Beginnings 1


Moving our monastery just before the beginning of Advent of course, brings to mind that Mary and Joseph too were on the move.

Leaving behind all that is familiar….familiar faces, familiar places, even leaving behind the familiar routines of the day - all security thrown to the wind. What’s going to happen next? Who will help us?

We knew we had a bed to sleep in, even if it was unmade because we were carrying our bedding with us, but much was unfamiliar, unchartered territory.

We all had to decide too what was precious to ourselves and our community and what could be left behind. For some of us, it was experienced as a layering process, peeling off one layer at a time, giving away one thing, throwing away something else - until the essential was left.

Mary and Joseph knew what was essential, without any layering process. The seed of life growing inside Mary. Their attention was totally focused on protecting that seed of life life within her… for the journey, blankets to keep Mary and her unborn child warm.

We too need to remember the seed of new life that we are carrying to birth at Christmas, that which is absolutely essential to us, the seed of Christ within us, there by virtue of our baptism.

We need to surround Him with the things that keep him alive and well within us and discard, give away or recycle that which may be unhelpful or simply surplus.

We need to develop the spirituality of Mary and Joseph - refugees on a journey to find a place to bring Jesus to birth.

How to move a monastery 12

We are here! Lady Poverty, faithful to the last, gloriously confused our final leaving - which was late. We landed around 4:30 on November 28 to be greeted by children and families from the Parish with balloons and sandwiches. There was a wonderful Mass for the first Sunday of Advent, with 400 children - they did the homily in dance!!! Home from home clearly!

We have now been unpacking for a week and trying to arrive at a degree of order. Our success is far from total, particularly with some of the worlds most relaxed and contemplative plumbers, electricians and builders ambling about.

Peace and goodness to all and a blest Advent!


Marian House of the Holy Spirit

Poor Clare Colettine Community

Brooklyn Road




Our Phone number is 0115 9278489

from outside UK it is 0144 115 9278489

Bear with us for the time being you will probably get an Ansafone - but we do ring back

Main Email is

How to move a monastery is signing out…………

How to move a monastery 10

Lady Poverty

Still TMD

Lady Poverty was an idea of our father Francis (Assisi not Buenos Aires). You accept the worst thing that can come your way as if it is the friendly, playful intervention of your ideal love. Lady Poverty in action is called Perfect Joy: you come home, no one recognises you, they sweep you off the doorstep, you knock again and ask for food - they beat you up and throw you out in the snow a long way from anywhere…. Now this is what the Americans call The Crunch. Do you sit in the snow hurling blasphemies at your reluctant hosts and howling at what has been done to you? No. You get up dust each other down, laugh till you cry and trudge along to the next door, acknowledging that you deserve it, generally, and limp on without a dint in your common sense and self-respect. Lady Poverty is a parable of Redemption - you cannot save yourself. It is God who saves.

If you know, by experience, that you can do this please come and join us! Expertise in this area requires constant practice and we do get it.

So - this is the real thing - a big bill comes in for the current stage of rebuilding at Notts. We offer them a cheque - they say they are having an audit - can we pay online? All our funds to adjust Marian House are a friendly loan. Can you feel Lady Poverty peering over our shoulder? The funds set out from Jerusalem to Jericho on the net - and they disappear under the radar. If it had been a smaller sum, I suppose we might have howled - but it was so large an amount, that the only thing to do was to pick ourselves up in the snow, dust ourselves down and trust in the Lord.

A gentle, retired businessman appeared at the door. He had cooked us cauliflower cheese for dinner and baked two loaves of bread for us. The Portress, had to ask him who he was. He gave her an envelope. “To pay your bill,” he murmured. “We’ll pay you back!” the Portress said, “No hurry,” he replied.

How to move a monastery 9


Ty Mam Duw Marian House - no - Still TMD

We had just been given four days of prayer and rest. Before the final push, due to be on what is already our foundation day - the feast of St Michael and co (1857) when we were said to be going!

