Q & A

Hello, we would like to invite you to ask some questions and we will try to answer those we feels able. It might give you a little more insight into our life. You can also contact us at novblog@googlemail.com if you need to,  or you can contact our  Mother Abbess at the same email address.  

114 thoughts on “Q & A

  1. I thought I would start this section off myself – this is something I wondered when i was discerning –

    Do you cut your hair when you receive the habit?

    No – we may cut our hair after solemn profession but are not encouraged to until then. We may come intending to stay but until solemn profession we are still in discernment so nothing is certain. I think it would be horrible and difficult to chop off your hair then leave, though i love the symbolism and meaning behind it.

    1. Can you keep you hair long after final profession if you do not want it cut if you believe 1 cor

      1. Dear Margaret,

        You could keep your hair, sometimes you would have it slightly cut at Clothing so that it looks ok. You wouldn’t want a lot of hair anyhow as in the summer with the veil you are hot !!!!

  2. Hi Scotty, thanks for your question. We pray some in English and some in Latin. Morning prayer, midday office and Compline are entirely in English. At Vespers we sing the hymn, responsory and Magnificat with antiphon in Latin. The blessings and ending prayers are also in Latin. Every other day the Mass setting is Latin – the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei- and we use Latin at Benediction and Holy Hour. It is lovely to sing some of both and seems to be a nice balance for us. Thanks, Adele.

  3. Thank you Adele. I have a friend who is a novice at a Catholic Benedictine Abbey and they pray all the offices in Latin – which was one of the main reasons she was drawn there and I was just wondering what was usual in other places…
    God bless

  4. Do you have any international sisters?
    if so….
    Do they get to go home any time to see family?
    Are they allowed to make calls home?
    if so….
    How often?
    Are you allowed to write mail?
    How often?
    Are you allowed to to receive mail?
    if so……
    how often?
    Are you allowed to receive gifts?

  5. Vocation question (sorry if this is answered in the site somewhere, I haven’t seen it yet!): What is the upper age limit you accept and do you take a woman who is over the limit if she has a vocation? Any other “no-no’s” you don’t except? I ask because I have discerned a contemplative vocation and now I’m discerning where God wants me to love, praise and serve Him. God bless.


  6. Hi Mary, thanks for your question. We have no upper age limit as God calls older as well as younger women to this life so that isn’t a problem. Each woman is taken as an individual and her discernment is totally between her and the community.

    The best thing to do would be to write to our novice mistress – Sr Anne – at marjoriebromwich@yahoo.com and tell her your circumstances. You can both work it out from there regarding possible no no’s – but upper age isn’t usually a factor here. Your vocation is between you, God and the community. If you go into our About Us section we say a bit more about the way things go there but this again is adaptable to the person discerning. Some women spend longer in discernment than others,

    I hope this helps and I wish you well in your journey,

    best wishes and prayer in Christ, Adele.

  7. Hi Jeva, thanks for your question, as there is so much in it I will check some things out with our novice mistress and get back to you as soon as i can. The other questions. you have asked for sister Mary Magdalen to answer so I can’t do anything about those. It is only sister Mary Magdalen and i who run this site and write on it though our sisters read it if they wish to and we check things out if we need to. For more information you could also log onto our main site – see link – and write to our novice mistress at the address given there, she would be happy to reply and it wouldn’t be anything heavy.
    I hope this helps for now, God bless you in your discernment,Pax Adele.

  8. Hi Adele! It is nice to read your answers. I am discerning my vocation too, in the FCJ’s (www.fcjsisters.org). So, when God calls, is it always clear that he is calling you to ‘that particular place’? I wish you the best.
    May my prayers be with you too.

  9. Hi MariJoxe I’ve just seen your picture on the site – congratulatons on your entry and it’s a lovely picture too. I have always been told that God calls us to a particular place so it’s not general. Of course, this does mean you might have to search a bit before you find it – but that can be fun and you can learn a lot about yourself on the way – and of course meet some great people. Then when you reach the ‘right’ place it’s wonderful … though challenging. Be happy, Adele.

  10. Good afternoon

    My name is Tom, I stumbled across your site by mistake
    and i was curious
    Do you Get many men writing to you or just women ?

    Are the women who write only the type who are looking at religious life?
    Do you know any good men religious sites catholic only please
    Why do you have none Catholic sites linked to you page?
    does it mean you are not as committed to to teachings of the catholic church? and are opened to others.

    or do you have a strong affiliations with the places you mention ?
    I am rather curious as I am traditionalist catholic and believe in only one true church and the teachings of the church and the authority of His Holieness the Pope.

    I am not sujesting you do not however i am just curious as to why you you have other sites ie anglican

  11. Hi Tom, welcome to our blog, i am glad that you feel free to be so open and ask what you think, thats really good. Now I will try to answer as well as i can.

    We do get some men – but not many – write to us and we are happy to hear from any of you. We expected it really as we come up as an abbey so anyone searching could find us. Protomonk is a man called Dunstan who has just been accepted as a postulant at the Benedicitine monastery of Christ in the Desert in America, his journey is fascinating and we are keeping him in our prayers. Mainly it is women though.

    As to wether the women are looking at religious life we don’t know unless they say so but I imagine that several are and some of those leaving comments have openly said so. We are happy to have comments from people discerning or not – I think God leads us through all sorts of ways and who knows what a random click onto our site can lead to.

    We are very orthodox and totally committed to the teachings of the Catholic church and our Holy Father too. I am not sure which none Catholic site you are talking about so I’ll just say a little. L’arche was founded by Jean Vanier who is Catholic; the community is now ecumenical but with a strong Christian basis and I can say that from personal experience as I spent some time as a house assistant. There were separate Eucharists held for Catholics and Anglicans and most people went to thier own churches on Sundays. L’arche respects and welcomes diversity without individuals compromising their own faiths so it is very rich and wonderful. It is a life lived in community with the marginalized.

    I also feel that people of other religious denominations may also stumble across our site so we have provided a link to help them in their search.

    The only site we have strong affliation with is the English Benedictine Congregation which we are a part of, the others are for interest. Phat mass provides support and interest for those discerning and does suggest lots of religious communities and gives links to their sites.

    The mens communities we have strong links to are those of the English Benedictine Congregation and you will find them via our link. You will also find links to houses of other Benedictine congregations – Solesme and Subiaco in the Uk. We do have a link to Dominican men in the Uk too, but you may be elsewhere in the world – phat mass could help you if you are in the USA. Personally I don’t know of any others but I do hope some of this is some help to you.
    It would be to hear from you again to see if any of this helped – or hindered you on your way. With blessings and peace in Christ, Adele.

  12. Hi there! Me again. My friend at St Cecilia’s is going to make her temporary vows on 21 November – cause for much rejoicing. I would like to send her a small gift. What would be considered appropriate…. I had wondered about something like chocolates which could be shared by the community – or would it be more usual to give something to the sister herself?

    Thank you and God bless

  13. Hi Scotty, this may be third time lucky – our connection is playing up and i keep trying to answer you. Here goes.
    It’s great to hear from you again and wonderful news about your friends profession.
    I asked Mother Abbess about this, she said chocolates are always good as the whole community will enjoy them. It is also usual to hand a gift in to the Abbess who will then decide what to do with it- she may give it back to the sister or she may put it into common use for everyone to enjoy – in this case a book or Cd is a good idea.You know your friends taste so just go for it.
    Please give our congratulations and best wishes to your friend and I hope it is a wonderful day for everyone. We will keep her in our prayers, Pax, Adele.

  14. Thank you Adele! I will probably arrange to send chocolates for the whole community and send a card to my friend. Thank you for your prayers.

    God bless

  15. I am discerning my vocation and I would like to email your Novice Mistress soon. In a recent post, you said you’d try to get the pictures back into the blog. Any news on that? I am dying to see the pictures and after reading the posts on this page, I am dying to see more of your monastery! I am very attracted to the Benedictines and your monastery. God bless you all and I hope to see the pictures soon if possible!


    P.S. I did post this on another page (a comments page) so I thought I’d repost it here in case I was posting in the wrong place!

  16. Hi Mary, thankyou for contacting us again, mother has just given me her email address it is – marjoriebromwich@yahoo.com she would welcome your email. We now have some new pictures and we will try to put some of these and the old ones on later today. You might be interested to know that we also have a new postulant – Joan entered on Monday, please keep; her in your prayers. Pax, Adele and Joan ( our novice mistress is also sitting here ! and sends her love).

  17. Just got a letter from my friend at St Cecilia’s who was blessed in so many ways on the occasion of her simple vows – not least being allowed to write letters outwith the usual times. Thank you for your advice re the chocolates – they were much appreciated. Praying for you all as we approach the season of Advent – may God bring grace and joy to you in this special season.

  18. Thanks for sharing that Scotty, it’s good to know that the day went well and that the chocolates were enjoyed. We prayed for your friend on her day and for the other sister who made final vows a few days later too. We hope you also have a wonderful Advent and that God blesses you too, Pax Adele.

