St Mary the Virgin Convent in Wantage is planning a major renewal of parts of the property, the first in many years.
The Victorian building has been home to Sisters of the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) since the religious community, part of the Church of England, was founded in the middle of the nineteenth century.
Now the Sisters and Trustees of the Community have announced plans to build a new glass-fronted entrance and reception area to the main building between two wings of the existing Convent buildings. The Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST) will occupy office space on one side of the new entrance, while new conference and meeting rooms will be created on the other.
Alastair Hunter, chair of the CSMV charity trustees, said: “Supporting education in local communities was one of the founding objectives of the Community. We are delighted to be putting the resources of the charity to use to meet this objective in the 21st century.”
Reflecting on the developments at the Convent, Sister Stella (the Sister-in-Charge) said: “By sharing parts of the Convent buildings with other organisations which share our ethos and objectives, the Sisters are finding exciting new ways to reach out into the local community.”
This initiative follows two other recently completed projects on the Convent site, supporting local schools. St Mary’s Lodge on Challow Road has been converted into six flats for newly qualified teachers, helping local schools to attract new staff. The first residents are about to move in. Another building on the Convent site, known as the Studio, has been converted into offices for the Vale Academy Trust, a multi-academy trust with eight schools in Wantage and Abingdon.
Alongside the new activities, the Sisters of CSMV will continue to live at the Convent and to welcome guests from around the country who regularly come to the site to enjoy religious retreats and quiet days in the beautiful surroundings.
A planning application has been submitted to the Vale of the White Horse and it is hoped that work on the project will start in the middle of 2018.
The trustees of the Community of St Mary the Virgin have published their annual report and accounts for the year ending 31st March 2017. It is available for download
The Maasai Warriors
This last week we have had the delight of a troupe of Maasai warriors staying with us from Kenya. They are currently on tour, sharing something of their music and living oral culture in schools, churches and other venues. Through their tours they have been able to raise money to improve the life of their own community in Kenya, through the provision of clean drinking water, a clinic, an orphanage and a wonderful new school.
Whilst with us, they gave two very lively, joyful and colourful performances which Sisters, staff and guests greatly enjoyed! The photo shows the warriors with some of our staff and the Cistercian Brethren who were staying with us at the time.
Do look at the Maasai Warriors’ website to learn more about them and their charity: www.osiligi.org
A very happy gathering at Mucknell Abbey
On Tuesday 8th August, Sr Stella and Sr Elizabeth Jane gathered with other Religious at Mucknell Abbey to witness and celebrate the Solemn Profession of Sr Alison OSB and the Simple Profession of Brother Aidan OSB.
It was an inspiring and joyful occasion at which Bishop John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, presided and preached; and afterwards we enjoyed a buffet lunch and cake cutting amidst much chatter and laughter.
Photographs taken by Elizabeth Cole at the Associates’ Day held at the Convent in Wantage on 17 June 2017.
At the beginning of July, Sr Stella and Sr Elizabeth Jane went down to Lee Abbey in North Devon for a Conference of Anglican Religious Communities. The location was stunning as you can see from the photo, and the weather was beautiful sunshine and blue skies.
The Conference was a gathering of both traditional and newly emerging religious communities in the recognition that we can learn from one another. It was a rich time as we shared together in conversation and worship. There were also pilgrimage walks, and on the final evening, a Eucharist down by the beach.
FABRICS, THREADS, VARIOUS ODDMENTS OF CORDS, BUTTONS, FRAMES & WEAVING EQUIPMENT – ALL SUITABLE FOR ENTHUSIASTIC CRAFTS PEOPLE, ALL AT CLEARANCE PRICES.
15 JUNE 2017: 10.0 am until 12.30 pm
At ALL SAINTS WORKSHOP, ST MARY’S CONVENT, WANTAGE
For further information contact: SUELLEN PEDLEY,
tel. 01367 710680
On Sunday 4 June, on the Feast of Pentecost, the Church Choir of the Parish Church of St Peter & Paul, Wantage will be singing Choral Evensong at 4.0pm in St Mary’s Chapel here at the Convent, followed by a simple tea. Please let Reception know if you are able to join us.
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.
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: www.marypenley.com