Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stanbrook Abbey 2

My Stanbrook Abbey 1 post, and the video, explain the mixed feelings to which I referred. Clearly the nuns who speak on the video (4 out of 22) are happy and hopeful for the future. Clearly they are women of great faith who believe that the Holy Spirit guides them. The Stanbrook reports in the Benedictine Yearbooks between 2003-9 often refer to a process of discerment that led to the decision to move. It's hard to argue with the basic decision. The old Stanbrook was too big for them and was cripplingly expensive to run. Oil and gas heating was costing them sometimes as much as £6,000 a month. There were no lifts to ease the movement of old incapacitated sisters, and lifts would have been prohibitively costly to put in. Set against these arguments is the one that raises hands in horror at the loss to our Catholic Heritage of historic Stanbrook, its contents and associations with many literary and musical nuns of the past, and their famous friends. When George Bernard Shaw brought a gift of a stone from the Holy Land, his friend Abbess Laurentia cast it into the garden where it would make the whole place holy ground because no one would be able to identify it from any other. This last argument was firmly knocked on the head by the new Abbess when she said in one interview 'we are not museum curators'.

There is another thing that worries me and that is the departure from Stanbrook in 2003 by three of its nuns to East Hendred Monastery near Oxford which was founded in 2004 by Bishop Hollis of Portsmouth, but not mentioned in the Yearbook until 2008. The timing of this incident leads one to wonder whether there had been a mini-rebellion at the decision to abandon Stanbrook. One of those nuns Dame Catherine Wyebourne stated in a New Statesman interview that in 2003, she was told by her superiors that she would have to leave Stanbrook, at least for a while.

More about this in the next post.

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