For those of us whose clothes were tranlated to Nottinghan just prior to the 14 September, this has been an awkward time! The kitchen is also up a Gum Tree and donations specifically given for a meal have enabled us to have a takeaway. As we have no extern sisters, the appearence of two of our portresses, deputed to the extern work, at a local Chinese takeaway has caused much (mutual) entertainment. While protecting their anonymity, we praise the kindness and generosity of all involved.

The builders responsible for the essential renovations at Nottingham take what Roget calls a ‘mellow’ approach to our sense of urgency. At this end, the conservation experts have agree that no bats have been living in our belfy. The new owners sent their people round: two in suits, one in a yellow tin hat. They were to check for asbestos in the roofs. These followed behind our gentle Vicaress, Sister Elizabeth, on tiptoe every time they met a another real nun. There is no asbestos. Mother Cherubina could scarcely afford the slate between us and the rain - she had the sisters say a special prayer every Friday against fire, who needs asbestos?

Further experts have sunk long bore holes in our back garden and re-appeared to gaze down them. But we are still here. They are reputed to be sinking a lift in Nottingham….

How to move a monastery 8

We ought to have been in Marian House on the 14 September, the Feast of Holy Cross - but as you can see we are not. Both the people taking our land and the alterations at Marian House are, like King Ethelred, Unready!

The Priest and people of the church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Bulwell, on the side of which we shall be living, had prepared a family day to welcome us last Sunday. So Mother Damian piled the majority of us into a coach and we were welcomed - and came home again! Our eighteen beloved Holy Helpers have gone ahead of us; our dear ones who lived this life before us have been reinterred now in Bulwell, and a good deal of our luggage is also there. Meanwhile we are living surrounded by much packing, more dust and no cloister grilles in church or house. Could you all put your prayers behind this, please. We are Not in Nottingham - and we should like to be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How to move a monastery 7

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Ty Mam Duw

One of our family was considering, with fascination, an advert on the back of a magazine.  Heaven on earth; a holiday studio in Ibiza, conveniently located 400 metres from the sea… Stringing together a pile of books - our library is not large but it has to get to Nottingham somehow - Sister Ysabella asked how much it cost. A wiseacre, gathering up ‘Lord of the Rings’ from under the table, murmured “Purgatory!”  Nowhere on earth is heaven and we are not going to Nottingham to put up our feet, but to put them down!

Our Mother Francesca folded a well known periodical, “I read the Catholic papers in the hope of finding an article on heaven and I am almost invariably disappointed!”  Sister Maria thought this an irresistible challenge and tore an empty page out of the back of ‘Bleak House’.  The library is occupying undue space.  The cupboards and shelves are empty, piles of packing crates totter on all four sides of the cloister.  The cell units have gone and the sisters clothes (in their cells) are mostly in piles on the floor, like everything else.  We digress.  “Heaven!” Sr Maria interjected “What do you look to find there?

“The triune God! Mother Francesca said.  “I would like to hold before me the vision of what is to come, and tell myself it is coming for ever and ever.”  The book packagers, as one nun, stopped.
“What is the bottom line?” Sister Evangela asked. “I mean, how do you get in?”  

“Mercy,” Mother  replied. “There is no way of earning heaven.  Be mindful of the tax collector, who asked for mercy and went home reconciled”.  The tallest pile of tied up books quivered, (no doubt in response to an earthquake in Peru) and slid to the ground leaving, cover upwards, Pope Francis’ The Name of God is Mercy’…

We began by writing these articles for the same welknown periodical.  The editor was very keen to have them but for some reason he forgot to publish them!  We were just a touch surprised. When Sister Elphine was an infant of tender years she used to read the football column of the Sunday Times.  She never played football, never watched, it never cared for it, after all she was four foot seven and had asthma - but it was, in a quiet way, amusing...!


How to move a monastery 6

Going, going..and going!
Ty Mam Duw

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We have never had an auction before and we hasten to say, none of us has been sold, loaned or hired out!  We seized the dual opportunity to part with large lumps of furniture which will not fit in Nottingham and giving people an opportunity to pick up the odd bit of monastic memorabilia.

