We are an enclosed community of Roman Catholic women following the Rule of St Benedict. We are members of the English Benedictine Congregation ( see link) which also includes houses of monks and two other houses of enclosed nuns.
We are situated in a village just outside Stafford in England and less than 20 miles from Birmingham. There is a good bus link to us from Stafford and good rail links to London, Birmingham and onwards.
The area is very beautiful, within a 10 minute walk you will find a canal with a good walk beside it – you can walk to the local stately home of Shugborough Hall, there are canal boats and a canal side cafe. The river is just beyond this, there is woodland with marked walks and the villages themselves ( which almost link with each other) make the whole area very peaceful. From our enclosure we have good views of the local hills, whilst within our enclosure we have small areas of woodland, a pond, lawns, fruit and vegetable areas.
Currently there are 7 of us living here and one sister living away:- we have 8 solemn professed sisters.
International discerners are very welcome subject to visa requirements, just contact us and take it from there.
Enquirer – you are welcome to contact us via email – firstname.lastname@example.org or by post, (SEE CONTACT US). Tell us a little about yourself, ask questions and arrange a visit. At least one visit is usually needed before Aspirancy/live- in can be considered. However those travelling from abroad may be able to live-in immediately after some contact by email or post and a few days in the guest wing.
Aspirancy– come and share our life and get a greater insight – this usually lasts between one and three weeks. Again, those travelling from further away may live-in for a longer period of time. Towards the end of your aspirancy, application may be made to enter the community.
Postulancy – this begins with a short, beautiful ceremony where you first knock on the enclosure door requesting entry, briefly visit Chapel and are welcomed by the community in the Chapter Room. This lasts for 6 months ( with possible extension to one year) and you will wear simple, neat secular clothes.
Novitiate – this lasts for two years and begins with the Clothing ceremony where the Benedictine habit and white veil are recieved along with a new name ( this is optional). It is a time of growing deeper into the community life and closer to God. The first year we keep as our Canonical year.
Simple Profession – the white novices veil is exchanged for the black veil of the professed and vows are taken for three years.
Solemn Monastic Profession – the sister recieves a wedding band worn on the right hand, a cowl – the main symbol of solemn profession- and makes her vows for life.
Requirements for entry.
We accept – single Roman Catholic women or those with an annulment, age 21 upwards ( exceptions may be made) – we have no upper age limit.
you must be free of debt and have no dependants.
you must be healthy in mind and body – our congregation will not allow us to accept those with severe mental illness or with debilitating physical problems.
A medical, references and baptism/confirmation or reception ( for converts) certificates or letters are required prior to entry.
Formation – in our community there is structure with the formation program but it varies with the individual person as what is studied alongside the Holy Rule which has to be studied at least 3 times during the course of the Novitiate, there are classes with the novice mistress twice a day. The Noviceship are encouraged to read widely, especially on Benedictine Spirituality and other monastic life, and the vows are studied intensely with the novice mistress through the two and a half years and the Rule is read out to us daily in refectory. We have novitiate choir practice as we need it usually concentrating on learning to sing the Latin we use at Vespers and preparing for Saints days and Feasts.
Various sisters may be appointed to assist the Novice Mistress in giving instructions especially in the Catechism or the History of our congregation and House. We have a good library and sisters are encouraged to read widely and may bring things up for discussion at class times and arrange to see the novice mistress on an individual basis as needed. At times we listen to a tape of spiritual direction given by someone such as FR Michael Casey. Correspondence courses may be taken after clothing as a novice – we are near to Maryvale Institute – see post – which is an excellent Catholic education centre.
As a contemplative community formation is mainly through living this life and recommitting to it each day, growing with each other, learning to accept and love the different aspects of each other and trying to see one another as Christ.
We keep complete silence at night and during the day only speak when necessary, at recreation and at noviceship classes. When someone comes to visit we do spend more time talking to them though as things need to be explained and shown, also you are encouraged to ask questions – we know it is all confusing to start and you will feel lost at times – this is understandable and isn’t breaking silence in the same way that chatting all over the house would be.
We usually work alone but may walk with others in recreation time, on Sundays and recreation days. Lectio is done alone in a place of choice; half hour private prayer is done is chapel – this is not communal, sisters may find a time and space there to be alone. Extra prayer may done anywhere.
Timetable – our life revolves around the Mass and Divine Office with choir practice, recreation and some conferences. Other than this sisters – including postulants and novices – put in their own prayer/work/study and relaxation times ( with advice, help and guidance from the novice mistress) so sisters may be busy at times and have more space at other times – it’s up to them to find a balance remembering our committment to lectio, study and prayer as well as work. We do not have chapter of faults, use the discipline or lots of penitential practices. Penitence can come in the ordinary things of the day and we can all be a point of penance for each other at times – living together is not easy but it is rewarding and if we are called to this life it is a way of coming closer to Him.
It does vary on some days – on Sundays our prayer times are sligtly different, we have longer recreation and we do only necessary work such as cooking. We sometimes watch a video in the afternoon together and generally take more time to relax and pray.
On Thursdays we have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for the day,we each have at least one period of adoration,try to spend more time in solitary prayer in chapel and have Benediction.We also have an early night – this means Compline at 6 followed by supper and bed.
We also have Exposition and Benediction on 1st Fridays, 3rd Sundays and major solemnities, we also include a day each year set aside to have for praying for vocations to the Priesthood and the Religious Life.
Sisters are free to explore and try ways of being creative such as gardening, making preserves or cards, learning to play and instrument or do calligraphy.
Life here is simple and rhythmic. As we are rural we live close to the land and often change our work around according to the weather eg; i will quite often work in the garden on a good day and catch up on a rainy day. We also follow the liturgical seasons with their changing emphasis, colours and beauty and mark the seasons of our lives with special days of celebration of entrance, clothing and professions.
At Christmas we have a two week ‘holiday’, where we are free to talk, spend time with each other, do only essential work and have lots of time together. Sisters may put on a show, a panto, do treasure hunts, arrange special teas and generally try to have fun – we are after all celebrating our Saviours birth. It is a relief to get back to normal – blessed silence and simpler food! – after the holiday is over though.
I hope that helps, if there is anything else you want to know, please ask here or in the question and answer section. Pax.