Church
of the
Good Shepherd
An English Saint Returns Home
Celebrations were held recently at the Good Shepherd Church, Woodthorpe, Nottingham where the icon and a relic of St Gilbert of Sempringham were installed and solemnly blessed by Canon Philip Ziomek the parish priest. Members of the Oblates of St Gilbert and parishioners were present at the ceremony. The icon made by the Shrewsbury based iconographer Sister Petra Clare, depicts the saint surrounded by his first seven women members of the order along with the canons and brothers. Also included on the left are the Cistercian St Bernard and St Malachy (holding the staff), who were supportive to St Gilbert in establishing his Order. On the far right is Pope Eugenius111 who advised St Gilbert to continue with his own order rather than unite with the Cistercians as St Gilbert had wished at that time.
The apex of the icon shows Our Lord overlooking the tower of St Andrews Church Sempringham the birthplace of the Gilbertines, and at the base of the icon a small clear compartment enclosing the relic. It was at Sempringham that the 'seven maidens' were enclosed on the north side of the church to start their lives as contemplatives in 1131. The church is there today standing isolated in the flat south Lincolnshire fenlands near Bourne, and Mass has been celebrated there annually, usually in September since 1985.
Until recently the whereabouts of any relic of St Gilbert remained a mystery as the priory at Sempringham along with his Shrine was destroyed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. All that remains now where the priory that housed around two hundred canons, lay brothers and nuns, are some earth mounds and the site of the former fishponds that served the priory. Memphis based Oblate Trudy Hoch-Mong, has made it her research task to follow what happened to the Shrine and its relics. Her journey took her to Italy and to churches in Altino and Casoli and it was in Casoli that she discovered that the relics had been taken by three of the monks via Rome for safekeeping with the intention of continuing the order in an old Benedictine monastery this never happened according to Trudy.
The Gilbertines were the only truly English monastic order and one of the first to have double houses separate parts of the priory for men and women, each under the observance of a prior and a prioress. It was in 1984 following events the previous year at Lincoln cathedral that celebrated 900 years since St Gilbert's birth, that a group of parishioners at The Good Shepherd wished to remember this local man and his way that could be adapted to modern day living hence the Oblates of St Gilbert, (a lay association of men & women) was born under the spiritual guidance of Fr Hilary Costello OCSO of Mount St Bernard Abbey.

St Gilbert's feast day is February 4th.

Further information available from:

Rev Melvyn Harwood Tel: 01902 798489

Liz Hodson Tel: 0115 9553101

Photography submitted by John Westby.
3 Thackeray's Lane, Woodthorpe, Nottingham, NG5 4HT. Tel: (0115) 926 8288