Home Sweet Convent: A Story from the UK

The Sisters of Mary Morning Star in the U.K.

“… an extraordinary story of the providence of God.”

Jacqueline Marie | April 13, 2022

Sister Mary Magdalen has COVID. In fact all the Sisters of Mary Morning Star at the convent in Lynton, UK, have COVID this week. And on the way back from the craft sale (where they picked up the virus) their car broke down.

Yet, this is a woman whose face shines with joy. One of those people who you want to be near because it feels like all the time they spend with Jesus is somehow reflecting off of them.

Their Lynton Convent is over 100 years old. It is a beautiful stone building set into the base of a hill with gardens stretching upwards into the hillside and spectacular views of the sea. But only 3 years ago the sisters were on the brink of being homeless.

Sister Mary Magdalen explains, this is “an extraordinary story of the providence of God.”

This contemplative order of sisters had been invited by the Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth to come to the UK with provisional accommodation in a presbytery. After over 3 years without finding a permanent home, the Superior General of SOMMS put the UK mission under review. Without their own space, it was difficult to live out their contemplative calling. In Easter of 2019, she gave the sisters 3 months to find a home or the mission would be pulled and they would need to relocate to a convent in Ireland.

“We’d been praying really hard already for a long time, but we, like, really prayed” Sister Mary Magdalen says with a smile. (One wonders what it looks like when contemplative nuns, who spend their days in prayer, really pray).

The Sisters of Mary Morning Star is a global contemplative order that partners with Divine Renovation, holding the ministry in their daily prayers. They continue to be an example to DR of how to rely fully on God, and the vital importance of prayer.

“We started asking Bishops in other dioceses if they had a convent,” including Bishop Mark O’Toole in the diocese of Plymouth. “That was kind of a big request — ‘ do you happen to have an empty convent?’ And he [Bishop O’Toole] said, ‘Yes’!”

On May 31st of that year, the Feast of the Visitation, Bishop O’ Toole met the sisters in Lynton and showed them the beautiful…but aging, convent. Formerly a convent for the Poor Clare Sisters, the building was remote. It was 45 minutes to the nearest grocery store and as an order reliant on donations, a feasibility study was required before the sisters could make it their new home.

But as Sister Mary Magdalen relates: “When we are doing His work, He provides everything we need, absolutely everything!”

Two months later they had moved in. The convent needed upgrades, not the least of which was the failing central heating system and complete lack of hot water.

And so the miracles continued: the sisters befriended a local plumber and electrician. He declared “I’m not having this, there is no way you’re not having any hot water till Christmas.” By the feast of St. Francis, true to his word, he had gotten the ancient heating system running (and it is still going!).

A non-believer, the plumber (and his wife) had not been able to conceive. The sisters began to pray for them and 6 months later they conceived a little girl, named Sienna. He completely believes that prayer worked a miracle for his family.

“All sorts of people come and help… it’s such a wonderful way to basically bring people to faith.”

“When we are doing His work, He provides everything we need, absolutely everything!”

A month after the sisters moved in, they held a jumble sale with the old furniture and things that had been left in the convent. They assumed few people would attend, but instead had a queue of people round the corner before they even opened up. Amongst this group were some “young, very dodgy men”.  It turned out they were in a rehab program, out for the day with their leader…and they were looking for a community project. 

The Lynton Convent (Web)

The young men soon began working alongside the sisters in the garden. One even asked Sister Mary Magdalen for a selfie to show his mom. On Christmastide they joined the sisters for tea and mince pies and asked them to share their testimonies. Men and women with opposite lives talking about the redeeming love of Jesus over tea.

“Not only is it an amazing place for us, it has become an amazing place for so many other people.”

A retired friend of the sisters, and self-stated non-believer, began helping with the enormous garden project. He has made it his retirement focus and diligently works with the sisters. For him and other volunteers the convent is “a source of life and grace.”

At vespers a young non-Catholic girl on vacation with her family pulled her parents into the Chapel to pray with the nuns. Every day they were in the town, she brought her parents to prayer and Eucharistic Adoration. She told them “I’ve never felt Jesus so strongly before.” She later returned on a trip to Lynton with her mom to stay with the sisters.

What began as a miraculous provision for a home in the UK for the Sisters of Mary Morning Star now extends to be a provision to all who are drawn in. “It is beautiful to see how God has turned our convent into an oasis really, it’s like a source of life for all sorts of people…You never know who is going to turn up.”

Sister Mary Magdalen (3rd from the left) with her sisters. (Web)