  19. Bless greetings novices,
    What a wonderful feeling it is to see that vocations are still outthere, but more importantly are answered. It must be difficult at times since the temptations of the ‘outside world’ are especially pressing to young people. I am 58 years old and love to become a nun, specifically a Benedictine, but I am afraid that I am too old to enter. But community life, prayer and work. Am I too old to enter?
    I pray fo your sisters every day.
    Keep up the good work.

  20. Dear Pamela, thankyou for your prayers and questions which are always very welcome. Most of the time I personally don’t think of ‘outside’ as life is so full here ‘inside’ but I do miss my family and friends and they are the real temptation of the world. A friend came to see me recently on a bright sunny day and we had to sit in the guest library to chat instead of going for a walk along the river or canal, which was difficult, but it was something i could offer up that day and my friend was just glad to see me. Instead we stood out on the library roof and got a bit of fresh air.

    There do seem to be a lot of people out there searching at the moment and yes, in a quiet way without fanfare, God is calling and being answered. Here Mother Abbess says that God calls people to pray at any age so we don’t have an upper limit – 58 is not too old. If you are interested the best thing to do would be to email Mother Anne – our Novice Mistress at marjoriebromwich@yahoo.com and have an email ‘chat’ or two with her and see how it goes.
    We will keep you in our prayers too, Peace and blessings, Adele.

  21. Hello there!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment on my blog earlier today. I greatly enjoyed my retreat at Colwich Abbey and have been twice now with the Union of Catholic Mothers. I am always very pleased to visit and to speak with the Sisters. I also particularly like Chelsea who often seems to be with Sr. Davina (think I got the names of both right!)

    I have a question to ask if I may?

    Are any of the Sisters at Colwich mothers? I have often wondered if it is possible to become a nun if one has children from a former marriage.

  22. Hi Adele, how is Joan, your new postulant, doing? I pray she is doing well, she is in my prayers. I just wrote a vocation inquiry email to Sr. Anne. I don’t know if you or her write much during Advent but if she can’t write until after Advent that’s fine. I can imagine you and the other sisters have a wonderful and holy Advent and Christmas there in the monastery.


  23. Dear ukok thanks for your comment too, it’s great to hear from you and that you enjoy your visits. Yes, you did get the names right – Sr Davina is the main one who looks after Chelsea though she sleeps in the same room as Mother Anne and goes for walks with a few of us. She is a lovely dog and at the moment she keeps getting lots of Christmas presents from her admirers!

    Re your question – we do have a sister with children so yes it is possible to become a nun, it just really depends on how the marriage itself ended as we only accept divorsees with an annaulment and whether the children are dependant or not.( I imagine that’s obvious though). Again, the best thing would be to contact Mother Anne about it. I do hope that helps and please feel free to ask anything else, Pax Adele.

  24. Hi Mary, thanks for asking about Joan, unfortunately she felt unable to stay at the moment so she has gone home, but we are in contact with her and she does plan to visit again. Please keep her in your prayers, as we do.

    Re your email to Mother, for some reason it hasn’t come through to her – she has wondered if it is working – so she has written to you instead from another address. Please let us know if there are any problems with the email addresses and we will put up another instead. We do hope you have a wonderful and happy Advent and Christmas too. Pax Adele.

  25. Adele, as of the time I’m writing this note to you, I have not received an email from Mother. Should I resend the email to a different email address? Sorry to hear about Joan, I will keep her in my prayers.


  26. Adele, thank you so much for your help! I just used that email address you sent and forwarded my letter to Mother. God bless. Mary

  27. Adele,

    Though I have been writing Sr. Anne regarding the discerning my vocation to your monastery and she has invited me to come and visit, I had some questions I was at frist going to write her but then thought they were general as where you could answer them and since they’d be public, other women who may be discerning if your monastery is for them, could also see them. If you prefer me to write Sr. Anne that’s fine, just drop a note here in your blog.

    1. Do you have “The Chapter of Faults”?
    2. Do the sisters say “Deo Gratias” in answer to a knock, etc. and does another sister say “Benedictie” in response?
    3. Are the professed sisters still called “Dame”?
    4. Are there the “choir nuns” or “lay sisters”, etc.?
    5. This may be an old practice? – but do the junior sisters get the short black veil then the long black veil when professed?

    I’ll stop there to give you a break! I had recently read and seen again Rumer Godden’s book & movie “In This House of Brede” and the author had visited and gotten alot of quotes, events, etc. from the Stanbrook Benedictines and I was wondering how much of these practices were still in use. I know it’s a book and a movie and a Hollywood equivalent in the UK can change things on their own whether it’s a true or not so I take these with a grain of salt! But supposedly her book at least was very acquarate and true to what the Stanbrook Benedictines told her and what she observed, etc. Thanks so much for your time and I hope to see you soon – wearing your new habit!


  28. Hi Mary, it’s good to hear from you again. I have Mother Anne with me at the moment so I have checked out the things you have asked with her.

    1. Chapter of Faults – we did have this in the past but after Vatican 11 it was stopped, it did stay longer in the noviceship but was stopped when there was only one sister.

    2. Deo Gratias – we do say this when a sister knocks a door and we wait until it is answered. We are especially never allowed into each others cells. We no longer say Benedictie though.

    3. The Professed sisters are called Dame in the English Benedictine Congregation only on paper now. It was used until Vatican 11 when the Lay sisters took Solemn Vows and everyone then began addressing each other as Sister. This is the custom in our house.

    4. We no longer have Lay sisters – they took Solemn Vows after Vatican 11.

    5. It has never been our custom for the Juniors to wear shorter veils here – the real difference is that at the Solemn Profession the Cowl and Ring are given as the outward

    The book and film were based on both Stanbrook and St Ceceilia’s on the Isle of Wight so some of the customs you mention may have been from there.

    It has been interesting answering these Mary, if you think of any more we’d be happy to answer them too.

    We look forward to seeing you soon too, Pax Adele and Mother Anne.

  29. +

    Wonderful posts and blog! Although I have never discerned a call to Benedictine life -although it is lovely-, and I don’t believe I am called to the religious life, I am enjoying this site so much! It is great to be able to read about some of the English communities from over here in the states. Thanks to your new postulant’s entry on phatmass for providing the link!

    In Cordibus Jesu et Mariae.

  30. Hi Dunstan, thankfully we don’t make our own habits as i am no seamstress so it would be a very long time to my Clothing if i did have to. Sr Benedict makes our habit’s and Sr Mary Magdalen is beginning to help her by making my scapular, she will then make her own second habit. Pax Adele.

  31. Hi Adele, is your excitement for Jan 25 mounting! I guess it would be a good chance to practice the virtue of patience in the waiting! I have a few more questions.

    What kind of material is the habit, veil, etc. made out of?

    Many the Benedictines here in the US have the hospitality part where they do a lot of interaction with the public and have a retreat house with so many rooms for people to stay in and some just cook for the people on retreat and are enclosed and don’t interact other than at the parlor grille. Then there are others that are so involved with them every day you’d think they were the visitors, an active order or they are at parties with them, etc. Does your monastery have the retreats, hospitality with visitors or not and just see the visitors in the parlour? Or the only “visitors’ you have are the women coming to discern their vocation to your monastery?

    I wasn’t sure about this from your site and blog and I was wondering. I can see being Benedictines you may (or may not) interact with the public at certain times but too much seems to disregard enclosure? But, hey, I’m a newbie to a degree regarding Benedictines! I still feel very drawn and interested in visiting and will let Sr. Anne know when. God bless.


  32. Hi Mary, yes i am very excited and counting the days down – 18 today, i also had another habit fitting with Sr Benedict and it is almost finished – it’s quite awesome thinking that i will soon wear it everyday and will really be seen as a Benedictine. I go into retreat a week on Thursday so i am counting down to that too – i am soooo looking forward to it – my ‘holiday with God’ as i think of it.

    Sr Benedict tells me that our summer habits are made from polyester cotton and our winter ones from a heavier and thicker polyester wool. This means that they launder well and hang nicely. As i feel the heat rather than the cold i am having a summer habit made and will later get another one – no winter habits for me. The scapular is made out of the same material and all the headwear is made out of cotton of varying thicknesses – we wear shorter underveils as well as the long outer veils.

    Regarding visitors – we can see friends and family in the parlour or the guest library as they come – our grilles were removed after Vatican 2 – and chat with them alone. Other than that we rarely have contact with guests. When enquirers come we meet them individually in the parlour and have a nice chat but this is with permission from Mother Abbess or Mother Prioress only.

    At the moment we have 3 guest rooms in the Abbey itself and a couple of houses on our grounds but outside the enclosure where more people can stay. We don’t meet these guests at all unless they are oblates or close and longstanding friends of the community, then we usually meet them as a community rather than alone. There are a couple of sisters – Mother Abbess, Mother Prioress and Sr Davina, that help to look after our guests but the rest of us don’t though we do get a good stream of people coming.

    We don’t run retreats, but local groups – such as Catholic Mothers do come for the day, they usually bring a retreat director and have time in Chapel – they sometimes join us for Midday Office – the guest library and parlours. We provide soup and drinks for them but again, only the guest sister will have any contact with them.

