the past but their faith had given them the strength to carry on.
Carol Elizabeth SSM (Sister Administrator)
Lent Retreat 2023
Travelling across country to reach the Priory I was looking forward to the opportunity to step aside from the busy-ness of daily life and to take time to focus more deeply on the season of Lent. Time set aside to begin to prepare for the spiritual journey towards Easter and I travelled with a sense of excited anticipation and a slight feeling of trepidation (a legacy from the pandemic).
We were ably led and gently guided on the retreat through five addresses by Father Jonathan Lean. Each session reflecting on one of the Canticles from the early church followed by a short time of silence and ending with a piece of music based on the canticle. Beginning with the Nunc Dimitis, the shortest of the traditional canticles which is so well known and loved by many as part of the evening worship of the church across the centuries, from the monastic tradition of Compline and BCP Evensong, we continued to look at other familiar canticles including the Benedictus, the Song of Mary, the Gloria in excess Deo and the Benedicite in a fresh way. Although the canticles were familiar there was still something new to be discovered and appreciated about each.
We had been encouraged by Fr Jonathan to think of a retreat as a time to 'Eat well, sleep well, pray well' although we probably didn't need much encouragement with this on all fronts! From the simple breakfasts in the conservatory to the delicious meals of the refectory at lunchtime and in the evening, eating in good company was appreciated by everyone (especially by those of us who always do the cooking or who live alone), while the privilege of being able to join Sr Carol and Sr Angela in chapel to say the daily offices provided a rhythm of prayer which not only undergirded the retreat but offered salve for the soul. Together they ensured a good night's rest too.
As ever, the time went by so quickly -yet it also felt that we had been there for so much longer than just a few days. As the retreat drew to a close we were left well rested in mind, soul and body and ready to return afresh to the challenges of daily life as we continued on the journey towards Easter. I'm already looking forward to returning next year.
The idea for an open ‘get together’ at the Priory was discussed some time ago. But with various delays and the advent of Covid, the idea was shelved until recently. Encouraged by the success of the ‘living room’ initiative at the Village Hall, the Sisters decided to re- address the idea, especially after the hall was partially destroyed in a fire, with the resulting loss of the village meeting place.
I became involved with several others when the Sisters were seeking volunteers to help with baking and serving tea and coffee. Posters were made and distributed and a catchy name was decided upon.
‘Priory Pop-in’ opened its doors for the first time on April 12th and has been successfully running every Wednesday afternoon since.
Starting in a modest way, the numbers of visitors has steadily risen, and one memorable afternoon, there was standing room only in the Conservatory (and the cake supply was getting low!).
So, if you are looking for coffee, cake and Companionship or would like to volunteer to help out, pop along to the Conservatory at The Priory Wednesday afternoon from 2pm – 4pm, where a warm welcome awaits you.
Fan the Flame
Arriving in Gillingham a day early due to the train strike meant that I was able to join the Walsingham cell for their Mass on the Saturday morning. Having chatted to some of them over coffee, Fr Garry showed me around the local area and I was greeted with a hug from D, one of the local residents, as if I was a long lost friend.
In the evening a small group of us gathered in the church where Fr Norman Taylor led us in a reflection on John 20:19-22. After Mass on Sunday, we joined the home team for lunch in a local restaurant before returning to St Luke’s. Bp Norman lead the 1st evening reflecting on Baptism and talking about the ABC of life – Accepting, Believing and Committing, he then commissioned the home team and Fr Norman and me. This was followed by a buffet and chance to meet and chat with some of those present. Each of the following evenings there were to be a service which included hymns, a reading, a talk, a reflection, and a time of prayer. On Monday we reflected on Grace and Mary, Tuesday evening was on the Cross and reconciliation, followed by Wednesday evening on the Resurrection and Thursday on the Eucharist with Benediction.
Each morning started with Morning Prayer and Mass and then we visited various people. Fr Garry took us to Prospect Place, apartments which are available for those aged 55 and over, with a communal café, hairdresser, lounge and roof-top garden. We were joined by a couple of residents for lunch in the café and then they showed us the roof-top garden where we were joined by another resident. Popping over to Asda’s for a bite to eat before the evening service, we were served by R who looked tired and upset; she told us how her son J had been stabbed a couple of weeks before and is now recovering but the effect it was having on both of their mental health, we listened and offered to pray for both her son and for her. As so often happens, you find that God has led you to someone who is in need of prayers.
