THE Community of St Francis is to leave its house at Compton Durville, in Somerset, where it has been for 50 years. Its ministry there will end at Pentecost, although the community hopes to retain a smaller-scale presence in a rural area of another diocese.
The convent is a 17th-century manor house (right), with residential guest accommodation in a modern building that includes a chapel, a library, and conference rooms. All the buildings are owned by the Number 1 Trust Fund.
Sister Helen Julian, the Minister Provincial, said: “It has been a difficult decision to make. But we’ve recognised reluctantly that this has become too large a house for us to run. The increasing burden of official regulation has also played a part in our decision, which comes at the end of a process which has involved all the Sisters in the province.”
The community’s houses in Birmingham, Leicester, and London will continue. Sister Sue, one of the five Sisters currently living at Compton Durville, acknowledged on Tuesday the part that official regulations had played in the decision — for instance, about such things as food preparation. “One would do what’s common sense, but there is quite a lot of red tape,” she said.
“We shall be sad to leave. The community has been here for nearly 50 years, and I’m sure it will leave a gap in the locality. But we need to move on and see what is the right way to respond to the situation in the present: we can’t live in the past. But it will be a big wrench to move.”
The community is currently negotiating the purchase of a redundant vicarage, where it intends to continue a ministry of hospitality on a much smaller and largely non-residential scale.