Sr Joanna reflects on her life journey

As she takes up residence within the Community as  a Lay Member Sr Joanna reflects on the journey that brought her here.


Joanna collects signatures for Christain Aid

Joanna writes:

During her final year at university, my Dad used to make the long drive up from Slough to visit my Mum in Aberystwyth. On the way there, he always parked by St Mary’s Priory Church to stretch his legs, and have a cup of coffee in the café. When we drove up to Abergavenny this August, ready to start my year as a member of the Holywell Community, we were delighted to find the café still open!

My journey to the community has taken far longer than the two-and-a-half hours’ drive to Northampton. I started thinking and praying about my vocation three years ago, whilst studying English Literature in Norwich. During this time, I first encountered Julian of Norwich’s brilliant Revelations of Divine Love, which speaks of the love of Christ in the most profound and intimate language. Sitting in the chapel built over her cell, I wondered where God was taking me, and thought of Julian sitting at her window, praying with the weary travellers passing on their way to the docks. The Rule of St Benedict, which inspires the life of the Holywell Community, is based on hospitality: looking out for friends and strangers alike, sitting at the window between the chapel and the world.

As I sit writing this, a notification on my phone comes up to tell me that, according to NATO, the world is more dangerous today than it has been for many years. In these uncertain times, I believe that monasteries and religious houses have the duty of holding up a candle in the darkness. Abergavenny has a long history of faith persevering through conflict and struggle, and the relighting of that monastic flame with the Holywell Community is a testament to the strength of faith here. The monastic spirit of hospitality has also been very evident in the generosity of everyone I’ve met so far, and I look forward to getting to know the Churches and town over the coming year.



Big shift campaign -sign our Petition!

We will be supporting this – do join us!

St Mary's Priory, Abergavenny

We will be at the Abergavenny Market during the day on Saturday gathering signature for the Big Shift Campaign petition – do come and see us!


Christian Aid says

In the Paris Agreement of 2015, world leaders pledged to stop global temperatures rising above two degrees.

To achieve this, governments and scientists are united in agreeing that we must move towards a zero carbon economy.

There is also a strong financial case for shifting away from fossil fuels – in 2016, The World Economic Forum identified the failure to tackle climate change as the biggest risk we face.

Investing in renewables helps fight climate change

UK banks manage trillions of pounds of our money. It’s up to us to be interested in how they use it.

Our research shows that the banks managing our money are still much more heavily invested in fossil fuel companies than in renewable energy companies…

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Back to work!!!

The Community life gets back in to routine this week. We lead our First All Age Worship of the new Community Year today at 9.30am and our prayer routine is back to normal.

Tuesday morning sees the first Little Footprints (Parent & Toddler Group) gathering after the Summer and the Bereavement Group is back on Wednesday evening. We will also be re-engaging with Crafty Women this week.


More news of our other plans for the Autumn Term to follow.


Initial Retreat: August 24th – 26th

Following the Commissioning Service and a couple of days of Induction the Community will be on Retreat at Llangasty Retreat House from Thursday – Saturday.

Llangasty Retreat House Chapel

The Prior, Fr Mark said “We use Llangasty every other year for our initial retreat, it is a very special place in which we can reflect on how the Rule of St Benedict makes us better disciples of Christ”.

The Community will be joined by their Episcopal Visitor, Bishop Richard and his wife Julie for Mass and Lunch on Saturday.

Feast of BVM Celebrated and new Holywell Community Commissioned.

St Mary's Priory, Abergavenny

On the Sunday (August 20th) in the Octave of the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary our celebration of our Patronal Festival came to its climax.

IMG_3203.JPG Srs Jennii & Joanna swear their Oaths to the Bishop prior to the service

With The Bishop of Monmouth (The Holywell Community’s Episcopal Visitor) Celebrating and Preaching  we gathered for a Eucharist sung by our Holiday Choir and attended by Anglicans from across Abergavenny.

In the presence of  Sisters from the TyMawr Convent, the High Sheriff of Gwent, The Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council and  The Mayoress of Abergavenny ; Joanna Hollins was Commissioned  and Jennii Shaw was Re-commissioned as Lay Members of the Holywell Community. Also Fr Tom Bates appointment as Sub Prior was recognised prior to his formal Licensing later.

Having heard a portion of the Rule of St Benedict read to them by the Prior, Canon Mark Soady, Bishop Richard…

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Episcopal-Visitor’s Sermon at Community Commissioning Service

Speaking at the Commissioning of the new Community Bishop Richard mentioned his joy that the Community was going in to its fourth year.

Galatians 4:6

And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”


Bishop Richard said:

“Today we as we celebrate the commissioning of the Holywell Community we remember our life in Christ. As Paul says  we are adopted children – because there is only one natural son – Jesus.  But through God’s generous love we have also become sons and daughters. Jesus is our Lord and also our brother.  A reminder that at the core of the Christian life is relationship. Not of blood, but of the spirit.

The joy of the Holywell Community is its intention to live out the Christian way as brothers and sisters in Christ  The rule they follow may be Benedictine but the spirit will be found practically in family life, the household of faith.

I am overjoyed that the community is entering into another year of commitment.  There have been testing times – aren’t there always?  But through it has shone the strength of belonging together as brothers and sisters in Christ.  It’s a strength founded in actual love, the grounded love of God who has committed himself to us.

One of the disappointments of the church is that it does not always demonstrate this incarnational love.  We can easily live with idealism and theological supposition – which can easily be accepted or discarded, but it is only in the transforming of a human being – becoming a brother, a sister in Christ that we see the truth of God’s love in action.


Bishop Richard with the Prior

Throwing young people together, to pray, worship, eat and live together is a way of testing the truth!  It could be like Big Brother – an experiment in life together; the difference, this is real and the test is to see the transformation that can be revealed.  Benedict called it the school in the Lord’s service. The Holywell community are taking seriously their adoption and it’s implications.

Which also leads to the question – what is the purpose of the community in relation to the congregations in Abergavenny?  How do we explore together, as the wider faith community, the vocation of our life together as adopted brothers and sisters?

What characterises our life together is holiness.  Not in the rather exclusive way of being set apart.  Rather, the opposite, being throughly involved with each other and God’s world. Holiness is not a dead, pale, attribute – it is totally life giving and transforming.  Today we celebrate Holy Mary.  Mary’s exclusivity, as the mother of Jesus, makes her inclusive for all. She is mother, disciple extraordinaire, whose gift of unconditional love is for all and also as a vibrant model of holiness.


So the Holywell Community, as it lives out the rule of Benedict, works in the Lord’s service which is found in good works but also in the shining of holiness.  Now the members of the community, past and present, would not easily be described as holy in the old fashioned way: I could not see any them as saintly!  And that’s great!  Because God doesn’t want us to be saintly, he wants us to be saints, dwelling in his love and being beacons of that love.  The test should be – is my view of life, my experience of life, better because of being with other Holy people?  That’s what we work towards, not by striving, but on the contrary relaxing and letting God work. It’s good to remind ourselves that you don’t have to work at being a brother or a sister, you just are.  And at is best, that how we can be.  So to the members of the Holywell Community, to all of us here, brothers and sisters in Christ, live well, live holy lives so God delights in his family and continues to bless us with his goodness.