Advent 2022 Newsletter

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Dear Friends,

As COVID recedes life has become more ‘normal’. We are especially grateful that we are able to welcome our chaplains and parishioners, retreatants and friends to celebrate daily Mass together again.

In June 2021 we re-opened the Guesthouse on a self-catering basis for individuals. With the help of a most generous donation we were able to upgrade some of our guest accommodation to en-suite rooms. This work has been ongoing, and we hope to have the final stage completed before Christmas. The guesthouse was busy throughout the summer and we have extended our guest season into the autumn months. All the comments from our guests are most appreciative.

When the unimaginable happened and Russia invaded Ukraine, the community decided to offer St Anne’s, our self- contained chalet, to host a displaced Ukrainian family. We put ourselves on the list of prospective hosts for the government’s Homes for Ukraine initiative, but the weeks passed and we heard nothing. Finally, through the providential contact of a friend with the newly founded organisation Canterbury 4 Ukraine, we were able to sponsor ‘our’ family to come to England. After endless phone calls and paperwork and checks by the authorities we finally welcomed granny Svitlana, mum Aliona and her sons Eugene and Yaroslav – as well as their tiny dog Lex – in  the early hours of 15 July. With great support from local friends and from the sisters the family has settled in and the boys are doing very well at school and college. We love popping in for a visit but we quickly learned that no visit is complete without the consumption of the latest result of Svitlana’s or Aliona’s delicious cooking or baking.

The Salvation Army in Minster has also made a bungalow available for refugees, and we are looking forward to helping them welcome another Ukrainian family,  hopefully before Christmas. We continue to pray daily for the peoples of Ukraine and Russia and for an end to this terrible war.

In January Sr. Walburga went home to be with her father who was seriously ill and to support the family. She stayed on to help care for Phil and she and her mother were with him when he died on 16 February. We pray for dear Phil and for all the family.

From March to June Sr. Walburga took part in the Monastic Formators’ Programme which is held every other year in Rome and Assisi. She felt truly enriched by the experience of living in community with monks and nuns from around the globe while pursuing studies in the monastic tradition and in human development. The program also included trips to historical sites and the abbeys of Subiaco and Montecassino, and the second half of the course was based at Assisi. One of the highlights was the celebration of Holy Week in Rome.

Meanwhile – back on the ranch – we had our lambing season. This year our ‘midwives’ had to cope with multiple problems, but in the end we had 14 beautiful lambs, including sets of twins and triplets. We were grateful for enthusiastic help from our friends with the ensuing bottle-feeding, both on the day- and the night-shifts.

Of course we followed the celebrations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and took part in local celebration, including a beautiful service for the village community at St Mary’s. We shared the heartfelt mourning of the nation and the great sense of loss on Her Majesty’s death. We give thanks to God for her generous service and Christian witness and continue to pray for her eternal rest.

Our Solar Panel Project gathered momentum in early summer. After many months of negotiations and waiting for permissions from various authorities we were finally given the go-ahead – subject to the necessary digging in the farmyard being supervised. Mr G. Moody from the Thanet Archaeological Society was present on a watching brief and produced a comprehensive report. We watched with excitement as the footings of two medieval walls came to light, probably part of a far more extensive farming operation than might be supposed from what remains visible today. From the 11th century onwards Minster was in the hands of the monks of St Augustine’s (Canterbury) who made it the hub of the grain growing industry of the entire island.

After a number of teething problems the solar panel installation finally began to generate energy in October.

We are now firmly on the Augustine Camino. Throughout the summer we welcomed individuals and groups on pilgrimage. In July the annual Youth Pilgrimage organised by the Neo-Catechumenate spent the afternoon with us. The group numbering over 200 participants asked the sisters to share their vocation stories and prayed and reflected together on the scriptures. We also hosted other groups, among them the lively and appreciative Year 6 of St. Ethelbert’s School in Ramsgate, and more recently a group of young men from the Catholic French Scouts in London on a leadership training weekend.

We were happy to welcome Sisters Zsofia and Marcela of The Sisters of Social Service who spent some weeks with us this summer;  now Sister Miriam of the SSS is spending some months of sabbatical with us. Their Congregation of Religious was founded in Hungary. They work in a variety of apostolates, especially with the poor, and their spirituality is based on the Rule of St Benedict.