    Hospitality is important to us as it is to all Benedictines but we still keep enclosure. It is lovely to have people come for the day and to feel they are being helped by being here – i think it is the sense of prayer and silence that supports them on the day and hopefully after they have gone home too – chatting and mixing freely with them might dilute that ( my personal feeling anyway).

    It’s fine to be a ‘newbie’ with Benedictines – we all were once – it’s exciting discovering the riches of the Rule, I hope you enjoy your journey and look forward to hearing how it goes. God bless, Adele.

  33. Adele, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my long post of questions with a post of your own! I am sorry if I took up much of your time! I loved and am very happy with your answers! I will try to restrain myself from long posts! I am a Benedictine newbie as I know alot of the Carmelite and Poor Clare Colettines rules & charisms but not as much about the Benedictine’s.

    Here’s another question: what is the significance/symbolism of the beautiful underveil? If I can remember correctly (though I may be off a bit?), I remember hearing back in the early 1990’s Mother Angelica of the catholic TV station, EWTN, when they changed back to the full traditional habit, that the white underside of their veil meant to show their thoughts of heaven, consecration to God and purity while the outer black veil was showing that they were “dead” or separated from the world and belonging to God. Is this the same or similar Benedictine meaning or what?

    God Bless, Mary

  34. Hi Mary, please don’t restrain yourself from writing long posts and asking lots of questions, i love them. I am really enjoying your questions and I am learning loads too as you ask things i didn’t think of and as i often don’t know or am not sure of the answers i find someone who does – so i am having lots of interesting conversations. The sisters are really enjoying your questions and posts too so please ask away!

    I have asked both Mother Anne and Sr Benedict ( our archivist) about the underveil and i have been told that they have never heard the meaning given by M. Angelica so maybe that is their particular take on it. Sr B says that ordinary women wore something similiar at the time our community began so it was a natural thing for the sisters to then wear. It also helps to keep the wimple on, cover any gaps at the back and sides of the head and it stops the outer veils – which are quite light and thin – from being seen through. The black or whilte outer veils have strong symbolism though -of purity – white – and death to the world – black.

    I hope that helps, please keep asking whatever you like and i will do my best to answer though it might not be for a few days. Take care, Adele.

  35. Adele,

    If it’s not to long to explain, can you tell us how the clothing ceremony in your monastery is carried out? It would be nice to know what is said, what you’ll experience. Thanks.


  36. Hi Mary, i have only seen Sr Mary Magdalen’s Clothing here and that was five months ago so i don’t remember the details. I am going to write this one up as a post as soon as i can after my Clothing though and try to keep a copy of the ceremony to give some idea. I do know that it takes place in the Chapter room between Morning Office and Mass – so around 8.10. From what i remember the postulant kneels in the centre with Mother Abbess in front of her at the Abbatial throne and all the community in their places around them. There is a reading, some questions then the postulant goes out to be dressed by the Novice Mistress. Whilst she is out the sisters sing psalms, stopping when she enters. The postulant kneels in front of Mother Abbess, is given her new name and a copy of the Rule, then exchanges the peace with the community. We all then process into Mass. The postulant does the Offertory procession during Mass with Mother Abbess too.

    Usually it is a festive day with tea and cakes a recreation, however we are keeping a day of exposition and adoration on mine as it is the day our diocese is praying for vocations to our abbey, so we will keep the festivities for the next day.
    I hope that’s enough to be going on with for now, i will write more after my Clothing as i said.
    Tomorrow evening I go into retreat – we always keep Thursday as a day of exposition and adoration, so we have no choir practice or recreation but more time to spend privately at prayer and reading. We have Vespers and Compline earlier and have our weekly ‘early night’.
    I am very pleased that i begin my retreat on Thursday evening because of this – it’s like an extra day for me.

    Take care and pray for me, thanks, Adele.

  37. Dear Adele!

    My son (12 years) and I talked about nuns today and he wanted to know if you can get some money so that you can send a gift to your (hypothetical) nephew and if you are allowed to listen to Justin Timberlake on youtube if your nephew likes the music and you want to know more about it. And what would you do if you came across some rap that contains swearwords. Would you be allowed to listen to it or would you have to turn it off very, very quickly?

    As I haven’t got the slightest idea, I thought I’d just ask you – the expert.



  38. Dear Kokopelli, it’s good to hear that you and your son were talking about nuns and that he was asking questions.
    I do actually have 7 nephews from age 14 down to 1week old.
    Unfortunetely i can’t send them gifts because we try to live under the vow of poverty. Even before we take the vows we try to live them, but i can send them cards and they can come to visit me. Children under 6 can also come into our enclosure to visit us with permission from Mother Abbess.

    Here we are allowed to use headphones to listen to music and if i wanted to i could listen to music like rap or Justin Timberlake in my free time – i would ignore the swear words if the rest was ok.

    I hope that helps you and answers your sons questions Kokopelli, please ask more if you want to, God bless you, Adele.

  39. Dear Adele!

    Thank you for answering our questions.
    My name is Benedict. I’m twelve years old. I have another question: have you got your own computer or is there a computer for your whole community? Is it a laptop?
    Have you got free time, too?
    What sort of music do you listen to?

    Dear Adele, this is Benedict’s mum kokopelli. Thank you for answering our questions; we’re having interesting conversations about what you wrote.

    Have a wonderful time – we’re thinking of you.


  40. Hi Benedict, ( you have a great name ), sorry you’ve had to wait a while for an answer i’ve been a bit busy spending time on retreat ( special time with God ) and then becoming a novice so i now look like a nun – for the first six months i wore my own clothes.
    Here we have a couple of computers that we all share to keep in touch with family and friends and to do special things like this blog – the Pope wants us to have blogs to help people to know how to find nuns and monks that they might think of joining. We do have some free time, mainly in the evening after supper – about 45 minutes, some sisters will sit in their cell ( what we call our bedrooms) and read, others go for a walk, some pray, some write letters or maybe do a jigsaw or a craft they enjoy. Then we go to chapel before we go to bed.
    I like to listen to heavy rock music, jazz and christian rock music, also Irish ballads – a mixture really. Sr Mary Magdalen (our other novice and there is a picture of her on this blog), likes to listen to Trance and Eminem.
    We are really enjoying your questions Kokopelli and Benedict and are glad that you are having some interesting chats, please ask more if you think of them, God bless you both Adele – I have now become Sr Marie-Therese as we can change our name when we become a novice.

  41. Not a question, but comment: the pictures on your “My Photo Album” site of the “Convents and Grounds” are beautiful! Colwich is so beautiful and rich in history! The 19th century staircase is amazing! How blessed you all are!

  42. Thanks Mary, our abbey is old and has lots of character which makes it very beautiful. It is not modern or swish, not your ‘girl about town’ but more of an eccentric old aunt with lots of interesting features which i will try to take more pics of, oh and i got the date of the staircase wrong – it’s actually 16th or 17th Century as it belonged to the original house here – if it could only tell us it’s stories… Pax Sr Marie-Therese.

  43. Hello Adele!

    Thank you so much for your response! At present both my children are dependant upon me and my youngest is only almost 13 years old. I have no idea at this point if my youngest, who has mild learning difficulties, will be dependant of me at an age where most become independant. Current indication, if its anything to go by would suggest that I may always need to be available to him, as I am the only one whom can guide him spiritually and assist him in his comprehension of certain things that other parents take for granted with their children.

    (I would be interested to know how it works, with visits or access to ones children if one discerns a vocation to religious life as a mother)

    My marriage was annulled before my conversion to Catholicism.

    I really don’t know where God will lead me or what he is calling me to be, at this time I guess he is asking me to be the best mother that I can be, and I must be honest and tell you that I don’t do a very good job in that at all! I ask Mary to help me to be more like her, but it’s slow going!!!

    As a teenager I felt a strong pull towards religious life but there was no one in my life to discuss it with and no practising Christian’s in my life at all. I love my children dearly, but a part of me has always felt that God was calling me to walk a different path.

    God will provide all the answers no doubt, in his time…

    God Bless you all!

    p.s. Now I’m going to nominate your blog in the Catholic Blog awards!

  44. Dear sisters,

    first of all, all my apologies if my English isn’t so good : it’s not my mother-language !

    I am writting to you because a french friend of mine told me, she will maybe go to an abbey for 2 weeks this summer. There, a few other young volunteer will be there, helping for the visit. I hope I could find something like that in an other country, why not in England … And maybe you know a place where it’s possible to stay for a few weeks, helping with the work of the community, and having the opportunity to share with a sister ( or a brother, like it will be in that abbey in France.), about my questions and my faith.

    (it sounds a little bit strange, I feel it, but I hope you understand what I am looking for. I don’t want to be a sister, but it’s to spend some quiet time in a community, praying and helping them as good as I can.)

