From September the white habits of the Norbertine community will no longer be seen in the streets and churches of Chelmsford: after 14 years’ ministry in the city, the Canons are leaving the Diocese for Southwark – and will be much missed.
Abbot Hugh Allan o.praem has written to parishioners to explain the decision, which came about due to insights gained during the lockdown. “The pandemic was the first time the priests and brothers had been able to celebrate a Christmas and an Easter together since we had come to Chelmsford. The demands of two parishes and three places of worship have meant this had never been possible,” he said. Although the order had been truly blessed in other ways, he said, “this showed us what we have missed since our arrival in Chelmsford”. The heart of the Norbertine monastic tradition is life in common and praying together and the Canons are keen to continue this as life returns to normal. “Sadly, we have seen that it is not possible to do that in our present home; the physical geography of having a separate Priory, and two parish churches does not allow us to live our Norbertine vocation to the fullest.”
He concluded: “The Archdiocese of Southwark has asked us if we would be willing to take over a former Capuchin monastery in the Archdiocese. It provides everything we have been looking for. It is one church, one parish, and an attached house with space enough for us to grow. After much careful thought, prayer, and consideration we have accepted this offer, and will be leaving the Diocese of Brentwood.”
The decision is bittersweet, he says. “In my head it makes sense because it is so suitable, providing a lot more space which is essential given that we have two novices arriving in the autumn. In my heart I feel sad because we will be leaving parishioners who have become like family and friends.”
Read his full letter here: Letter to parishioners in Chelmsford
Bishop Alan commented: “I have assured the Norbertines of our gratitude, best wishes and prayers as they leave the diocese after 14 years. We will miss them but I have assured them of our continued prayerful support in their new venture and mission.”