The yipping of tiny dogs and the braying of an old donkey are often the only sounds emanating from the wooded hills of Our Lady of Mount Caritas Benedictine Monastery in Ashford, where the Rev. Mother Mary Peter and Sister Francesca, in full habits with coifs and veils and wimples, lead a cloistered, contemplative, prayerful life in the monastery’s dimly lit rooms.
Over the decades, Mother Peter and a handful of other women have maintained their monastic home through the kindness of others, accepting donations of cash, land and services, and going into Catholic churches and grocery stores to sell the “Monastery Bread” baked by volunteers at Mount Caritas.
But there is one glaring problem. In the eyes of the Norwich Diocese, the two women who live at Mount Caritas are not Catholic nuns and Mount Caritas is not a monastery, not a convent, not a religious site of any sort. It is nothing more, church leaders say, than the private home of Dorothy Jordan, a lay woman who for more than 30 years has called herself Mother Peter and dressed up as a nun.
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