Educational partnership blessed by the Bishop of Oxford

Alastair Hunter, Kathy Winrow, the Bishop of Oxford and Sister Stella

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Steven Croft has today (Thursday 25 May) blessed a new partnership between the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) at Wantage and the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST). At a ceremony in CSMV’s St Mary Magdalene Chapel, representatives of the two organisations signed a commitment to co-operate in supporting education in the Diocese of Oxford.

The covenant will offer ODST an additional office, meeting and conference space at St Mary’s Convent in Wantage. The alliance will bring back into use a wing of the building, as part of the Community’s charitable aims of supporting the education of children. The Sisters of CSMV have made a significant contribution to education since the Community’s founding over 150 years ago.

Bishop Steven, making his first visit to the Community was present at the signing.

“The Sisters are delighted to be able to offer accommodation to ODST’s staff,” says Sister Stella, Sister in Charge of the Community. “Their presence and their work help underline the importance of high quality education for all in our society, something the Community has worked for throughout its long history.”

Speaking on behalf of ODST, Chair of Trustees Kathy Winrow said: “This additional new space marks an innovative partnership between ODST and St Mary’s Convent. Our hope is that it will become a centre of excellence not only for our dedicated staff but for training and events that will attract teachers and governors to CSMV.”

A new reception area forms part of the plans for the future of St Mary’s Convent. A planning application for this exciting development will be made later in the year.

This is the latest in a series of developments underlining the CSMV continuing commitment to Wantage. Last year the Sisters took the decision to stay at the Convent. The partnership with OSDT follows the recent announcement that later this year the Vale Academy Trust’s central staff team is to move into office space on the convent site from its current base at King Alfred’s Academy.

Prayer through Clay


We were delighted recently to welcome Mary Penley to lead a “Prayer through Clay” Quiet Day here at the Convent.  The Quiet Room on the Guest Wing provided a very prayerful space where participants could  explore how the expressive medium of clay could enrich their prayer.


The Quiet Room set out for the Quiet Day


Mary both as a potter and a spiritual director, sensitively led the Day which closed with an act of worship, offering on the altar all that had been created.  The Day was much appreciated and described as “inspirational” by those who participated. 


The altar showing both Mary’s work and that of the participants

You can see more of Mary’s work and learn more about her ministry at:

Convent Offers School Trust a New Base

CSMV's studio building

CSMV’s studio building

The Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV), Wantage are looking forward to welcoming the staff of the Vale Academy Trust (VAT) to a new office base on their Convent site on Denchworth Road later this summer.

The VAT’s growing central team currently supports and works with seven schools in the multi academy trust. It has been based at King Alfred’s Academy since its inception in 2013. But from later this summer its new headquarters will be the newly refurbished studio building at St Mary’s Convent. The move further cements the VAT’s partnership with the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education and other local stakeholders.

“The Sisters are delighted to be able to welcome the Vale Academy Trust to the Convent site,” said Sister Stella, Sister-in-Charge at the Convent. “Supporting education in schools has been an important part of the life and work of our Community since it was founded. We look forward to contributing to the creative work of the Vale Academy Trust schools by making this space available.”

Speaking on behalf of the Vale Academy Trust, CEO Simon Spiers said: “This move to local purpose-built facilities marks an important milestone in the development of the Trust, the first in the country to combine both Community and Church schools. We really wanted to be based locally, somewhere within easy distance of our schools and yet in the heart of the local community where we first started. The premises are ideal for us and we are delighted at the possibility of sharing the part of the Convent site with the Sisters.”

The studio building used to house a printing press run by the Sisters. More recently a Church embroidery group has used the space. This group will move its work into the main convent building.

A planning application for the conversion has been made and it is hoped that the Vale Academy Trust’s staff will move into their new base in the summer.

This is the latest in a series of developments for the Community at St Mary’s. Last year the Sisters took the decision to stay at the Convent. The arrival of the VAT’s central team is an important aspect of the Community of St Mary’s continuing commitment to Wantage.

Southern African photo galleries

Beneficiaries and staff at Irene Homes

Beneficiaries and staff at Irene Homes

Sister Stella travelled to Botswana and South Africa earlier this year.

She spent three days in and around Gaborone, Botswana, where she visited Day Care and Hospice Centres and other projects which Wantage Overseas supports. Do look at the video below for an insight into this important work.

Subsequently she moved on to Irene, near Pretoria in South Africa. There the visit concentrated on the Irene Homes, a centre for 88 women with mental disabilities. The Home was also the venue for a day long regional gathering of CSMV Oblates and Associates.

Click the highlighted text for galleries of photographs of the visit to Irene Homes and CSMV gathering.

Prayer Space


Last Wednesday afternoon Sr Phoebe, Sr Lorna, Sr Elizabeth Jane and Clare our Alongsider, went down to Wantage C of E Primary School to help with their Prayer Space.  This venture took place over the whole week and was supported by local church volunteers. 

During the week it gave all the children the opportunity to explore different ways of praying, focusing on the School’s four Core Values of Honesty, Forgiveness, Respect and Service.  The small groups of children were able to engage personally through conversation and creative activities.  The photo below shows Sister Phoebe talking with the children about Respect.



Sister Phoebe and children at the Prayer Space

Botswana & South Africa visit

In February Sister Stella travelled to Botswana and South Africa to visit Irene Homes near Pretoria, and Day care and Hospice centres in & around Gaborone, Botswana that Wantage Overseas supports. We’ve produced two short videos about the visits. You can watch them here.


We had a lovely celebration of Candlemas on 2nd February. 

We began with the Blessing of Candles and then processed into St Mary Magdalen’s Chapel for a Sung Eucharist.  The Revd Andrew Allen, chaplain of Exeter College in Oxford was our president and preacher, giving us a stimulating and challenging sermon.  Afterwards we enjoyed coffee with all those who had gathered to be with us. 

The photo below was taken by one of our guests, and shows our icon of The Presentation surrounded by snowdrops from the garden.



Candlemas Wantage (3) icon with snowdrops

Icon of The Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Epiphany Greetings

Greetings for the festival of Epiphany and for Epiphanytide!

We are presently enjoying having Sister Manna CN staying with us from Japan.  Sister Manna is a sister of the Community of Nazareth in Tokyo – a community founded in 1936 by the Community of the Epiphany in Truro.  Sadly this community no longer exists, but the festival of the Epiphany is still an important festival for Sister Manna’s community.

At Christmas, Sister Manna decorated our Christmas Tree with gingerbread stars and beautiful handmade origami figures – as shown in the photo below.


Sister Manna  CN

Sister Manna CN


Are you interested in discovering a new way to pray & in finding some calm in the Christmas season? Why not join Michelle Eyre – one of our Community’s Oblates – with her online way of encouraging a new form of prayer. Discover a deeper relationship with God by following the ancient paths of monasticism.

Try the new Advent & Christmas series which has just been launched. One of the new tracks is by Brother Luke OSB from Mucknell Abbey. This is the link: You can listen for free.

There’s also a new blog post that links to the tracks. It’s written by George, a student on placement with Discovering Prayer from Wycliffe Hall:


Farewell to Hansa














Oblate Hansa, who is moving back to India on November 1st, 2016 after 40 years in England, was able to spend a couple of nights at the Convent to say goodbye. We much valued sharing together over a farewell tea & assuring Hansa of our loving support & prayers for this next stage of her life. We are looking forward  to hearing news when she has settled & continue to wish her well in her Oblate commitment.