Our parish has had a long association with the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, with many people making pilgrimage there over many years.
Two previous Vicars of the parish, Fr Gillingham (who died in 1987) and Fr Graham Francis (who retired in 2016) have been responsible for leading the South Wales Pilgrimage to Walsingham in July each year, and Fr Graham followed in Fr Gillingham's footsteps by being made a Clerk of the Holy House. The present priest of St Mary's is a member of the Order of Our Lady of Walsingham, and also leads the South Wales Pilgrimage.
The Anglican Shrine occupies an island site in the village of Little Walsingham, five miles from the north Norfolk coast. Close to the ruins of the original medieval Priory (destroyed in 1538), the present-day Shrine was gradually created from 1931 from derelict farm buildings and cottages with a brand new Shrine Church in the south-east corner of the site.
Within the Shrine Church is the "Holy House" a 'recreation' of the house in Nazareth where Mary received the news from the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of Our Lord, Jesus. Within the Holy House, above the altar, is the niche where the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham sits surrounded by candles and votive lights.
The statue of Our Lady of Walsingham is much-loved. It is important to understand that the statue is simply a focus for devotion - a visual aid - and not something to be worshipped in itself. Down through the years Christians have sought the prayers of Mary to support them in their pilgrimage through life. At times in the history of the church there has been controversy about devotion to Mary but in these ecumenical days there are few who would deny a right respect and love to the Mother of Jesus.
Pilgrims have made the journey to Walsingham from all over Britain - and the world - since the 11th century, not long after the Lady Richeldis had her vision of Our Lady in 1061. However, Henry VIII ordered the Shrine to be destroyed in 1538 as part of the English Reformation and it was not until 1922 that the then Vicar of Walsingham decided to undertake the restoration of the Shrine. You can find out more about the history of the Shrine at The Story So Far.
Today the Shrine complex welcomes over 10,000 residential pilgrims each year (nearly 200 pilgrims can be accommodated at any one time.) Meals are provided round the clock in the Pilgrim Refectory and the Norton Café Bar. In addition, a further 300,000 visitors come to Walsingham each year. There is also a Shrine Shop in the centre of the village and offices for the Membership, Accommodation and Education departments.
At the heart of the Shrine lies the Church and Holy House. Here pilgrims and visitors join in the daily worship or say their prayers asking for Our Lady's help. The daily service of Sprinkling at the Well (Easter to October; weekends during winter) is attended by thousands throughout the year. Water from the ancient well within the Shrine Church is used to sign a cross on the forehead, given as a drink and poured over outstretched hands as a sign of God's healing. Without interruption since 1931, Shrine Prayers - a short service during which pilgrims intercession requests are read out - has taken place in the church. Many pilgrims and visitors are content simply to say their own prayers; many like to enjoy the peace and beauty of the Shrine gardens. For Walsingham is Holy Ground. (Text copyright www.walsinghamanglican.org.uk)
There are currently over 160 cells active throughout the UK, USA and Australia. All cells have a Priest Associate as their Local Superior and at least 7 members of the Society.
They are asked to observe the feasts of the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25th) and Assumption of Our Lady (August 15th), together with the remembrance of the translation of the image of Our Lady of Walsingham from the Parish Church to the present Shrine in 1931 (October 15th.)
On these days in particular, local Cells are asked to pray for the work of the Shrine and to give thanks for its witness to the mystery of the Incarnation. If possible the Cell may meet more frequently to offer Mass for the Shrine and for the objects of the Society:
● To honour Mary, the Mother of God and to deepen faith in the incarnation of our Lord.
● To promote devotion to Our Lady and pilgrimage to Walsingham.
● To further, with the aid of Our Lady's prayers, the conversion of the nations and the re-union of Christendom.
● To seek holiness of life through prayer, the scriptures and the sacraments.
The Cell of Our Lady of Walsingham established in the parish offers pilgrims to Walsingham an opportunty to strengthen the spiritual benefits of their pilgrimage, and is a focus of prayer for all within the parish. It is also a means through which others may be encouraged to go on pilgrimage.
We aim to meet once a month, to celebrate Mass and to offer other prayers and devotions, such as the Rosary, as well as enjoying time together and socialise.
Keep an eye out on our home page and on twitter and facebook for our next gathering!
The Image of Our Lady of Walsingham in the Lady Chapel at S Mary's Church
South Wales Pilgrimage 2017:
Monday 24 - Thursday 27 July