We had known our auctioneer since he was eight - we did a puppet show in the parlour for his ninth birthday.  He is now a distinguished local businessman and like many of our extraordinary friends, not a Catholic.  With charm and imagination, he persuaded the buyers how useful our items were and how very much they would like to have them.  Less-than-antique furniture, spare but respectable statues, silk painted banners, curios and things we sisters were encouraged to dig out of our personal purviews (nobody ‘owns’ anything in our Franciscan home) came under the hammer - and went.

A gentleman, whose family has patched up the roof and propped up our walls for three generations, has brought the pews in the public chapel.  We think he may be intending to turn them into individual ‘Monk’s Chairs’.  Sister Maria walked all round them and said, after profound thought, that they might be ‘Art deco’.  Again they might not.


How to move a monastery 5

Getting farewelled
Ty Mam Duw


Like many contemplatives of our sort, we are essentially invisible!  To ourselves, we are thirteen plus four - all rugged individuals, but to people who come here to ask for prayers, make retreats and attend the Eucharist or the Divine Office, we are faces in the fog beyond the grille.  Visitors may have met Dear Mother (the name we give our leading lady) and will have encountered the team of portresses at the door, but they are unlikely to know us all by name.  It is awkward to say good bye to a nun you have never met. It is like ‘Porgy and Bess’, due for a revival at the English National Opera in November; it is more difficult to get a divorce if you have never been married.

Here in North Wales our Parish is small and our parishioners came at their own request for a farewell mass.  Like a number of local churches they leave a basket at the back labelled ‘Food for the Nuns’ and after the offertory at Mass bring it along on a Sunday morning as a very kind contribution to our invisible upkeep.

They came, chose the hymns they wanted us to play, wept as they read the intercessions and brought their own food to eat.  They gave us the leftovers, as they have done at most parish celebrations.  People are kind; we even have a loving Moslem benefactor who from time to time makes us a very special dinner.

We hope that those we know and the people we have scarcely met, who send us “Don’t Go” cards, may feel equally near in Nottingham and on the net.  After all, if you can phone your family from Mount Everest, no place is very far!


How to move a monastery 4

Packing history
Ty Mam Duw


It is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than to pack up your history. Our sisters set out for North Wales in 1928. They travelled by a then relatively recent popular invention: the automobile. From Mother Cherubina down they were all small, someone even asked them if there was a height limit to enter. They packed easily into two cars

In their epic progress tyres burst regularly. They started by breaking down in front of the Bank of England.  The kind volunteer driver got out and sought for a garage, who said they would send a mechanic to scene. As they waited for him, a policeman began to move purposefully in their direction. Yes, naturally, they all prayed and the car backfired, disappearing in a cloud of smoke. By this time, the second car had vanished and they only found it again a Woodford. How Woodford was on a direct route to Flintshire we do not know!

Signposting in Wales has always been poetic and later they found themselves up a one way track on a mountain in pursuit of Talacre Abbey, where they were to stay. They were welcomed at midnight and had to try and find their toothbrushes in the dark.

We and our friends are delivering such things as are going, piecemeal. So far, burst tyres have posed no difficulties, but the furious rate of road-widening means that diversions have rarely allowed us to follow the same path twice. For those amongst us who have not seen motorway traffic for a couple of decades the current slow progress on the M1 has come as a mild surprise and at roundabouts there is a tendency to break into the rosary…


How to move a monastery 3

Religious plumbing
Ty Mam Duw


An earnest member of our community family discovered a news article on industrial abseiling. So far, the electricians and plumbers who have considered applying themselves to our recycled future home, the Marian House of the Holy Spirit in Nottingham, have taken one look at the fitments and fled. Especially the plumbers; but abseiling may not help them. It is the giant size of the pipes in relation to the limited supply of water that causes distress.

