Pilgrims set to flock to High Bradfield

THEY spend all day in silence and as much time as possible on their own.

The 11 Carmelite nuns at Kirk Edge monastery at High Bradfield attend chapel seven times a day and shun most of the trappings of modern life.

Sister Mary of the Resurrection, aged 83 – head of the religious order and a member for 61 years – describes the Carmelites as the most contemplative within the Catholic church.

But the almost palpable air of serenity and devotion to God is set to be shattered in October when hundreds are expected to flock to the site high on the moors above Sheffield to view the relics of a famous saint.

The bodily remains of St Therese of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun who died aged 24 in 1897, will be on display at Kirk Edge for three hours on Monday October 5.

And the sisters are bracing themselves for what Sister Mary says will be the biggest event at the monastery for years.

It is the sole stop in South Yorkshire of a nationwide tour of the bones of St Therese from September 16 to October 16.

It starts at Portsmouth Cathedral and visits nationally important places of worship including Aylesford Priory, York Minster and Westminster Cathedral.

The ornate casket will also stop at a number of Carmelite monasteries, including Kirk Edge.

Some 15,000 leaflets will be printed and sent to every registered Catholic in Hallam Diocese. Posters will also be sent to all Catholic schools and churches. A booklet on the life of St Therese is also being prepared for distribution.

Sister Mary added: "We were surprised but very privileged to be chosen, we thought the relics would go to the cathedral in Sheffield. It's a big event for us and a joy.

"We revere St Therese and live by her teaching, but we want the whole diocese to be included. We've already had an enquiry from as far away as Oxford.

"When people come to our monastery they sense the peace. We have to trust to God all will go well."

Therese Martin was born in Normandy in 1873 and entered the Carmelite convent of Lisieux when she was just 15.

Before her early death she wrote the story of her life and spiritual progress which has had a major impact on the church ever since.

She was declared a saint in 1925 and in the last 15 years the relics have visited 40 countries around the world.

Millions have prayed beside them in the hope of being healed or blessed, including current Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The Catholic Bishop of Hallam John Rawsthorne said he was delighted Kirk Edge was being honoured.

He added: "It's not something modern people react to very positively. But we have a great tradition of the veneration of remains of saints. It reminds us of the person and their dedication to God.

"Although they are only at Kirk Edge for a short time I think people will travel to see them, but I've no idea how many people will attend. It's going to need to be well-organised."

The monastery is situated just inside the border of the Peak National Park about five miles north-west of Sheffield, surrounded by the upland farms and moorland of South Yorkshire.

At 1,200ft above sea level it is thought to be the highest Carmelite Monastery in England.