    Peace and Joy for you and your whole community,
    God Bless you


  45. Dear Florence, your English is great don’t worry about it. I have printed your question off and am going to ask the other sisters as off hand i don’t know anywhere though i am sure there are places. I know some anglican communities that do this but i think you really want a Catholic one so i will do my best to find somewhere for you.
    The idea itself doesn’t sound strange to me at all as before i converted (from the angican church) i did exactly the same and had a wonderful time – i eventually stayed for 10 months before leaving to discern my vocation and coming in to the Catholic church – they were part of that journey for me. I learned a lot practically – pruning fruit bushes,making jams, weeding – and spiritually as i joined the sisters for office and had a weekly meeting with one of them. They got some help in the laundry and garden, so i would encourage people to do this as both sides benefit.
    I will get back to you soon,
    peace and joy, sr marie-therese.

  46. Hello Sister,

    I want to thank you and your community for this great resource, I feel I have learnt a lot about your life from this blog and it’s a great forum for asking questions. I particularly liked the question answer about the type of music you listen to, I had imagined that music like rap and trance would have not been allowed so it’s good to know you can enjoy music to your taste.

    How long after you converted to Catholicism did you join the community? I too am a convert and feel I have so much still to learn about the church (and latin makes no sense to me at all!). Also this may seem minor but I think I would really miss take away food living your lifestyle, especially Indian take aways. Do you ever get chance for take aways?


  47. Florence, hi again, i have good news for you re finding somewhere to go for the summer. There are Catholic, enclosed, Benedictine nuns in Kent who take women for working holidays or just to share in the life of the community. You need to write to the Prioress – Mother Nikola Proksch, Priory of St Mildred, Minster Abbey, Ramsgate, Kent, England, CT12 4HF or ring 01843 821254. The Benedictine year book says ‘the life is marked by simplicity,prayer and hospitality; a life close to nature through work in farm and gardens, which is complemented by artwork and various handicrafts’. They are in the process of setting up a website but it is not very far on yet. I hope this is what you are looking for, please let me know how it goes and have fun, pax sr marie-therese.

  48. Hi Lisa, i am so pleased that you are enjoying our blog which is meant to be a lighthearted glimpse of us – to show we are very ordinary and yes we like ‘unexepted’ types of music too.
    I entered here on the third anniversary of my reception into the church – 23rd July 07 which was the earliest i could here. Some communiities have a shorter time and some none, it’s very individual. I certainly still have lots to learn even though i read and asked lots of questions before i was received – as i expect most converts do. As part of our formation here we go through the Catechism, the Rule, saints, liturgy, scripture and lots more so it isn’t necessary to know lots to enter just to be open and willing to learn. It makes no difference in community whether we are converts or ‘cradle catholics’ as we all go through the same formation – it makes no difference at all. Thankfully we don’t have to learn to speak Latin we just have to learn to sing it – and we all have lots of practice for that so it’s fine, we also get the gist of the meaning which is easier than it sounds as the antiphons usually follow the gospel of the day.
    Do we ever have take-aways? – not take aways as such, we don’t order in or anything but sometimes friends, family, guests give us ‘take away type food ‘ – we have had an both Indian and Chinese food here and i think when someone is professed different foods appear too – maybe when my time comes i will ask for a Chinese banquet, hmm, now thats getting my mouth watering. Thats ages away so it can stay a dream for now.
    Pax sr marie-therese.

  49. hi, just wondering about whether or not your community takes international discerners. Someone mentioned it earlier but no answer was given. Thanks

  50. Marieteresa – hi and welcome, sorry that one must have got missed – yes we do take international discerners – as long as the discerner has a valid visa or doesn’t need one there is no problem. We do have a nigerian sister here already and have several enquirers overseas, i hope that helps, great name by the way – sr marie – terese .

  51. Just wondering, I know several individuals have mentioned it before but is it hard adjusting to the cultural changes? I wouldn’t think that it would be a huge obstacle if God gives one the grace but I was told that it might be a issue. Any thoughts by the way I am from America.

  52. Hi Marieteresa, i think that an enclosed monastery is such a different life that we all have to adapt to it where ever we come from. In a sense it doesn’t matter which country we come from – even if we enter in our own country – because it is such a different world – the food is new, there is the timetable to get to grips with, unlike the world outside i am not accepted for what i have done or achieved ( such as exam passes) or what i can do but for who i am. In God’s eyes we are all totally unique and he loves us totally. Here the only thing that matters is that we are truly seeking God.

    I think that if we are called to an enclosed community where it is doesnt matter – we could be anywhere in the world because we are not living the life of that country but the life of the monastery. There are bound to be some things that are harder to adapt to but i agree – God gives us the grace and to be honest for me its also about letting go of expectations and wanting things done a certain way that i am comfortable with instead letting myself be changed by the life – perhaps the things i find hardest are the things God uses most to shape me/purify me – and they are usually the smallest things not the big ones.

    A couple of years ago i was a L’arche live-in house assistant. I was in England but most of the other assistants were not English/British but were from all over the world. Ironically this was quite hard for all of us at times because we sometimes misunderstood each other and found each others ways of doing things totally odd. I didn’t feel like i was in England. But you know, it was also such fun, explaining things to each other, learning new meanings, new ways of doing things and hearing personally about other countries and making friends across the world. I think the monastery is a bit like that. I am richer because of being at L’arche – the core-members in particular gave me so much – and i am richer because of the ‘cultural’ differences in our monastery. I know this answer is a bit long but i hope it helps. I guess i am simply trying to say – i don’t think it matters where we are living this life, just that we are and that we trust in God to give us the grace to live it. Dom Columba Marmion ( a Benedictine monk.spiritual advisor and priest) apparently used to say ‘ you bought me here God, now it’s up to you to keep me’ – he sums it up really.
    Pax, sr marie-terese.

  53. Dear sr Marie-Terese,

    THANK you very much for your answer ! it’s really nice, that you take the time to look for something for me ! I am going to have a look in which place it is, and then, I am going to write to the Prioress and see with her if I can spend a few week with them this summer ! I will be really happy to have the oportunity to leave something different during the summer holidays, and it sounds really interesting, for every side I can imagine.

    I won’t loose the link to your blog, because I really think, it’s a soo nice thing, and poeple can discover a little bit more about monastery and the life in monastery, and see, that poeple there are normal poeple,… So much of my friends can’t imagine it really. 🙂

    And, I wish you a nice and blessed Easter, with a lot of joy and good fruits for the whole year in your community. There is a prayer I like a lot in French, it’s someting like : ” That it’s your will, our God and God oh our Lord Jesus Christ, to renew in our favor (for us) a year of kindness and gentleness.” …

    and I will let you know if it works and I have the chance to go there …God bless you

  54. I know you mentioned this many post ago about hair cutting but does your community shave ones head? I know that there are many communities who still do this. Thanks

  55. Hi Marieteresa,
    our community doesn’t have rules about the length of our hair – as postulants it is meant to be neat and tidy; when we recieve the habit we keep it at a length that is comfortable under the veil and can’t be seen – this is very individual.
    I don’t think anyone here shaves their heads though. As a postulant i had long hair kept back with a hair band or in a pony tail; for clothing i had a few inches taken off as a symbolic gesture ( my choice ), i had intended to keep it quite long under the veil but it was so hot that last week i had one of our oblates ( who is a hair dresser) cut it into a chin length bob which is much cooler and would still look decent if the worst happened and i left. It really is up to us and to me seems very sensible – even after solemn profession we could be hospitalized and the way we look does make an impact on those we meet outside which is also a consideration. pax sr marie-terese.

  56. I’m really enjoying this blog and photos. I have one question about clothes – i notice on the photographs that working in the garden some of the sisters seem to be dressed in something other than the habit – is that right?
    By the way, I’m an Anglican priest and mother who is very influenced by Benedictine spirituality – I find it helpful in my rather busy life!

  57. another question – you say the food is different to what you are used to? may I ask how? what do you eat?

  58. Hi Deafdaisy, welcome i’m glad you are enjoying our blog. Some of the sisters you see are out of habit in the garden its because during the 2nd World War the local Bishop came around. He saw sisters wearing full habit whilst working in the garden and he felt it was dangerous to be driving the tractor or climbing trees etc in full skirts so he suggested the community wore trousers instead. The sisters managed to get hold of a load of land army clothes so wore these for many years, now we are asked to bring something with us when we apply to enter. Most just wear loose trousers/t shirts/ tops though i prefer an old skirt that is slightly shorter – and as i don’t like heights i don’t climb up trees! We do however wear a work veil – our hair is never uncovered in public.

    As to the food – well its diferent for me because for many years i was a strict vegetarian often going over into veganism. Some years ago i tested my vocation elsewhere and had to start eating meat again. Although i left the community i still ate meat – but very small amounts and never red meat or offal – both of which we get here. I also ate lots of pulses and grains which are not big on our menu. The meals here are traditional meat and two veg though we sometimes get pasta and often salad in the summer. On Wednesdays two other sisters cook,( no meat on Mon, Wed, Fri,Sat – but lots of dairy instead) so we do get pulses and grains then. I also like highly flavoured and spiced food which many sisters don’t so it tends to be milder than i would eat before entering. It’s not a problem it just takes time to adapt and strong flavours are one of the things i miss – but i really do like STRONG flavours, so i can’t complain.

