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Living the Our Lady of Walsingham way for lay people

After a year of prayer and study, the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham has launched a lay branch. Lizzie Sudlow reports.

A year ago, Sr Camilla gathered a group of us together via Zoom to form a core group of the lay branch. Our first project was to develop a Rule of Life. Over the next nine months we prayed with and pondered the Book of Life of the Community, which by then was in its final draft.  When we met on Zoom, we talked about what the main elements of a Rule should be, given the special charism of COLW. 

By May we were able to submit our new Rule to be examined by a canon lawyer in Rome. The Rule was approved by the necessary Church authorities and given canonical status. This means that the lay branch of COLW is now fully established within our new ecclesial family. You can read the Rule on the Community website.

In June Sr Camilla asked me to lead the lay branch. Some long-standing readers will remember that I was one of the three novices who started out with Sr Camilla at the beginning of the COLW journey. Nowadays I’m a very blessed wife, and home-educating mum to our three children. In many ways, starting out again with the lay branch feels similar to those early days, when we knew we were in God’s hands but did not know how it would develop. We knew then that the lay branch would be born one day as part of the gift of COLW, in God’s time. 

Now He has called the lay branch into being and is drawing us to live our daily Fiat in joy and sorrow, as brothers and sisters alongside our consecrated sisters. One thing is clear: one of our most important duties and joys is to support the sisters with our love, prayers and any practical help they need.

In July we gathered together with the Walsingham area cluster (the name given to local groups in the Rule) for an outdoor meeting. It was so good to be together again at last. 

A few days later the core group gathered for a weekend with the sisters at their convent, the House of the Divine Will.  Between tents on the lawn, the shepherd’s hut and the guest accommodation, we were all able to stay together – which was a huge blessing. We had wonderful weather and were able to enjoy time with each other, pray as a family, attend Mass in the beautiful garden, and feast in the cloister garden.  

Over the past few weeks, we have been preparing, as the lay branch, to study the Book of Life together. We are running a study group for anyone around the country interested in the lay branch, or anyone who would like to deepen their understanding of the COLW charism. This group will run via Zoom on the first Wednesday of the month in the evening. The first session will be on Wednesday October 6. If you would like to join any of the groups mentioned, or have any questions, please send me an email to and let me know your postal address so that we can send you a copy of the Book of Life.
Meanwhile the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham is planning retreats for the autumn.
‘Called to the Fullness of Love’ is a retreat for young adults aged 18 – 35. The group will be exploring how to develop healthy relationships, learning to receive and give love in a chaste manner and according to our particular state in life.
You can stay from just £90 per person for this weekend. Bursaries are also available for anyone who would struggle to meet the cost. The sisters can even help with transport from the train stations. Find out more here.

 Fr Matthew Blake OCD, an experienced retreat giver and Carmelite friar, will be leading a retreat from October 22 to 24 on the beauty of Carmelite spirituality. This is one of the most popular retreats of the year so do book soon to secure your place. Find out more here.
To find out more about Dowry House Retreat please us Friday to Wednesday on 01328 801018 or email

Pictured above are some of the members of the lay branch of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham