Letter from Sister Valeria
I am sending you a letter which the Smethwick Sisters sent out in December.
On January 1st three of us Anglicans went to the Oxford Oratory to support our Mother Winsome and ten of our Sisters who were received into the Roman Catholic Church and inaugurated as a new RC Community named: Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The sermon, by the Provost of the Oratorian Order, mentioned their Anglican roots in Wantage. On January 2nd we waved them all off, not to return. They are staying as guests in an enclosed Benedictine Abbey for 6 weeks of rest and renewal, and by then will hopefully have found a property of their own. The Bishop of Oxford has appointed new Trustees for our now small community of 19 Sisters, 12 of whom are ‘in care’ and frail – one died yesterday. Sister Jean Frances is the Sister in Charge, with two of us at the Convent to support her Sister JF and me over 80. The house in Smethwick continues.
We know this is a shock to you especially as it is all in the press, but we know God is utterly faithful, and that we have a future in Him. We are in good heart, and the five times a day Office plus daily Eucharist keep us worshipping and steady, praise God, as do your prayers and the praises of over 500 sisters in heaven - many known to you.
I send much love with my prayers, and will be in touch later. God bless and keep you all, dear and loyal SMOGS,
+ Valeria CSMV
Letter from the Smethwick Sisters
We would like to tell you about a radical change that is about to take place in the Community of St. Mary the Virgin. A number of sisters became aware of God’s call to them to become Roman Catholics whilst hoping to remain within CSMV. Eleven sisters now wish to join the Ordinariate of the Catholic Church. This provision was made by Pope Benedict in 2009, whereby groups of Anglicans might transfer their allegiance to the Catholic Church, whilst retaining much of their Anglican heritage. The Revd. Mother and ten sisters will be received into the Ordinariate of the Catholic Church on 1st January 2013. After a time of retreat they will return to the Convent at Wantage as guests while they search for a new property.
The five sisters at Smethwick, together with the remaining sisters at the Convent, are committed to living their vows as Anglicans within CSMV. Each of us believes that God means us to continue in the Church of England. Our hope had been that we would be able to live alongside each other as Anglicans and Catholics, but for legal reasons this has not been possible. It is with great sadness, but still in friendship with one another, that after long consultation with the Bishop of Oxford and advisers, we have had to accept that separation is necessary.
The house at Smethwick hopes to continue as a place of prayer, welcome & ministry in the neighbourhood. Sr. Jean Frances will shortly be moving to the Convent and will become Sister in Charge of the sisters of C.S.M.V. at the beginning of January. Sr. Stella will become the Sister in Charge of the Smethwick household.
We ask you to hold us in your prayers in this challenging time of change.
Yours in the love of Christ,
Sisters Jean Frances, Phoebe Margaret, Mary Jennifer, Lorna and Stella
Letter from the Bishop of Oxford
I’m very pleased to be able to write to you now as Visitor to CSMV and to assure you that we are moving forward hopefully and with confidence in God’s grace. Many of you have been in touch with me recently and so it has become impractical to reply individually – for which I apologise. (I’m also on sabbatical!) Thank you for all your expressions of support for the sisters and your offers of help, ideas for the future etc. It’s been heartening to hear so much love and care expressed so generously.
The 11 sisters who have now left are being formed into a new religious community called the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary (SBVM). As you know, they were received into full communion with Rome on 1st January in what was clearly a beautiful and moving service. I’m sure we all wish them every opportunity to flourish on their journey.
The new Trustees (at present Baroness Judith Wilcox, Prebendary Desmond Tillyer, Ven. Dr Joy Tetley, and hopefully another very able priest) have been excellently advised both legally and financially and are making it possible for the new SBVM community to become established in a property which will remain a CSMV asset and which is in a different part of the country.
In the meantime our focus is on the wellbeing of CSMV. Sr Jean Frances has bravely taken on the leadership role as Acting Sister-in-charge, with Sr Valeria and Sr Lorna in close support. 11 sisters are in St Raphael’s or elsewhere, and three remain in Smethwick, but many are able to help in various ways and the community is worshiping happily together. The employed staff are excellent and the contracts with Sanctuary Home Care and Connect Catering seem to be working well. What I think the community would appreciate is the prayer, presence, love and encouragement of Oblates, Associates and other friends. The Guest Wing remains open and welcoming.
The future is in God’s hands. CSMV is of course open to vocational enquiries, but the priorities now need to be consolidating the community, establishing stability, and being open to serve God and the people of God in whatever way he calls.
Thank you for all you mean to the community, just as it means so much to you.
With all good wishes in Christ