The year 2011 marked the 950th anniversary of the foundation of the national Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. I had the privilege of sharing in this celebration in a very personal way. After arriving in England from my native Poland in 1999, I continued to seek my vocation in life. During this journey of discernment, I discovered The Lady of England – Our Lady of Walsingham. She helped me to recognise a vocation to religious life and led me, to my surprise, to her own order – The Community of Our Lady of Walsingham. Hence, I was so overjoyed to express my gratitude to her when I was invited to take my Final Vows at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham on her feast day (September 24th).
Why the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham? On the one hand, the answer is in the mystery of being called and chosen; on the other hand, it is recognizing that the particular way in which the community responds to God’s call also corresponds to my deepest desires. Through God’s grace I have been with the community since its foundation on the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, 2004 in the Slipper Chapel at Walsingham. I am excited by the many ways in which God has manifested his love in the life of the community and in each of our lives too.
Our community has a very strong Marian aspect as we strive to emulate Mary, the Mother of Vocation, in her ‘Fiat’, saying our ‘yes’ to God’s will in both the big and small decisions of our lives. Rooted in the Carmelite tradition, we look to Mary as the model for our contemplative life of prayer and solitude, as well as for our life of service that is the fruit of prayer. Abbotswick House of Prayer, which we manage for the Diocese of Brentwood, provides the space and solitude for our contemplative life but also for those who want to search for God’s will in their lives through silence and prayer.
The community’s conception sprung from the great desire to live vocationally, that is, to the fullness of life and love by responding to God’s call in our lives and helping others to do likewise. As Jesus said, he came so that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10). All of us are invited to live life to the full by following Jesus Christ faithfully – either as a married person, a priest, a religious or a single person.
That is why one of our community’s apostolates is to help young people discern their state of life. For many years we helped to run the monthly Vocations Discernment Group at Westminster Cathedral and now we continue to provide a rich variety of discernment opportunities and vocational accompaniment (see our website www.free2become.org for more details). Equally, in our ministry we support those who are already living their vocation to the priesthood, marriage, religious or single life so that they can live the fullness of life and love in that walk of life.
As the inspirational Church document In Verbo Tuo proclaims, ‘Vocation is to be the very heart of the new evangelization.’ I believe that, in today’s world especially, we need to show the beauty of following Christ and proclaim with joy, as Our Lady did, the marvelous things the Lord has done for us. My wish is that in our calling to be a priest, a father or a mother, a religious sister or religious brother, a lay or consecrated single person, we may show this beauty of Christ’s life to the world we are living in.
Sr Gabriela made her final profession of vows at the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham on the 24th September 2011.
To know more about the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham, click HERE.
For more information please contact Sr Gabriela by Email or call 01277 373848.