    I am interested that you are an Anglican priest and like Benedictine spirituality. I lived alongside Anglican Cistercian nuns for 10 months some years ago. They are wonderful women who have 64 acres of land near Monmouth, and they have a large self catering guest/retreat house, i would highly recommend them – children wouldn’t be a problem as the house is across a field from the convent and you are free to roam the fields safely. If you are interested they are the Society of the Sacred Cross, Ty Mawr Convent, Monmouth, Lydart, Gwent – the present Archbishop of Canterbury was their visitor until he became Archbishop, and they would happily let you celebrate in chapel.

    I wish you well in your ministry, Pax sr marie-therese.

  59. Hi Sister Marie-Therese,

    I was really interested in your post about diet as I’m vegetarian and I’ve wondered if in an order I would have to start eating meat due to obedience?

  60. Hi Lisa, it depends on the order – some are very open and understanding and will let you stay veggie, others say it’s too difficult for a busy cook, it’s not good for your health, its being ‘singular’ (not following the common way so standing out) or part of poverty – in giving up your own choices. All of these are valid in their particular setting. The previous order i tried said all of the above, i thought i should be there so i did it – there was plenty of dairy in the diet and i only needed to take a small portion of the meat so it wasn’t a real problem for me. Here i didn’t ask i just got on with it and eat small portions of meat – for me it is part of the renunciation, even though naturally i would be a strict veggie – i guess it also depends on why you are veggie in the first place.
    I would say cross that bridge if and when you come to it, maybe if you are willing to adapt you won’t be asked to.
    Pax sr marie therese.

  61. Greetings, dear sisters at Colwich, from across the Irish Sea!
    I am the vocations director at Glencairn, the only community of Cistercian (Trappist) nuns in Ireland.
    Finding your blog on the internet gave me the push I needed to begin one of my own. It’s a supplement to our main website, and will be devoted to material related to vocations and items which may help those in discernment. I’ve put a link to your blog on it – keep up the good work!
    We are having an information day at Glencairn on June 8th, perhaps any of your readers who are in Ireland might like to know about it?
    The details are here: http://cistercianvocation.wordpress.com

    God bless!
    Sr Eleanor

  62. Dear Sr. Marie-Therese,

    I have a friend who is discerning a few orders and in one of her emails to me she wrote this:

    “after being in contact with other communities, and I must make it clear that I am not discerning with Benedictines for the very reason that St. Benedict urges the community to have the aspirant “test” their call by not making entrance easy…)

    I was wondering what she meant by “…St. Benedict urges the community to have the aspirant “test” their call by not making entrance easy”? Is this right or right but not in the way this girl understands it or is it wrong? Or does St. Benedict just mean not to take any and everyone who knocks on a Benedictine monastery door or as most orders for the person so demonstrate a vocation by seeking God, following the rules and constitutions with gladness, obedience, etc.?

    This girl thinks that if she entered a Benedictine monastery, some ridiculous test of a physical or mental nature would be imposed on her and she’s afraid. She is in her very early 20’s and I don’t know where she heard this. I NEVER heard of it so I couldn’t help her!

    Of course, I suppose, each monastery can have it’s own interpretation of this (if it’s true) and as she is an American like me, maybe it’s some weird American Benedictine custom?!

    What do you think? Have you heard of this and if so what is the real meaning?


  63. Dear Sr. Marie-Therese,

    If I may bug you with a couple more questions, what do you love the most about being a Benedictine nun? What do you love most about the Rule of St. Benedict? Did you look at other Rules and orders and if so, what made the Rule and the Benedictine order stand out for you? If there are lots for both, maybe one or two of the best – if it is not to personal!

    As I am discerning my vocation and have looked at other orders/rules and deciding myself, I thought another view would help. I am discerning with you all and hope to visit fairly soon, these thoughts just came to me so I thought I would ask you!


  64. Hi Mary, please tell your friend that she shouldn’t worry about some ridiculous mental or physical test done by Benedictines – i dont think there are any to be afraid of – not that i have ever heard of anyway.
    In St Benedicts day the way of seeing if the aspirant might have a vocation was to test his ‘staying power’ , by making them stay outside the monastery for three days knocking on the door. Over the three days the candidate would be sheltered and fed but would have to persist in the desire to enter. If they were still there 3 days later the door was opened to them. I guess some might run off to the monastery on the spur of the moment from – an arguement; commiting a crime; being spurned – whatever so the time waiting gave them time to think things over and perhaps think better of it. If it was a true call they would still be there.

    The modern equivalent might be the psychological test some communities require ( we don’t ); the stages from making first contact to postulancy – meeting, chatting discerning and as you say – not taking everyone who asks to enter; being willing to embrace the life and do your best, and if asked to by the community to wait for a time – maybe to finish school; clear up debts etc.

    The life is challenging sometimes and very rewarding and rich at others – just as life ‘outside’ is too. I don’t think there would be any nasty mental or physical tests to be got through – though i don’t know every monastery and i have no idea about American monasteries but all monasteries are checked out and have to follow rules laid down by the Vatican so i think not.

    Your ideas sound about right – and i checked this one out with Mother Abbess – she has never heard of anything else either.
    Pax Sr Marie-Therese.

  65. Hi Mary, i need to think more about your second question and as we go into retreat tomorrow i don’t have much time today – things to ‘close’ for the week – so i will get back to you on it in just over a week – but i will answer, hope thats ok. We are looking forward to meeting you and will keep you in our prayers during our retreat, please pray for us too.
    pax sr marie-therese.

  66. Dear Sr. Marie-Therese,

    Please don’t worry about when you can answer! Answer whenever you are able after your retreat! I know your are busy especially with all the gardening and such that I read in your new post!

    I will tell my confused friend about her misconception about the Benedictines! I figured it was what I thought and you said. Maybe she did contact an American Benedictine order and the majority it seems (if not all) the orders over hear want various degrees of psychological testing done before entrance. Even read one order online that wanted a criminal history report turned in!

    As a nurse, I’ve with medical and psych doctors and it WOULD be better to be locked out of the monastery and have to persist by knocking for 3 days than sit down with a quacky psych doctor who has no clue on vocations, especially monastic vocations, even if they do work with a diocese for this purpose! I’ve heard lots of stories.

    Thanks again for your wonderful answers and have a fruitful and blessed retreat.


  67. I think that psychological and physical tests are almost the rule when entering communities in the US. And the background criminal record (with fingerprints!) is becoming required for many jobs, including renewal of a medical license, when previously it wasn’t necessary. Maybe it’s Homeland Security, but I think that a lot of communities have been burned. Most communities select their own psychologist who has worked with vocations. One Trappist Abbey reported some years back how the FBI arrived during recreation and hauled off one of their observers!

  68. Hello Sister Marie-Therese,

    I hope the Holy Spirit refreshed and inspired you anew during your retreat. I was wondering does your community have Papal enclosure or the other sort (think it’s Constitutional enclosure)?

  69. Hi Kate,i have heard that many communities use psychological testing, we don’t because experience here has shown that people can pass these tests and yet not do well in community. It is not easy to live with the same people in a small environment day in day out ( and different charisms bring out different things) and when we do so our ‘true selves’ tend to be revealed in a way that psychological testing might not pick up on. It’s right for some communities and not for others – each view point is valid.
    I have heard that some communities make criminal record checks too and that is becoming more common here. As i worked in care i had up to date checks if criminal records – enhanced – and a new one – a Pova – protection of vulnerable adults. The story you tell is shocking and must have stunned the community. pax sr marie-therese.

  70. Hi Lisa, i have just checked this one out – we keep Papal enclosure with some small revisions in our constitutions – we have no grilles – which have been approved by the Holy See, i hope that helps, pax sr marie-therese.

  71. Dear Sr. Marie-Therese,

    I was wondering how your recreation periods were run. I have been told by various orders that the recreation is quite formal – that ALL conversation or remarks are made directly to the prioress/supervisor/abbess and you may only do that and/or speak to the nun on either side of you.

    Is your recreation like this or is it free and open? I am open to either as I know many orders with one or the other tradition and either is fine with me! I was just wondering how it is done in Colwich.

    Thank you and God bless,


  72. Hi Mary, its good to hear from you again, our recreations are very informal and relaxed. On ordinary days we sit where we like around the large table in the work room and we chat freely – across the table and to anyone near enough to hear; we can move seats if we want to join in with something; we might play with the dog – she has a basket of toys in there and will just go up to someone to play with her; if sisters have been out somewhere interesting – abbatial blessing – or had an interesting letter we listen while they share it and ask questions if we want to; we can do crafts – knit/sew etc or not. We have half hour together then half hour to go for a walk/have a rest/some space or stay in the where we are and chat. On Sundays, special days and solemnities we have tea and cake and stay for at least an hour, we might watch a video or Songs of Praise too. Its a good time for aspirants and postulants to get to meet and know everyone and ask more questions. On Sundays in Advent and Lent there was no tea and cakes but we did get board games out – scrabble usually. Sometimes we get a recreation day ( end of Lent/after retreat ) when we can chat whilst working ( we usually only talk if necessary) in the morning and the afternoon is free with a much longer recreation. Hope that helps, Sr Marie- Therese.

