Britain’s newest religious community has just received the keys to its very first convent – a converted barn near Dereham in Norfolk.
Sr Camilla Oberding, leader of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham (COLW) said the order, founded in 2004, received the keys on 8th
December 2017, the Solemnity of The Immaculate Conception.
“Thanks to the generosity of many founding benefactors, as well as an incredible interest-free loan from the Discalced Carmelite Fathers, we managed to raise the monies necessary,” Sr Camilla told The Universe.
Dereham is in the Diocese of East Anglia and about 30 minutes’ drive from Walsingham. Sr Camilla described the converted barn as “amazingly monastic in style with cloisters, a double staircase and an upstairs loft space that makes the most beautiful oratory”. She said the house is eco-friendly, running on a biomass boiler, and costs about the same to run as a terraced house.
The property comes with four acres of grounds and a large outdoor barn.
“It is miraculously suited to our needs – so much better than all the other properties visited that it seemed to be made for us,” added Sr Camilla.
Last July, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, COLW received its new decree as a public association of the faithful destined to become an Ecclesial Family of Consecrated Life.
This means that, faithful to the original inspiration, they will have three branches – one of consecrated women, one of consecrated men (brothers and priests), and another of lay people. “We plan to call the new house in Dereham the House of the Divine Will and we aim not only to provide formation for novices there but also accompany young people discerning their vocation and support married couples and young families,” she said.
“We are still fundraising to pay off the loan from the Carmelites and also to finish renovating the house (total cost £400,000), so that a suitable library and chapel can be built,” she added.
“We are also looking for a volunteer COLW office administrator at the Dereham base so that we are freer to welcome visitors to the shrine and retreatants at Dowry House.”
Devoted to Our Lady of Walsingham and to the spreading of the spirituality of England’s Nazareth, COLW will continue running the Dowry House Retreat Centre which opened last year and working at the shrine.
Picture: Sr Camilla Oberding, left, with the sisters of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham, outside the new convent.