Sister Mary Michael CHCreflects upon the 150th anniversary of the Community of the Holy Cross and the wider future
By the grace of God, the monastic Community of the . Holy Cross, now at Rempstone in Southwell diocese, celebrates this year the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of its foundation. For the sisters this is a time for rejoicing, and thankfulness for the many graces so undeservedly received over long years.
Undoubtedly, too, it is a time for stock-taking and reassessment. Who are we and what is God asking of us in the days ahead?
How tentative the early beginnings of the Religious Life had to be in the mid-nineteenth-century Church of England, and how distrusted by the bishops of the day! It is no small miracle that all of this changed radically over the intervening years. We are now accepted as part of the life of the church, except for a few extremists who still condemn us out of hand.
Vital role in the Church
Have we an ongoing role to play? There have been many other drastic changes in the Church and the world in the last century and a half, and the communities have needed to adapt. It is surely a mark of God's blessing that many of us are still around. However, this is not at all a matter for complacency. Our own Church of England, together with the wider Anglican Communion, is in a state of deep crisis. There is talk of survival techniques. The Communities too are sometimes asking how, if at all, they are going to be able to continue.
There is little surprise however, that Religious should find themselves in a state similar to the Church at large. Consecration to God under vows draws us deeper into the heart of the Church and of the suffering world. If another part of the body suffers, we all suffer too.
Despite appearing to be peripheral, the Religious Life remains vital to the Church's well-being, since it is a witness to its essential purpose, the greater glory of God, the priority of prayer, praise and holiness of life.
Pursue these things, and all other necessaries will be added, as God sees the need. Is then our current Church of England - and not least the readership of this journal - sufficiently aware of the Religious Communities, and sufficiently supportive of them as we seek to ensure a future for our Catholic and Evangelical tradition?
Religious life at the forefront
In earlier times, our Catholic parishes were familiar with Sisters living and working in their midst, or with Fathers and Brothers holding missions and giving retreats. That picture has changed. There is nostalgia in some areas for what used to be, and lip service is paid to the value of the Religious Life, but more than this is needed, nothing less than a paradigm shift.
The Religious Life has to be at the forefront of thinking and planning in the hearts and minds of priests and people alike within our Catholic constituency, if communities like the Community of the Holy Cross at Rempstone are to continue into the future.
It is not so much what any of us might do to foster the Religious Life in the coming days, if and when some sort of new province should be in place. Vocations are needed right now. Exciting challenges are already here for those God is calling to CHC and the other traditional communities, and indeed all communities, since God is not bound by our self-appointed demarcation lines. The communities are places of prayer and work for the unity and integrity of God's Holy Catholic Church. Their well-being and that of the Church go together hand in glove.
Looking to the future
It is sobering to think that I have been in the Community of the Holy Cross for nearly a third of its history. Those years have seen many blessings, many ups and downs, but above all have witnessed to God's faithfulness. Unless our Lord decrees otherwise, the torch has to be passed on. Please pray with and for us, as we do for you, that in everything God's will may be done.
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