Farewell to England

by Cheryl Ann Smith

Members of Madonna House live in obedience, following the will of God by going where we are sent. In the following article, Cheryl Ann, who has written numerous articles coming out of her experiences in MH England, writes about her transfer to Combermere, which means leaving a land and people she has come to love very much.


Well, the day finally arrived. The day I had been trying to prepare for. The day I knew would break my heart. And so it did.

When I joined Madonna House, I promised to live in poverty, chastity and obedience. Our way of life brings joy and beauty, but not without struggle. And I did struggle on the day I was given my next obedience: Arise from this beloved house in England and go!

We have a 12-year limit for directors in a particular house, and my time is up. So, it was not a surprise, but it still broke my heart.

God’s will brims over with grace and love, so I know blessings will come with this move—for myself and for our apostolate in England.

But my humanity keenly grieves the loss of all that I have loved in this country—the sheer delight of gambolling lambs, the joyous beauty of daffodils strewn with abandon along the verges of each village, bluebells secretly adorning hidden woods, the faithful sea, which hides a whole world in its depths, and other times deposits treasures on the shore for children to find with wonder.

Treasures are strewn all through this northern region. I will never forget the train ride from York when I first landed in England. Glancing out of the window, my eyes popped out of my head: there in a field were spectacular ruins of an abbey, a silent testament to monastic fidelity from another era.

That treasury of faith breathes through the land to this day. This history and culture, so rich in suffering and amazing accomplishments has led to a palpable resilience, courage, willingness to sacrifice for others, which moves me deeply.

How I will miss our lovely home which catches glimpses of the sea and is regularly serenaded by all kinds of songbirds, our lush garden with flowers in profusion and vegetables for our table, the exquisite rhythm of life we’ve been able to fashion, with ample time for prayer, community life and vigorous apostolic outreach.

But of course, it is the people I will miss the most: our diocesan family who have been so generous in welcoming us into their hearts, seekers from all over England and beyond who’ve come to our house on retreat desiring peace and a deeper love with God, our neighbours, the many who ring or write, asking for prayers.

I’ve become so deeply embedded in the life and heart of this country. I cannot imagine leaving. And yet, leave I must in September.

You know, a broken heart is a beautiful thing, a testament to love. Only a heart that is open and in love can be broken. Jesus’ own heart was broken and pierced and from that wound flowed grace upon grace for us.

So I offer the people of England my heart broken in love for them, a heart that carries them with me, a heart that will forever love them and hold them before the Father.