At Vespers, Sister Amarantha raised her eyes to heaven, “Lord, we ask you to send us a really courageous plumber and electrician!” We responded with grim gravity, “Oh Lord hear our prayer.”
And he did. A daring electrician has been found and the plumber will take out the existing pipes, which he says will take less time.  “When would you like us to start,” they enquired? Mother smiled at them, “About a fortnight ago. We will pray for you,” she added, gently.  Prayer is dangerous, it works!

Sister Marca has investigated, “According to statistics,” she murmured, “House moving is the most traumatic experience available.” Sr Maria showed no surprise, “The best time to join a monastery is when it is moving; you will know what you are getting!”

Two sides of the cloister have posters on the wall: ‘Packing in progress’, ‘Departure point for Marian House’ and ‘Collection point for auction’. From here things are set to go.  Anything left without comment by the back door has only one destination. The bonfire!


How to move a monastery 2

A hole in the wall
Ty Mam Duw

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They say a good school is an inspired teacher and a hole in the ground.  That is true for our sort of monastery, though we wouldn’t mind a small wall in addition (we are the only people so far to have enclosure as a vow). After our boiler defected, several taps ceased working, the bell arch leaned out from the wall and refused to be rung, the dormitory heating died, causing a fourth ice age, the guttering over the front door gave up and water now cascades down on friends who visit us in the frequent Welsh rain. Naturally we have always had odd cracks in the cloister.

Okay, Lord, we said, we can take a hint.  Our four dear sisters at Nottingham do at least have lots of room.  They are also tacked on to the back of our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Bullwell and their good bishop will allow us to occupy the sacristies which have more floorspace than our current chapel and join in the singing from behind our own home designed grille.

Builders are another matter.  Your thoroughly modern builder only appears to have a first name; ours are not called Jasper, Robert and Alf, but to tell our adventures with absolute veracity it will probably be necessary to change the names of all concerned, even the sisters.

Then there are the people who want to take our patch in Hawarden.  Now they are interesting!  The first one said there was no market for land or housing. We were surprised! They don’t have first names, only initials like CDE, FGH and WXY.

On one thing our family are agreed, we will not sell our monastery as a pub!  We want it to come down for much needed housing.  And we need to be quick, because we have to provide for our beloved dead and get then to Nottingham before us.  We offered to do the job ourselves (we are not joking!) but the Home Office won’t let us and want more than we have in the bank.  The Home Office needs prayer.  After all we are the people who are in here interceding for the world political situation and everyone else’s problems…


How to move a monastery 1

Baalam’s Ass
Ty Mam Duw


Our Baalam’s Ass was a boiler.  It has a hole in the side. It is quite safe, but it might have suggested to persons even more light-hearted than ourselves that it ought to be replaced.  Boilers cost money and we are Poor Clares of the extreme branch called Colettines.  It did not seem right in the face of the poverty we profess and the possession of a pope called Francis to spend that amount of money on anything.

We took a look at our own position.  We are not dying out; there are thirteen of us between thirty and eighty-two and we have all chosen freely to live a gospel life. We have been living in Wales and our Bishop seemed unable to offer us anywhere amidst the closing parishes of our Diocese, with or without a boiler. So we were led to look at what Pope Francis calls ‘The Periphery’.  When our house here was built, 90 years ago, we were between a landfall and a council estate, but times change; Hawarden is becoming a dormitory village. Many of the congregation have gone and God, who sees all things, wants us where our city built on a hilltop can be more usefully seen.

Nottingham was the last place we would have thought of!  When it leaked out that we were moving to Robin Hood Country, several people we don’t know told friends our departure date (we were truly amazed) and one inquired whether we would have green kerchiefs with pointy hoods.  

We have always been international.  The Colettines were brought to Wales ninety years ago by a South American Abbess, Mother Cherubina, who was baptised in the Vatican, raised in France and schooled in England.  Our four sisters in Nottingham are from Kenya and India, bringing current national origins up to nine!

A humourist sent us the antique Disney movie with the Roger Miller song: ‘Every town has its ups and downs, sometimes the ups outnumber the downs - but not in Nottingham. I’m inclined to believe, If we weren't so down, we'd up and leave…  

Perhaps we could start calling ourselves the Marian Maids…