St. Michael's Priory, Newport Rd, Willen, Milton Keynes, MK15 9AATel: 01908 242190 Email: bookings@stmichaelspriory.org.uk

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Society of the Sacred Mission and Willen

The Society of the Sacred Mission came to Willen from Kelham in 1973, and among those who left Kelham for Willen was Fr Sydney Holgate, who had arrived at Kelham from Mildenhall, some 50 years earlier. Brothers Bertram and Jimmy, too, along with Fr Ralph, joined the new community, with Ralph as the first Prior.

This was to be a new chapter in its life, since the Society had withdrawn from the training of priests through the theological college system. The whole charism of the Society had to be reconsidered; and this was carried out against the background of the challenges facing the Society in that the natural recruiting forum, Kelham Theological College, had closed.

Whilst the Society has been at Willen, experimental forms of ministry and lay communities have been tried, with laypeople and paid staff taking the leadership of ‘The Well’ project during the late 1980s and into the 2000s.

During the whole of this period, professed members of the Society have not shirked from seeking to work closely with the Diocese of Oxford, and with representatives of churches and faith communities in Milton Keynes, not least parishes, clergy, lay folk and many other groups reflecting the city’s rich diversity. This has been and continues to be a very rich and rewarding journey in faith.

The challenges SSM now faces are shared by all religious orders in the UK. Latterly, the religious order has had to consider its focus again, in the light of some very challenging demands, among them: limited opportunities for vocational recruitment; ageing members; and the need to respond anew, in ways appropriate to a challenged religious order, and to the challenges that face the Church in general.

Professed members, working closely with trustees, and having consulted very widely for over 18 months, have arrived at the conclusion that the current site at Willen, magnificent though it is and having been a good servant to the Society, is not the place in which the Society can best follow through the desire to respond to the original focus and charism of Fr Herbert Kelly, SSM’s founder.

Thus, the Professed members, with a smaller group of trustees, are actively looking at two new sites from which to operate two distinct projects (for formation and mission; and for research, teaching and study).

Prayer, contemplation and mission will be govern the life of both projects. SSM will make an announcement when these matters are concluded, which will be quite soon.

Details of SSM’s future partnerships for the Willen properties will also be announced once current discussions are concluded. SSM cannot state strongly enough how very grateful it is for the huge support it receives, not least from those who have given so much to the daily life, the rhythm of prayer and worship at St Michael’s.

Much remains to be settled but we want to reassure you that all who have been friends of SSM and/or the Priory over the years, will still have ways of continuing their links with the order.

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