Our friend and electrician Nick Mitchell spent a hot June day as amateur photographer and filmmaker, following us around from workplace to workplace, from Chapel to Refectory to Garden and Farm. The resulting pictures and videos are anything but amateurish and have found their way into a new Exhibition in the Barn in Parkminster. The magnificent photo exhibition is already complete. Our Oblate Maud Felicity worked with Sr. Aelred on our history; the texts were then recorded and will be incorporated into short multimedia presentations which will be available to our visitors in Parkminster and eventually on our website.

Despite the great water shortage this summer the hot weather and a great deal of hard work combined to produce bumper crops in garden and orchard.

We were kept busy processing a great variety of vegetables; wheelbarrow loads of apples ripening out of season went into the freezers stewed or pureed. The walnut crop exceeded over 300 pounds (unshelled) and we continue to process walnuts at recreation, as well as sharing them with our friends.

When the weather finally changed, several days of torrential rain caused a great deal of roof damage. We had the roofs secured on a temporary basis; in the spring we will have to decide how far our funds will go for more permanent repairs and replacements.

In October M Nikola paid a visit to our founding house, the Abbey of Saint Walburga in Eichstätt, Bavaria. It was a lovely opportunity to meet old friends and get to know the younger members of the community. She was also warmly welcomed to be present at the Chapter Meeting of the Federation of Bavarian Abbeys of Benedictine Nuns which includes houses in Austria and the USA.

Father Jim Hurley, a great friend of our community and for many years Episcopal Vicar for the Religious in the Archdiocese, retired from this post this autumn. We are most grateful for the kindness, assistance and encouragement he and the sisters on the Vicar’s Team have always shown us. We pray for many blessings on Fr Jim and look forward to his visits in the future.

The new Episcopal Vicar is Abbot Hugh Alan O.Praem., the superior of the Community of Norbertine (or Praemonstratensian) Canons who have recently

settled in the Archdiocese. We have already had the pleasure of welcoming  several members of the community here at Minster.

The Concert of Hope, a major fundraising effort for Canterbury 4 Ukraine, took place in St. Mary’s Church on the first Sunday of Advent. Christians Together in Minster planned the event. Generous volunteers worked in the wings to ensure a warm (!) welcome, provisions for the performers etc. The event was well supported despite the wet weather. St. Mary’s Choir, the Salvation Army Band, members of the Bruderhof Community and the Sisters all contributed to the enjoyable program. The undoubted highlight of the evening was the Rhapsody on the Theme of Ukrainian Folksongs, commissioned by Joyce Ogden for the occasion and written by Jacob Bride, a young local composer. The first and second violin were played by two gifted young women, Alana and Lottie Griffiths. A special mention is due to Chris Randall, the organist and general accompanist. No Chris, no concert!

The concert realised £947.05. With further cash donations and numerous contributions via Go-Fund-Me we raised almost £4,000. We are deeply grateful to all who made the Concert such a memorable and successful event!

An Anglo-Saxon woman named Eadburgh has been making headlines in the news recently (check: ms-selden-supra-30 or: The Guardian 29 November 2022). Dry-point incisions of the name were discovered with the help of state-of-the-art technology in the margins of an 8th century manuscript of the Acts of the Apostles. Saint Eadburga, the third abbess of Minster, has been named as a possible candidate. The time frame would fit, and a definite connection to the ancient MS would be quite exciting. At the same time it seems highly improbable that a nun who was asked by St Boniface to produce high quality manuscripts for the missionaries in Germany with her sisters  would deliberately deface the Scriptures with multiple scratchings, some of them cutting into the sacred text.

Our Sr. Ancilla continues happy and well cared for at St Brelades Residential Home in Herne Bay. Although her mobility has lessened and her dementia increased she enjoys our visits. She always asks for news of the sisters and is still able to reminisce with pleasure or speak about prayer and her love of creation.

With our senior Senior, Sr. John the Baptist, we are looking forward to another Platinum Jubilee. Sr. John was the first candidate to join the newly founded community at Minster. She will be celebrating 70 years in monastic vows on 10th February 2023, the Feast of St Scholastica. A few weeks later she will be celebrating her 97th birthday!

We wish all of you Blessings of Joy and Peace this Christmas and throughout the New Year! With our love and prayers, M. Nikola and the Community