No Mass at 9am on Friday 31 May

The funeral of Mother Gertrude Baker

House Chronicle 16-17 April 2024

16 April
Abbess Gertrude’s body was received at 5.45pm on a sunny April evening. After the customary ritual we processed through the cloister, towards the church, singing psalms 120 and 121, ‘I lift up my eyes to the mountains’ and ‘I rejoiced when I heard them say, let us go to God’s house’. It seemed especially fitting for a nun who had lived over seventy years in the Midlands that we were following the medieval Evesham Cross carried by Dame Stephen.

The Office of the Dead began with Vespers and continued through to Lauds on 17th with the coffin centrally placed on the omphalos of the church in the lee of the Paschal candle with its evocative portrayal of a  stream of water, flowing from the sanctuary, teaming with life (cf. Ezekiel 47:1). Flowers from Abbess Gertrude’s family and the family of Sr Theresa Mary adorned the light-filled church.

Requiem Mass for Abbess Gertrude Baker (14.10.1926-01.04.2024)

17th The day dawned cold – a light frost – but bright and clear with many signs of spring: bluebells just beginning to appear among the waning daffodils while at the foot of an ancient sycamore tree along the drive the first blooms of forget-me-not were visible, another symbol from nature of the occasion we are celebrating today.
Much activity this morning in all departments: kitchen, refectory, sacristy, church, cemetery and guest area. It was good to welcome members of Abbess Gertrude’s family as well, of course, as Sister Davina Sharp and her father and a clutch of friends of Colwich who had made the long journey north, though for concelebrant, Fr Michael McLaughlin of the diocese of Leeds, it was not such a trek, nor for Abbot Robert Igo of Ampleforth, the principal celebrant.
The Mass, a simple English liturgy filled with paschal joy, was preceded by a surprise: a message from Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham who knew Colwich Abbey and Abbess Gertrude well. The message, read clearly by Dame Therese Mary Hutton, formerly of Colwich, assured us of Archbishop Longley’s prayers and spoke of the ‘wonderful and unswerving dedication ’ of Abbess Gertrude to her vocation.
The first reading, from the Letter to the Romans (Rom 8:31-39) read by Dame Benedict Rowell, reminded us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, while the second reading, from the letter to the Thessalonians, (2 Thess. 4:13-18), read by D. Theresa Mary,  rang with the strong conviction of the Early Church not only in the resurrection of Christ but that we too shall rise with him and be with him for ever. This was taken up in the Gospel from St John (17: 24-26), from Christ’s High priestly prayer at the Last Supper, where he expresses his desire that those whom the Father has given him – his disciples then and since – should be with him where he is.

Abbot Robert’s homily, lightened with gentle humour, also focussed on the resurrection, the new life to which Abbess Gertrude had been looking forward and for which she had been preparing, all her life. We learned that during her very full years in the monastery Dame Gertrude had filled the offices of Novice Mistress, Guest Mistress, Portress, Infirmarian, Abbess (1994-2010) and Electrician. Although a spiritual guide to many, Abbess Gertrude famously had an awful sense of spatial direction and was always getting lost at General Chapters! However, said the celebrant, the focus and sense of direction of Jesus is perfectly clear: he wants us to be where he is, and this now, we pray, has been fulfilled for Abbess Gertrude.

The Bidding prayers were offered by Dame Davina Sharp, former Abbess of Colwich.

Before the prayers for the final commendation and committal, Abbot Robert reminded us of our faith in the resurrection of the body and of the need to show respect for that body which the rite enshrines.

The birds were in full-throated voice as we processed to the cemetery under threatening skies which nevertheless managed to hold their moisture until well after proceedings at the graveside had finished.

A warm, fraternal lunch was enjoyed by all. At Stanbrook we felt we had met and made new friends from Colwich and we trust that they too had a sense of belonging here where they will always be welcome.

May Abbess Gertrude pray for us all.
A rainbow just before Compline sealed the day with promise.