A group of 11 Anglican nuns who were received into the communion of the Catholic Church Jan. 1 were lauded for their response to "the Holy Father's summons to unity" at their Mass of reception.

"You have responded, generously and courageously," Father Daniel Seward, provost of the Oxford Oratory, told the U.K.-based sisters.

During his Jan. 1 homily on the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, he said the nuns  put themselves "at the service of Our Lord's own prayer," that "'they should all be one' as He and the Father are one.'"

The sisters, who were members of the Anglican Community of St. Mary the Virgin, received Confirmation at the Mass, held in the Oxford Oratory. Together with Sister Carolyne Joseph, formerly of the Anglican Society of St. Margaret at Walsingham, the twelve will form the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"That may seem like a rather grandiose statement to make, and the Unity of the Church may seem an ambitious project to entrust to a small sisterhood. What can twelve women do? we might ask," Fr. Seward said.  

"We might have asked the same question about our Lord's choice of twelve rustics from Galilee as His apostles. In faithfulness to His call, He can do great things in you."

The Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary are part of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Ordinariates are an ecclesial structure Pope Benedict allowed in his 2009 apostolic constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus." They allow communities of Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church while maintaining elements of the spiritual and liturgical patrimony inherited from their Anglican tradition.

"We believe that the Holy Father's offer is a prophetic gesture which brings to a happy conclusion the prayers of generations of Anglicans and Catholics who have sought a way forward for Christian unity," said Sister Winsome, who had been superior of the Community of St. Mary the Virgin.

The community will observe the Rule of St. Benedict while also continuing many traditions of their former Anglican community. They continue to look for a physical home for their community.

"We are delighted to have a community of sisters at the heart of our work...we look forward, also, to receiving a great deal from their rich liturgical and musical heritage, which is rightly respected far and wide as a positive contribution to the wider renewal of the Sacred Liturgy which we are currently seeing in the Catholic Church," said a spokesman for the ordinariate.

The sisters are the newest members of the ordinariate, joining many laity and clergy. Several other former Anglican religious have already joined the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, including three sisters of the Society of St. Margaret and Father Robert Mercer, a one-time Anglican bishop and member of the Community of the Resurrection.

The newly Catholic sisters were exhorted to continue their contemplative calling, pondering in their hearts the things of Christ, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary did.

"Today sisters, you can say the same, for you become one with St Gregory the Great, St. Augustine of Canterbury, St. Benedict, St. Edward the Confessor and all those holy men and women who have been signs through the ages of God's providence," Fr. Seward reflected.