Another afternoon included a visit to the local Mosque with an interesting chat to Imam Safeer, it was good to hear that he finds that in England we are very accepting of other faiths. This was followed by tea with one of the home team, Ernie. Ernie been is a Franciscan tertiary for many years and is also a Lay Leader, he showed us he oratory and we met Lucy his cat.
Another visit was to the nursery which meets in the church hall and then onto the Sunlight Centre for lunch where we met Chris who told us about their Men in Sheds project for men aged 25 and over not in work or retired, somewhere where they can do some DIY and meet and chat together. After that we then joined the Dementia support group which also meets there each Wednesday and is open to those with dementia and carers. We gave them a short introduction of who we are & then had a chat to a lady who cares for her mum and then joined in a sing-a-long which they enjoy.
Thursday was a quieter day with coffee after Mass in the Sunlight centre followed by lunch a lovely lunch at Angela’s, one of the home team. The evening finished with our last service reflecting on the Eucharist and finishing with Benediction. It was lovely to have some of those from the local Baptist church join us for the evening.
Carol Elizabeth SSM
Tues 3rd – Fri 6th Oct
Come and join us making cards, rosaries, peg doll Sisters and much more.
For more details contact
Sr Carol Elizabeth SSM
Change to our chapel time table
At the beginning of May we changed our chapel time table slightly and now Mass is at 10am
on Wednedays in the Guild of All Souls, instead of being in our chapel.
Mass continues to be at 9:30am on Tues, Thurs, Fri and Sat followed by coffee in our conservatory with Holy Hour from 4pm – 5pm on Tues, Wed, Fri and Sat. Our Offices continue to be at 7am, 9am, 12noon, 5pm and 7:30pm Tues – Sun and our chapel is open from 6:30am – 8pm daily.
All are welcome to join us for Mass, Holy Hour and/or the Offices and to come into chapel at any time.
Sister Columba SSM (Margaret Anne Forbes Stewart)
2nd October 1926 – 8th April 2023
We mourn the death of the last Sister of St Margaret in Aberdeen –the second Convent of the Society was established in 1863 during John Mason Neale’s lifetime; their works included care of the elderly and infirm, parish work, a hostel for girls and young women, a Children’s Home, support of the ‘Fish Wives’ (Fishermen’s wives and families).
A Christian upbringing in Palestine (Scottish family) followed by UK training as a nurse and midwife enabled Anne to work as a missionary in Ovamboland for several years but she knew that more was being asked of her. She returned to Scotland in the mid-sixties and entered the Society of St Margaret in Aberdeen, making her First Profession on St Luke’s Day 1967, ratifying the Vows for Life in 1970 – she was the first Sister of the Society to make her Vows this way.
A lovely singing voice ensured her being a chief cantor in Chapel and, in the 70s, she learnt to play the guitar to accompany the modern worship songs – the Comper Chapel has wonderful acoustics but sadly, has been deconsecrated. She was Sister-in-charge of the 12-bedded Hostel/Care Home for elderly and/or infirm ladies and was greatly loved, especially by Sr. Irene Margaret who was partially sighted but enabled by Columba to be her able assistant and colleague for many years. They rarely missed Chapel services, even when the east wind was strong – a bridge linked the Hostel upper floor to the ground floor of the Convent standing on the highest part of the Spital, from which one had a lovely view of the North Sea and the newly arrived oil rigs.
The Convent is now a Hostel for Medical Students and Columba had a lovely ground floor flat a mile or so away with one prayerful room including a Tabernacle as the building’s centre-point – a powerful atmosphere helped by a weekly celebration of the Eucharist plus the regular recitation of the Divine Office. A faithful servant lived her Religious Life to the full. May she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.
Mary Angela SSM
Our guest cottage has 3 twin rooms, plus the single annex and we have 7 guest rooms in the Priory (for Clergy, Religious and Associates).
£45 per person per night (reduced rates for 4 or more in the cottage)
The Julian room and Priory guest rooms are suitable for those who wish to spend some time in retreat or a quiet time away.
For more details contact
Sr Carol Elizabeth
01328 821 647