  73. Dear Sr. Marie-Therese,

    It sounds wonderful! You all have a great recreation period. As I understand the other way some orders/monasteries have their recreation hour with talking only beside you and all remarks directed to the Abbess/Prioress, the informal way is much better! It is a great way for all to know each other, especially the “newbies”! It is a great way to foster and further friendship, fellowship and another way to love your sisters as Christ loves us!


  74. Hi Mary, thankyou, i’m glad you like the sound of it. I think in the past it was more formal but over time it’s relaxed, and it may be to do with the way we see ourselves – which is as a family, so we are allowed to get to know each other and become friends – that way we also support each other and keep each other going -sharing the ups and the downs. I have experienced more formal recreations elsewhere too, they are interesting and can be enjoyable, they are just not us. A funny – and reassuring thing – is that over Christmas we have 2 weeks ‘holiday’ = 2 weeks of recreation and no normal work. We make lots of noise and join together creating plays, having nice food, a sing song, etc and it’s fun to start but after a week i was longing for the quiet and ‘normality’ again – all this fun was exhausting! One of our sisters said she was reassurred to know that we – the noviciate – enjoyed it for a short time but weren’t hankering for it all the time. As contemplatives our true way is one of quiet, prayerful rhythm and balance. I guess this is why we do have a short recreation most days ( none on Thursdays when we have exposition and adoration all day followed by an early night).

  75. Could I add a word to the discussion on psychological assessment? We use them in our community: a candidate is asked to have an assessment when she reaches a stage in her discernment process where she is fairly serious about wanting to join us.
    A psychological assessment is exactly that: a psychological, not a spiritual, assessment. It can no more tell whether a person has a vocation to religious life than a medical assessment can. But it can point out some things which it’s useful to know.
    We find that a psychological assessment has two main uses. First, it can bring to light any serious imbalance, problem or mental condition in the candidate which would make life in our community impossible for her, or which would be a huge burden on the community. To be frank, a discovery like this is rare, because such a candidate does not usually get to this stage in the discernment process. She will have been in contact with us for some time, and observation of her during her time of “live-in”, etc, along with common sense, will generally make us aware of these problems at a much earlier stage. Nevertheless, it remains a function of the assessement.
    Secondly, it is a useful tool for the novitiate. Monastic life involves lots of growth in self-knowledge – paradoxically, this is part of the road to knowledge of God which cannot be bypassed! The assessement gives the candidate a picture of herself, an understanding of her own make-up, e.g. about the areas in which she needs to grow, why she reacts in certain ways, tendencies to dependence, and many other things. This objective knowledge can be helpful as she learns to live in monastic community, especially where the novice director is able to use the material from the assessement in a positive and helpful way.
    We are all in need of some kind of psychological healing. Every community is made up of wounded people. But some are too wounded to be able to function well in community; they become only more damaged, and can have a negative effect on the whole community. All this has to be taken into account when considering an individual’s vocation. The psychological assessment can be a useful, objective voice here. Of course it is only one element in the discernment process, and should not be given disproportionate value.

    Also, I fully respect that a community may choose not to use assessements. They will find out what works for them, and as Sr Marie-Therese said above, that is a valid position too. I just wanted to share what is our own experience.
    Sr Eleanor

  76. It was with great interest I read that you have no upper age limit. In Sweden communities tend to reject people older than 40 and I don’t understand the reason why, since nowadays with a prolonged “youth period” and longtime educations (up to 10 years in University) people really haven’t had time to discern a vocation until they reach the middleages. Also an upper age limit is often an obstacle for converts – no matter that converts are often more serious about their spirituality than others (in a way they have already gone through a long period of discernment before converting).

    But having reached ones middleages can also include health problems. Would minor ones, successfully kept in balance with medicines, be an obstacle? I understand that needing medicines brings a cost for the community, but sooner or later most sisters would need medication anyway (it is one of the crosses that comes with old age) so the way I see it, it would be an acceptable thing for the community finances anyway. Or?

    Another question: how does the wimple look like? Do you wear a cap or anything similar under the veil? (In a sense, I am curious about the whole headwear, bit by bit…)

    Thanks for a great blog!

  77. Hi, I have been enjoying reading this blog so much – please keep it up if you possibly can – so many monastery/convent websites are like static ‘shopwindows’ which are fine to give a point of contact and advertise the community’s existence, but to have such an interactive site as this is wonderful.

    The question of upper age limits seems to be a real contemporary problem! I do wonder, like Carina, whether these restrictions date from an age when life was shorter, adulthood earlier and your work or calling in life more fixed – I think generally people nowadays tend to lead more varied lives to a greater age, and so are more flexible in their attitudes and ability to adapt in middle age; at 53, among other things I have been an army officer, an editor and proofreader, a hospice administrator, and now work (to my surprise, as a Catholic convert) for an Anglican Theological College – which I enjoy a lot! I converted 7 years ago, and did spend a week with a Carmelite community as an aspirant a couple of years ago (at 51 – I’m in England, by the way). I loved the place and community, but eventually came to feel it wasn’t quite right for me – I’m in the middle of a theology degree in my spare time which is important to me, and although I know that in any novitiate you have to learn what the community needs you to, and you can’t study what you feel like, it seems to me that the Benedictine way of life in general allows for a good balance of study, prayer and work- the Carmelites did say to me that there was little room for study in their life, although may be someone will correct me on that!

    Anyway, best wishes to you all at Corpus Christi

  78. Hi Sisters! I’ve spent the past hour or so reading through all these questions up until about the ones from the beginning of May ’08, trying to get a taste for your community. I’m in the US and discerning a vocation though I’m too young to actually join a community yet. I have some questions, so when you get the time to sit down and answer some, that would be awesome. 🙂

    If this is Sr. Marie-Therese: I love the name you received! In your community, do you get to pick three names you’d like, and then Mother will give you one of them or one that she feels inspired to give you even if it’s not on the list? That’s what the Dominicans at my school do, so I don’t know if it’s a universal-religious thing or what. Also, do you pronounce your name ter-ez like St. Therese of Lisieux with the accents over the 2 e’s or tuh-reese like Terese? If I enter a religious community, I would love to take the name Therese like the Little Flower, but it worries me that half of the congregation might pronounce it one way and then I’d cause a big commotion or something. Maybe it’s not as big of a problem in the UK as it is in the US, trying to get people to pronounce things one way.

    Does your community take the “vow,” I guess you could say, of silence, except for recreation hour and emergencies or speech related to work?

    Is there a certain degree to which postulants are expected to be “catechized”?

    Do you get served oldest-youngest in the refectory, and line up that way too [I don’t know where you would line up to go, but just if you were to, I guess..(?)]?

    I have a friend whose family is from the UK, and she’s asked me before if I knew some big religious orders for females in England. I’ve done extensive research, even though it was just a slight inquiry, and came up with a bunch of different congregations, but so I can tell her honestly, and so I can satisfy my own curiosity, what are some of the more well-known and growing orders in England? In the US we seem to have a big Franciscan and Dominican trend going. There’s a big increase in the number of Catholics here also, and my friend and I have wondered about Catholicism in England. Is it a popular religion with many supporters or is Protestantism tops?

    Thank you so much for your time, and God bless you all!

  79. Dear Sr. Marie-Therese,

    I have been reading as much as I can find on Fr. Augustine Baker online. Are much of his teachings taught, read or followed (or all 3!) at Colwich? If so, are there others taught – besides St. Benedict and other great Benedictines?

    I have an old book from 1948 by D. Oswald Hunter Blair, Abbot of Fort Augustus and printed in the UK called “The Rule of St. Benedict” and I have enjoyed reading the Rule of St. Benedict and the commentaries by the Abbot from the Christ in The Desert monastery here in the US at http://christdesert.org/Detailed/60.html .

    I was wondering about some of the saints, authors, teachings, etc. that is taught at Colwich. I am just dying to know everything! But then patience IS a virtue!


