at St Ursula Monastery
On Saturday the 17th of June Missio organised a meeting for all foreign missionary priests and nuns residing in Malta in the neoclassic St Ursula Monastery in Valletta. After the introductory talk by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, the director of Missio, Fr Victor Agius addressed the missionary priests and nuns emphasising on the missionary message of Pope Francis which was delivered to the 120 Missio directors in the Pontifical Mission Societies’ General Assembly in Rome in June 2023. In this assembly Pope Francis described the charism of Missio which is to instil the missionary spirit in the hearts of all the faithful, thus continuing the work of Jesus to bring God’s infinite love and mercy to all, and the to disseminate the needs of the church in mission lands to all people of good will for an opportunity to pray and support in projects. The meeting with missionary priest and nuns from mission lands of Africa and Asia in the convent, was part of Missio’s mission for evangelisation and to take care to new and young churches from where the missionaries come from.
The abbess, sister Christine Borg, has also given a heart-warming welcome and introductory talk to Missio and the missionary priests and nuns. Sister Christine walked through the history of their convent which spans back from the times of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John in Malta in the 16th century. The monastery of St Ursula was founded by Grand Master de Loubenx Verdalle in 1582 in Vittoriosa, Birgu, and then moved to Valletta in 1595. When the Order of St John was expelled from Malta in 1798 the cloistered nuns stayed on the island and the monastery then was transferred under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Malta. Even if officially the monastery does not belong to the Order of St John, the cloistered nuns still feel linked to the Order for historical reasons with the Grand Master, the Knights and Dames and their historic active life as part of the Order during its stay in Malta in the 16th century. In fact, the 9 cloistered nuns, until today, wear a black dress with white touches and a white enamelled Maltese Cross on their religious habit. They also wear the embroidered stole of profession of the Sovereign Order’s Knights of Justice which is given to them during the ceremony of their profession of vows.
After explaining the history of the monastery, Sr Christine together with other nuns gave a showround of the monastery to the missionaries and Missio team explaining the various historical items such as paintings, embroidery, the skull of the founder of the Order, the Blessed Gerard, and rooms such as the prayer room with the little iron barred window from where the nuns followed mass which give a glimpse of the life of the cloistered nuns in the past. After the showround the nuns invited the missionaries and Missio team for fellowship and a lunch inside the Monastery dining room.
written by: Sarah Azzopardi