It’s the start of a new era for Wales’ only Anglican religious community, Tymawr Convent, as the next Reverend Mother is installed, writes Bishop Dominic Walker, OSG.
Nestled in the beautiful hills above Monmouth is Tymawr Convent, the home of the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Cross and the only Anglican Religious Community based in Wales. The community, founded in Chichester in 1914, moved to Wales in 1923 to live a life of contemplative prayer and to provide a welcome for guests and retreatants. During the year many individuals and groups stay at the Convent or in the self-catering guest house and enjoy the convent’s extensive grounds and remarkable chapel.
The life of the nuns is centred around the daily midday Eucharist with four Offices and periods of private prayer. Silence is kept for much of the day and meals are normally eaten in silence. The convent has a well-stocked library and visitors are invited to occasional study days. Alongside the community are many volunteers and also an extended family of oblates, companions and associates who support the Sisters in their life of prayer.
On 3rd May, the community celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Dedication of the Chapel and, as the Bishop Visitor, I installed and blessed Sister Katharine as the new Reverend Mother in succession to Mother Gillian Mary who had served for 21 years during two periods in that role.
Whilst the community is not as large as it once was, they have been blessed with a small but steady flow of vocations with sisters taking their life vows knowing that their life will be lived at the convent and dedicated to the sacred Cross.
Before entering the convent, Mother Katharine was for 28 years a member of L’Arche whose founder Jean Vanier was a close friend. L’Arche communities support people with learning disabilities and Katharine worked in London and India and was a member of the L’Arche International Council. She is also an accomplished artist and has had exhibitions of her paintings.
When asked how she saw her new role, Mother Katharine said, “I understand my task to be that of holding open a sacred space so that each sister can grow in her love of God, self and others. We are small in number, yet there is a radiance far greater than we can know or even imagine. Of course, I hope that others will come and join us and make a commitment to a life hidden in Christ, and I also hope that others will come and share our life for a short while and then take the gift of the community back to their homes, work places and social contexts.”