  80. Hi Carina, sorry for the delay, its been a bit busy for a while – you are spot on with the age thing, we do often tend to discern later these days and there does seem to be a rise in conversions which is a great thing for the Church, and converts tend to have really questioned and prayed a lot before being recieved. The priest who recieved me said that he finds that people have usually done all the ground work and questioning before they even knock on his door – this is what i did too. Some communities do accept converts immediately, others prefer us to wait a while first. If we enter older we are more formed in our character which is a challenge in community – but not insurmountable.
    Re illness – minor illnesses or illnesses that can be well controlled with medication or other things would not necessarily be an obstacle – regardless of the cost of medication – this is something that has to be worked out with the community during discernment. However, we are not allowed to accept women with mental illness because enclosed life is felt not to be suitable – again this needs discussion with the community as it depends on the illness itself. Basically there are no strict rules around this one.
    The Wimple – how do i describe this – well, you can see the collar under the chin, there are two strips of material joined to this on either side of the neck which lead up over our head and are fixed to a cap beneath. There are different types of cap, we wear a fillet – a band of white material which ties at the back of the head -across our foreheads and a short white veil under the black or white outer veil. This is all pinned and tied together to keep it in place !!!
    Actually its quite comfortable if its pinned right, though it can get warm on a hot day! Glad you like the blog, stay with us. Pax

  81. Dear Elaine, thankyou for your lovely comments, like you and many others who are older i did many jobs before entering and i do think it shows that we can be adaptable and flexible. Also we do tend to have a longer youth, of searching, of finding our way – i do agree with what you say. Our lives are very different to a few generations ago when the norm would have been to do a certain type of job and stay in the area for life. I think another point is that there are less very young vocations – in the past there were big Catholic high schools run by religious, so young people were much more aware of a possible vocation and encouraged to consider it, religious were more obvious too. Now there are comparatively few schools staffed by religious either in or out of habit so many won’t even give vocation a thought until they are older when a possible ‘niggle’ from God becomes difficult to ignore.
    The Benedictine way does have a good balance of prayer,work and study – infact this is one of the hallmarks of the Rule – it is flexible and promotes growth, ( that’s not to say that others don’t) after all St Benedict sees the monastery as the ‘School of the Lord’s Service’, so we are constantly ‘learners’ on the pathway to God. You sound like you are busy and having fun, i hope it continues for you, pax

  82. Dear Mary, it’s great that you are reading the Rule and are enjoying it, reading it is the best way to get some idea of our spirituality. A portion of the Rule is read to the whole community every day at lunch, in the novitiate we read some of it and discuss it most days – we each use a different version and compare the words used which brings out a lot. We don’t study it for learnings sake but to understand what we are living under and to help us grow in it. At our Clothing ceremony we formally accept the Rule – this part made a big impact on me and yes we do follow it – with adaptations for time and place eg – in St Benedicts time corporal punishement was the norm where it’s not today. We do eat meat too – which some communities don’t and each have their own reasons for that one.
    I also get the Abbots newsletter and homily from Christ in the Desert which i print out for everyone to read and we do enjoy it. I like to see how things are going there as early on in our blogging one of their aspirants – now a postulant – made contact so we keep up on his journey and keep them all in our prayers.
    We have lots of books on Benedictine spirituality (as well as others) and we are encouraged to read them.
    In the novitiate at the moment we are concentrating on the Catechism and the Rule and a course is taught on the foundation and development of our community. Augustine Baker had a big influence on our community which is stlll here today and unlies our charism really – i have been told. This shows itself in simplicity and charity and the fact that we are not living this life rigidly – we are given a job and left to get on with it; we are allowed to fit our own lectio and study in and not checked up on – we are adults and we choose to be here in response to God’s calling, which means that there are a lot less structured activities than some communities.
    Apparently we do study Augustine Baker later in the novitiate and i have already started reading some of his writings too.
    With the saints – we follow the Ordo of the English Benedictine Congregation so those are the ones we concentrate on – many Benedictines of course; and our local midlands saints such as St Chad.
    We have a basic course in bible studies which are going through intermittently and slowly. Basically we can study or read the things that interest us. We don’t study to any high theological degree because the aim is not to pass exams but to immerse ourselves in God – especially at the beginning of this life. After profession we can do distance learning courses if we wish to, and there is a local centre – Maryvale ( see John Henry Newman) which sisters very occasionally go to for a lecture. I thnk i need a course on how to write succinctly!!!!
    Some sister will do more reading/study than others depending on their nature and time too. Pax

  83. Hello Sr Marie-Therese,

    Thank you for your kind response to my email; I was very interested in your last reply to Mary; studying theology is wonderful, and I’ve gained so much from it, but I think I have also understood that there needs to be a balance between knowing about God (theology) and knowing God (prayer, personal relationship). It could be very easy to substitute the one for the other and for faith to become sterile if study becomes an end in itself. I was also very interested in what you said about looking at the various versions of the Rule; how things are translated / expressed can create slightly different emphases or nuances that really make you think, and see different meanings and applications – and as the Rule is something to live by, not a ‘text’ to be dissected, that must be a very valuable approach.

    I would be interested to know if you use the psalms a lot for personal prayer – I know you will use them in Divine Office, but I find them quite wonderful for slow prayerful reading – it seems to me they express every human emotion – even great anger and bitterness – but in a way that is cathartic and healing.

    Best wishes to you all

  84. Dominican Philosophy – an interesting name you have there – welcome to our blog, I hope you get something from it and enjoy it. I almost missed your post, thanks for all of your questions, i will try to answer them now – i have to watch the time though.

    Our names – we can keep our baptismal name or choose another, we talk it over with our novice mistress who then tells Mother Abbess and she decides, we usually get the one we choose though it is not certain and sisters have been surprised in the past – weird and wonderful names – like Cunegunda – wouldn’t be given. Our name is announced as part of the Clothing ceremony, until then only Mothers and perhaps the novitiate know. My name is pronounced in the French way and there have been no problems with it, sometimes it gets shortened to Therese or MT on notes but not often.
    Silence – there is no vow of silence, we keep silence to help us to focus on God, too much noise is distracting and draws us away from him. It’s something we constantly have to work on and remind ourselves about as it can be hard to keep and yes, we can talk when we need to over work and talking is encouraged at recreation. Recreation is the time to talk, to let go a bit and relax and silence at that time is out of place. We have areas of the convent where we can take each other aside for a quick word if needed too.
    When we enter we alll go over the catechism so there is no need to be ‘catechized’ before coming, we just need to have a basic understanding of our faith and really be seeking God.
    In refectory we do sit in order and the youngest are served last, we also sit like this in Chapel and line up for statio ( procession into Chapel) in order too, I think this is quite usual. If there is a need the order can be changed.
    Orders in England – I don’t know which orders are growing here though during discernment I noticed that the Poor Clares and the Carmelites seemed to be much smaller and joining communities together, i may be wrong there though. Catholicism does seem to be growing here – and for the first time since the Reformation it is the largest Christian denomination – there are a lot of converts, myself included and a lot of Catholic immigrants – which probably account for it.
    I hope that helps, it is good to know that you are at a Domincan school too, we do have a fairly new active Domincan order here – I think they are called the Dominicans sisters of St Joseph and they look a nice, lively bunch with lots of youth work, you might like to check them out. Pax.

  85. Elaine, hi again, you are so right about the balance needed, we only read and study to fill our minds with the things of God and help us to get closer to Christ not for the sake of it, and yes there is a risk that the ‘subject’ itself will become more important than this.
    Using different translations of the Rule helps us to tease it out and gain a better understanding of it as some the words used in some translations can put us off completely. Personally I know that when I read the word ‘docility’ I back off, whereas a different one will help to draw me in. We also use other resources too – I have found a yahoo group called the Benedictine Way which sends daily readings of the Rule and a reflection from one of the monks at St Mary’s Abbey, Petersham, USA. It is very thought provoking and we have now begun to use this as part of our classes too
    The Psalms are wonderful, I totally agree with you. We say the whole psalter in Office each week and I was encouraged to use them for Lectio too – I now use the daily Gospel reading or the daily psalm, often both as there is a common theme. They were the prayer book of Israel, they do express every emotion and I think that in every moment someone in the world today can look at a psalm and say this is how I feel. Even if I don’t feel the emotions expressed at that particular moment, I know there are times I have done, probably will do and someone, somewhere is doing now, so I am saying it for all of us. They link us to the past, unite us with others in the present and are very cathartic, they can give me the words I can’t always express. Isn’t it awesome too, that King David knew them ( maybe even wrote some), and that Christ knew and sang them too… Wow, what a gift they are, what a treasure we have.
    I am glad that you are enjoying your course, I hope it goes well, pax et bonum,

  86. Dear Sr. Marie-Therese,

    I have some questions on the Divine Office books you use. Does your community use the 3 volume set like the I know the Carmels do in the UK and then have a Benedictine Proper Offices for the Saints and Blesseds? Or do you use a whole different Divine Office set and how many volumes?

    Here in the states we have a 4 volume set – which I also have. I absolutely and completely LOVE the Divine Office! I am so sad or feel ‘incomplete’ if I can’t pray all the hours! As you were also a nurse like myself, you probably know how hard it is to steal away time and read one office during a work shift, but I try my best!

    I know once you mentioned that your community condenses a few of the day time offices into one – are they the Mid Morning, Midday and Mid Afternoon prayer hours? I can imagine how this would be one long and beautiful time! I visited a Dominican cloistered monastery once and I used to feel bereft and sad when the Office for any hour was over! I wished it was longer! They didn’t rush through it or anything, just that I love the Divine Office so much I didn’t want it to end!

    How is your singing (or is it chanting?) going? Is this for the Divine Office or mass or both?


