The former Companions of the Order of Saint Benedict of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, have sent us the latest issue of their newsletter, which is now entitled “The Gilbertine”.
In this newsletter they report that their religious community has been renamed the Order of Saint Gilbert of Sempringham. Here is an extract from the newsletter:
A Gilbertine Revival
The Companions of the Order of St. Benedict (OSBCn) have been in an exciting period of discernment since they made the decision to leave the Anglican Church of Canada in favour of full communion with the Catholic Church — and discernment has meant change…
The almost seven months since the Benedictine Community of Sts. James and John left the Anglican Church of Canada has been an adventure in faith and trust in God the Holy Trinity; and the adventure has meant an openness to change — and there have been several.
First was a significant loss of membership as the wider Anglican Benedictine family reacted negatively to the news of full communion. Along with that was a name change to ‘The Companions of the order of St. Benedict’, and now, after a lot of prayer and discussion, the community has reshaped itself as a Gilbertine Order.
The Gilbertines, founded by St. Gilbert of Sempringham in 1131, are a part of the Anglican Patrimony which thrived until 1538 when they were suppressed by Henry VIII. Since the order was uniquely English, it was entirely devastated during the English Reformation.
“Father Perkins (Vicar-General of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter) first brought the Gilbertines to my attention when I first spoke with him on the telephone” Prior Robert-Chas. says, adding that he knew very little about the order except to say they were English and were a double house of both genders. “Father said our group reminded him of the extinct order and as I’ve learned more about them, I can certainly see why.”
When the Brothers met with Bishop Lopes in Houston in March, he reiterated Father Perkins’ observations and encouraged the community to prayerfully consider reviving the order. The Gilbertines are a uniquely English expression of Benedictine spirituality. Perhaps the most distinguishing factors are the inclusion of Sisters, Brothers and Canons Regular under one house (divided by gender) and the use of a double Rule: that of Sts. Benedict and Augustine.
“You can imagine our surprise at the notion” Prior Robert-Chas. says. “But as we’ve learned more, and prayed on it, we can see why he made the suggestion. In so many ways, our community was already Gilbertine in flavour.”
Of course now that this direction has firmly been established, formal Constitutions will need to be drawn up, the habit amended, and other details adjusted to conform to Gilbertine traditions and patterns. Organisationally there will be changes, but not as many as one would suspect, and there will be even fewer changes yet that affect the day-to-day life of community members.
“The idea isn’t to pretend that the past 500 years haven’t passed, but rather that we look at the framework that St. Gilbert put in place so long ago, to ask his patronage, and to adapt it to the context in which we find ourselves today” Prior Robert-Chas. says. “Our Bishop is a dynamic thinker — he didn’t want to change our community, but rather wanted to find a framework that would help us flourish in our sense of call and vocation as Catholic Religious. This does that wonderfully.”
The Companions of the Order of St. Benedict — formerly the Community of Sts. James and John — will now be known as the Order of St. Gilbert of Sempringham (GSmp). The group continues as a Private Association of the Faithful, but hopes to become a Public Association of the Faithful when they meet the required criteria.
In concrete terms this development involves relocating the Order to St John the Evangelist parish in Calgary, Alberta, where the brothers will move into the presbytery as soon as Fr. Lee Kenyon and his family leave at the end of June this year.