The Greyfriars (Order of Friars Minor Conventual of Great Britain and Ireland), moved to Walsingham in 2017.
In a statement, Fr Maximilian M Martin OFM Conv, Provincial Custos, said: “Due to a number of significant and pressing issues, it has become impossible for us to continue our presence at the Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham for the time being. We will be bringing our current ministry and presence at the Shrine to a conclusion by July 31.
Despite the ministry at Walsingham being valued by us all, our ministerial and personnel needs at other locations within our Custody, has determined the need for our withdrawal from Walsingham. In other words, we did not decide to leave Walsingham but rather other circumstances and urgent needs within our wider Order and amongst the people we serve in those locations, made this decision for us.
“Our presence at the National Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham has been, since our commencement there in 2017, a time of great blessing, for us as an Order and clearly from the feedback we receive, for many pilgrims and the wider church in general.
“We have deeply appreciated the opportunity to minister at the National Shrine. It has been such a tremendous privilege for us to play our small part in the work and life of this most blessed and special place. Change always comes along with a degree of anxiety and concern for the future.
Bishop Peter Collins said: “I wish to express my heartfelt sadness upon hearing the news, whilst fully understanding the pressures faced by the Custos. On behalf of the Diocese of East Anglia, I give thanks to almighty God for the ministerial service rendered by the Friars Minor Conventual since their arrival in 2017. The moment of their return constituted a restoration of a Franciscan footprint that had been absent for centuries.
“I am grateful to the Provincial Custos for allowing Fr James Mary to remain at the Shrine until the end of July, fulfilling the role of Acting Rector. I thank Fr James Mary for his personal willingness to undertake this important task. The Walsingham Trust, the Diocese of East Anglia and the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales are actively seeking to appoint a new rector for the shrine as soon as possible. I ask the Catholic community, local and national, to pray earnestly in support of this process.
“We entrust ourselves to the care and intercession of our Lady of Walsingham. The National Shrine is securely embedded beneath the mantle of our blessed Mother. As we pass through a period of transition, we confidently proclaim our trust in the providential guidance of God’s wisdom and grace. In the full communion of our Catholic faith, let us ensure that we remain focused upon the great mission of welcoming pilgrims to Walsingham. We will always be sustained in faith, hope and charity if we are allegiant to our veneration of our blessed Lady.”
Slipper Chapel picture by Alex Ramsay.