ALDERNEY SISTERS GIVE GLORY
IN A POWERHOUSE OF PRAYER
Their days are spent largely in silent prayer and adoration in a remote island parish. As Marian
Franciscan sisters they observe the rule of poverty and live in “total consecration” to the Virgin Mary. But the seven sisters of the Adoremus Centre at the Church of St Anne and St Mary Magdalene on Alderney in the Channel Islands are far from “cloistered”. They have integrated themselves into the 2,000-strong community on the three mile-long island and they also have a key role in the Diocese of Portsmouth. Their work in the convent by the church has been called by Bishop Philip Egan a “powerhouse of prayer” for the future.
He has described their devotion as vital to this salvation and sanctification of all the people of the Diocese. Through begging and obtaining God’s grace and blessings for the clergy, people, schools and ministries of the Diocese in their work of proclaiming the Gospel, the sisters have a role of wide-ranging significance. At the same time the sisters are working with parish priest Canon Michael Hore, who is responsible for the Adoremus Centre (Adoremus means “let us adore”), to renew the Church’s mission on the island and in the south of England.
They visit people, especially the old and sick in their homes in the capital St Anne, and they go out to walk and pray in the more isolated parts of the island. “Alderney is an island with a strong community feel, like one big family, and we have been welcomed into the family,” said Sister Maria Veronica.
The seven Sisters pictured outside their convent.
In fact it is thanks to the generosity of the community that the sisters are able to continue their mission. Sharing in the poverty of Jesus and Mary opens them to God’s spiritual riches, but it also puts them under the care of those around them who are inspired by God to sustain them in their physical needs. “Here on Alderney, from the moment we arrived, the people have been eager to take care of us in every way,” said Sister Maria Veronica. “Not only Catholics, but people of all kinds of beliefs have been drawn to us and inspired to look after us in different ways."
The sisters are aged between 20 and 40 and hail from Europe, North and South America and Asia. Their desire for a second, more withdrawn house, in addition to their house in Bridgemary, Hampshire, coincided with the Bishop’s inspiration to establish a special place of prayer in the Diocese. Thanks to the Sisters of Mercy on Guernsey they were granted the empty convent on Alderney which was already equipped for their needs. Built after the devastation of World War Two, the convent is connected to the church by a covered passage – and it is in the church that the sisters pray.
“It struck us as very fitting for a community of adoration that in this church the tabernacle is in the centre, behind the high altar. And this is our focal point in prayer, the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus,” said Sister Maria Veronica. As a religious community the sisters have a daily timetable and a balanced rhythm of life which alternates the prayer of the liturgy with meditation, study, work, evangelistic activity, personal prayer, community recreation and the right care of bodily needs. The ‘Liturgy of the Hours’ gives us the different moments during the day to pray the Divine Office, and we also have a special commitment to praying very much the Holy Rosary,” said Sister Maria Veronica.
“We conserve our silence within the enclosure of the convent at all times, except for during recreation, to maintain a constant spirit of loving prayer and adoration. But the early morning is for us a specially privileged time of prayer, and the Holy Mass each morning is the pinnacle of our day, while then in the afternoon we are given in a special way to Eucharistic Adoration, led by Canon Hore, with daily Exposition and Benediction, holding the Bishop, his priests and the whole Diocese before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament."
The sisters have a further connection with the community through the Adoremus webmail, receiving frequent prayer requests from around the Diocese. They pray for each intention that is entrusted to them, whether these concern spiritual and physical needs, personal problems or even people needing to pass exams, succeed in work or convert loved ones.