  87. HI Mary, we have our own set of Office books with files to go with them for saints, season’s etc so no, we don’t use the Divine Office books that you mention. We print them out on A4 paper and bind them ourselves – we have one each for Morning Office ( combined Vigils and Lauds; Midday Office ( combined Terce, Sext and None); Vespers and Compline, with an A5 book for midday saints, it’s really very easy and yet everything is still in there. Combining them does make the Offices longer but it works better for us – it was actually done by Stanbrook for the whole congregation some years ago, though some houses have now split Vigils and Lauds again. We do say the whole psalter each week too.
    Before I came there was no way I could do the whole office. I used Benedictine Daily Prayer which I liked very much partly because it contains all the monastic things like seasonal antiphons and prayers. I usually managed a morning office going to work on public transport and sometimes coming home too – it depended on how full the bus was of course and how tired i was – you know how it is!
    Re our singing, well Fr Cuthbert is very busy so we haven’t seen him for some time now, maybe when he is free he will be able to come back though. He is so busy because he goes to the Vatican and all over the place to teach liturgy – Solesmes congregation ( which he belongs to) are reknowned for their chant and liturgy.
    Thanks for the ecard you sent to us, pax sr marie therese.

  88. i love your blog
    i think and fell like god calling me to be a sister in christ and i love to to come and see would it would be like in and nun home plz
    love in christ
    p.s sorry for h

  89. Hi Vicky and welcome,
    if you are interested in visiting the first thing to do is to contact our Novice-Mistress – Mother Anne – gertmary@googlemail.com and tell her a bit about yourself then take it from there. You are also welcome to contact me at novblog@googlemail.com if you want to and of course you can ask anything here on the blog. Please pray for Maria who is coming from the USA on Thursday to meet us and start her aspirancy with us.
    hope to hear more from you again, pax sr marie-therese.

  90. Hello sister,

    Thank you so much for this blog. It is really interesting and has solved many doubts that I had about nuns. I’ve sometimes thought about becoming one, but I’m not sure that’s what God wants of me. I’m a bit confused about it all.

    I just wanted to thank you for the blog. God bless you.

    Hi there,
    Thanks for your comment. You know, depending on where you live, you could come and have a chat with us if it makes you feel better. It helps to talk things through sometimes then you have a clearer picture of what monastic life is about and religious life in general as each community is different. You’re welcome for the day or overnight if you wish!
    Don’t hesitate to get back to me.
    Sr. D

  91. Hi,

    Thank you. I’m from Spain, I live in Madrid. Though I go to England often, because I like the country very much. This summer I’m going to UK in August. Maybe I should go and visit you.

    God bless.

    Hi ,
    Yes, no problem! Just let me know as soon as possible about your trip to England because in August we have quite alot of guests and it’ll be a shame if you missed out a visit. You could contact me at novblog@googlemail.com

    Take care and god bless – hope you’re having a nice easter?
    sr. d

  92. Hi Sr Davina,

    I have a question about debt, which seems particularly relevant in these times of ‘the credit crunch’!. I understand that to join a religious order you must be without any debts, but some orders will not count a government student loan as a debt as you make repayments only through employment wages. What is the rule at Colwich? I think I read somewhere on here about people being asked to wait before entering while they pay off debts?

    Thanks for carrying on with this blog, you are doing a great job- its great to have the chance to ask questions in this way


    Thanks Lisa,
    To answer your question over the goverment student loans you are absolutely right that we don’t count it as a debt!!!!!

    Sr. D

  93. Hello, just a few questions,

    Will there be another ‘Come and See’ weekend in 2010?
    Is the Abbey easy to get to by public transport?
    Is Student Loan debt a problem?


    1. Hi Simone,
      Thanks for your questions – well i am pleased to say YES we will be holding another ‘come and see weekend’ i haven’t got dates as yet but hopefull for the 2nd weekend in august once more….but i will advertise when the time is right. So all being well those who missed the first one will be able to come to this. The Abbey is quite easy to find from Stafford train station and anyone who wishes to come i will let them know – its basically one bus journey about 20/30 mins. Student loans??? – well i suggest you read or re-read the ‘about’ section on the site as it has a small paragraph over student loans.
      Hope this is helpful…
      god bless for now
      sr. davina

  94. Dear Sr. Davina,

    In the May 8,2009 post called “A Day At Colwich”, it says, “A warning bell at 3 mins to 12 sounds to remind us that Midday Office is about to take place. Once more the choir is filled with songs of praise from the psalms. Sometimes groups come for a quiet day and they too share in our midday office.”

    I don’t mean to be nosy, but where do these groups of visitors sit? Right beside the nuns in the choir stalls or is there a separate part for visitors?



    Hi Jenn, Thanks – yes, good question. Because of the size of our Choir (Church/chapel) and the sometimes large amounts of people in the group (anything from 6 people to 60) they sit in the vacant choir stalls and the pews and also we have special books for them to use. Is this ok?
    Sr. D

  95. Dear Mother Abbess,

    Congratulations, by the way! That is fine (as I can’t pay to build on an extension or something for you! ha), it is just strange at first as so many chapels have the separate sections done in some. Does it bother all of you? Do you get many people and have them every day or just a few times a week or on special days? Does it make the Midday Office sound strange if others who aren’t office savvy join in?!


  96. Is there a specific way to send donations to the community? I also wondered if there was a ‘Friends of Colwich’ type list or group or if such a thing had been considered. I know some orders have something similar so they can contact well wishers to acquire specific skills or request specific help.

    Thanks for this comment, well if anyone does wish to send a donation the best way is to send a cheque to us made payable to S. Mary’s Abbey, Colwich. Most people do this and many of our guests do it this way, but there are exceptions if we know the people well and they want to contribute on a monthly basis.
    Your other query, well I haven’t thought about a ‘Friends of Colwich’ list, could you give me some more info on what you would like, and please email me on this one.
    I look forward to hearing what you have to say, and I hope that this info is what you wanted?

    God bless
    Mo. Davina

  97. Dear Mother Abbess,

    I was wondering and had a few questions on the public attending your midday office. I guess any public who wants to attend midday office sits with the sisters?
    How many attend?
    Do you have visitors every day, a few days a week or now and then?
    Are they only allowed to attend the midday office or any of the other offices?
    Is it not a distraction for the sisters with the public sitting beside or near them? Are they noisy?!
    This is new to me as I’ve heard of the public coming for the offices but sitting in the public side of the chapel and and away from the usually unseen nuns. Thanks for your help in all my questions! God bless.

    Jennifer W.

    Hello Jennifer,
    Thanks for your questions! Yes, people are allowed to come and join us for midday office if they so wish, but not many do. They do not sit alongside the community but sit at the back of our choir in a separate area, but also at the same time joining in. Our staying guests almost always join in with all the offices, but it varies on the person whether they come for all 4 offices (morning, midday, vespers, and compline).
    People are welcome to come everyday if they wish, and they do for daily Mass. It is in true Benedictine fashion they are welcomed as St. Benedict said: ‘Make hospitality your special care’!

    Hope this helps you???
    Mo. Davina

  98. Dear Mother Davina,

    If one had a vocation but had a knee that would sometimes get a bit stiff (now and then) but the woman could still do her work – house, yard, etc – would that be a problem to entrance to Colwich? I can knee ok on things like kneelers or something cushion like on the floor for some time.

    It’s funny how myself and a friend who is discerning her vocation have a slight knee problem – it must be something God wants us to suffer and offer up – “the grace of suffering” for souls I guess! We both feel God is still calling us and will give us the grace to fulfill our vocation/religious life duties despite this.

    I do hope not as I want to follow my vocation.

    1. Thanks Jennifer,
      It probably wouldn’t be an issue if your general health is ok! After all its what God wants of you that is the main thing and if his will for you is to enter Religious life then he will sort out any problems that may arise – Grace will be given to cope!

  99. I heard that EBC convents are reviewing their constitutions (or this was being reviewed by General Chapter 2012/13). Should those discerning be worried, in the past changes elsewhere seem to have been for the worst (despite maybe the best of intentions!). Are you able to shed any light on what could be tweaked or changed? Thank you!

    1. Thanks Lisa,
      Ok, let me just say, there is no reason why anyone should be concerned, it is just that the Constitutions are revised every now and then to keep things flowing well!

  100. Hello,
    What would you say to someone who felt a vocation to Catholic religious life before they became Catholic? I am currently seeking to convert as a result of feeling a possible vocation and can’t help feeling that this is happening in rather the wrong order.

    1. Hi Lily,

      Thanks for your comment. Your question isn’t unusual, a few people find themselves in that position and I’ve know a few people myself. I would certainly try and encourage someone if they had a religious vocation and do whatever I could to help them. But many people find that once they have been received into the Catholic Church they do need to wait another 2 or 3 yrs before they could try their vocation and maybe some feel put off. But it is a wise decision as alot of new converts think they have a vocation and not all of them have. It is a grace of God and its needs a lot of discerning.
      I myself waited 5 yrs to enter religious life after being received into the Church, even then I was 21.

      1. Thank you for your answer. I’m glad to know that this isn’t an unusual situation, and I will bear in mind what you have said. Thanks again!

  101. My dear Sisters, Ann-Marie from Canada here think of you all dearly and miss all of you, special prayers and hugs going out to you all. Think I miss Divine Office the most prayers in Latin, and the joy it gave me. The Abby was a place that made life make sense.
    Thinking of you all xx

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