The Community of St Mary the Virgin, Wantage, Athanasius and the ordinariate

Fans of C. S. Lewis will recall that he wrote a preface to a translation of Athanasius, De incarnatione.  To my surprise, I find that the book is online here, including his preface.  This is a good thing, for it is a very nice translation.

The translation was made by “a religious of C.S.M.V.”  This was Sister Penelope, of the Community of St. Mary the Virgin, Wantage.  The correspondence of C. S. Lewis includes a number of letters between them.

CSMV is that unusual thing, an Anglican order of nuns.  As might be supposed, it emerged from the aftermath of the Oxford Movement in the 19th century, and was founded in 1848.[1]

By accident today I came across a blog post containing some news about it.  This led me to other sources.  It seems that most of the nuns are leaving the Anglican church and becoming catholics.  This includes the Mother Superior, and all the able-bodied nuns.  The frail elderly nuns will be nursed by the rest, even so, although I have been unable to find the page describing what is intended.  It is, I suppose, yet another sad consequence of the demand for women priests, gay priests etc. 

One sad story from 2011 stated that the nuns, many now elderly, had been abused by one of the carers who was supposed to help look after them.

The tribunal was told that the community of Anglican nuns had two elements – the convent housing fewer than 25 nuns and a wing where another 15 elderly, vulnerable and infirm nuns were cared for by a nursing manager, five nurses and 11 care assistants, whose job was to feed and bathe the sisters, and help them attend prayer meetings.

It is good to know that so curious an enterprise still continues, however.

UPDATE: The details from the Mother Superior of the transfer to Rome are here.

Of the twenty two sisters who currently live at the Convent at Wantage, eleven of us believe that we are being called into the full communion of the Catholic Church as part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This discernment has been reached after constant prayer and in discussion with spiritual advisers. These eleven sisters are in the main, but not exclusively, the able bodied members who provide the work and management to keep the Community going, so, since the Ordinariate Community do have to relocate, considerable time has been spent and will continue to be devoted to ensure that the remaining members of CSMV will be well cared for: spiritually, physically, emotionally as well as financially.  …

Those of us who will now enter into the Ordinariate have always had the care of our elderly and frail sisters uppermost in our minds. It has never been our desire or intention that our fellow sisters who choose to remain in the Church of England should be neglected in any way; quite the contrary. We have been working ceaselessly to ensure that in our absence there will be continuing care for those sisters who remain and who need it and that suitable trustees of the CSMV’s charity will be appointed in place of myself and my co-trustees. This has now been put in place. When we return temporarily, we will be able to help provide support and assistance for the remaining CSMV sisters as they make decisions about their longer term future.  

  1. [1]http://www.oxfordoratory.org.uk/news.php?id=233

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