Meet the Team

Sr Camilla Oberding COLW

Sr Camilla Oberding COLWI am particularly enjoying seeing Abbotswick build up gradually as each year we welcome more and more visitors of all ages and different religious backgrounds. As co-ordinator of everything that happens, I spend most of my working time in the office, taking bookings, overseeing repairs and general maintenance, preparing development plans, balancing the books, advertising etc

The support of some dedicated women who help me in these administrative jobs makes it possible for me to see nothing but signs of hope for the future of the House of Prayer. The friendship, laughter and joy that tempers the work load of building up a new religious community as well as running Abbotswick allows me to sleep well at night and sometimes eve during my hours of prayer!

Sr Gabriela Gasz COLW

Gabi photo

As a Polish sister I’m so glad to be at the House of Prayer as the surrounding countryside reminds me of my homeland more the than hustle and bustle of London which is just half an hour away from here. It’s a wonderful place to work in. I’m involved in running Abbotswick and that takes me around different jobs starting from the office and ending up often in the kitchen.

Abbotswick wouldn’t be the same without the great contribution of our volunteers. Working with them is not only a blessing but fun as well. We share our ideas, the joys and sorrows of our lives, our faith and everything that God provides (through my cooking skills!) on the table for lunch. The House of Prayer gives me, and I believe the whole team, a sense of being at home with each other, of being at home with God whose presence is tangibly felt in the tranquility of this place and in the surrounding nature.

Joan Thomas

JoanI am a parishioner of Christ the Eternal High Priest, Romford where I live with my husband and son who attends a local catholic school.

Once our son was enrolled in full time education, I felt compelled to take a more active role in our local community so began volunteering in different roles for our parish. From there, I responded to an advert in a parish newsletter for an Assistant Administrator at Abbotswick and was delighted to accept the position from Sr. Camilla some weeks later.

Life is hectic but happy as I balance my job at Abbotswick with my parish roles that are also intertwined with being a wife and mother. I work on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Abbotswick but could happily be here everyday, as there is always something that requires attention in this wonderful and serene environment. I especially look forward to Tuesdays when the superb volunteers descend on Abbotswick and ensure that it continues to function as a spiritual retreat.

Sr Theresa Weight COLW

Sr Theresa Weight COLW

This is a brief extract from an article written by Sr Theresa for the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham website:

 Before joining COLW, I was a nurse. As a nurse, I could help people physically and emotionally but not so much spiritually – yet I have always been convinced that a relationship with God is the most important thing in life and the only way to true happiness. I want this happiness for myself and for others. I know that I am only happy when I am doing God’s will. I want to reach out to others, help them to develop their relationship with God so they are able to embrace His will for them and so live life more fully.


Dan Aherne

Dan AherneMy name is Dan Aherne and I responded to a request for a carpenter in our church newsletter of St. Joseph’s, Upminster.

I am semi-retired and Tuesdays in Abbotswick is a wonderful way for me to keep busy by doing small maintenance jobs.

There are normally 4 of us on Tuesdays and we have morning tea and a chat in a shed where we put the world to rights at no extra cost.

Sr. Gabi or Sr. Camilla normally have a small list of things for us to do and there is no pressure to get them done!

Paul Conrad

Paul ConradI am a deacon serving the Cathedral Parish of St Mary and St Helen Brentwood. I am also a volunteer helper at Abbotswick House of Prayer and have been for the past 10 years.

I meet up with the other volunteers on my day off usually a Tuesday and between us we help to keep the grounds of Abbotswick in a neat and tidy state. The grounds are approximately 11 acres in all. Keeping the grass cut during the spring and summer takes up most of our time. In addition, hedges and trees require attention, as do the vast amount of leaves during the late autumn and winter.

We also help with a small vegetable plot and a large orchard. This year we have made our own apple juice!

To me to spend my day off in the company of friends (community and volunteers) is a great joy, very rewarding and a wonderful opportunity to experience the peacefulness of this wonderful centre.

Ann and Gavin Turner

Ann TurnerWe are volunteers at the House of Prayer, Abbotswick. Our names are Ann and Gavin Turner. We reside at Hornchurch in the Greater London Borough of Havering. We are both retired and in reasonably good health.

We help out on Tuesdays normally, Ann doing some housework and I working in the gardens and doing any DIY jobs that are needed. We also do the occasional house-sitting when we are available.

Gavin TurnerThe house and gardens emit an aura of peace and quiet (except when I’m using motorised garden tools!). The general atmosphere is relaxing and the company on these days is very convivial. The sisters Camilla and Gaby work hard to make everybody welcome (and keep our noses to the grind wheel). The gardening faction has a shed where we can have tea or coffee or hide in inclement weather.

There is an awful lot to do to improve the facilities at the House which will take a lot of time, devotion, money and more volunteers.

I’m sure I speak for both of us when I say that we look forward to our Tuesdays at Abbotswick.

Lorraine Adams (former volunteer)

Lorraine AdamsI am part of the Cathedral Parish of St Mary and St Helen Brentwood and live in Kelvedon Hatch, not too far away from the House of Prayer, Abbotswick.

After a request in the parish newsletter for help in the office from Sr. Camilla. I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to keep the grey matter ticking over while being a full time Mum to at the time a one year old daughter. That one year old daughter is now at junior school and she also has a younger brother who is at infant school!

I used to help on a Tuesday along with the other volunteers. There is always a lot to do whether it is looking after bookings, recording gift aid donations or preparing for seminars. We usually stop for a lovely lunch supplied by the Sisters at 1pm and have a quick catch up with everyone.

Working at Abbotswick doesn’t seem like work as the surroundings and company make it a beautiful place to be. No matter how hectic family life has been that week it is always a pleasure to come to Abbotswick and enjoy the wonder of nature around us.

Angie Hart

Angie HartI am probably the most unusual of the volunteers. I am not only a foreigner (Mexican), live nearly an hour away from Abbotswick (Earls Colne) and I do not come on Tuesdays as most volunteers do (I come on Wednesdays), but here I am, like the rest of them, enjoying being part of the community, albeit, only once a week!

I heard about the House of Prayer through an advert in my parish newsletter asking for volunteers. I was intrigued by the existence of such place in which you could find a peaceful, quiet space for praying and meditation. But also in which you were welcome and was free! I thought it was unreal, so I looked it up on the internet and when I saw the beauty of the house and gardens and read about the Community, I arranged an interview with sister Camilla at once.

I must admit, everybody thinks I must be mad! To drive here for nearly an hour to work for nothing is not what normal people do. But then, as I admitted before, I am not normal! And the truth is, you soon realise that there is an awful amount of work to be done, so help is very much needed.

For me, my day at the House of Prayer is probably the best day of my week. I work mainly in the office but would tackle any thing if it is required, from doing house work to ironing or peeling and coring wheelbarrows full of apples! We are never bored!

The House of Prayer is a mini haven amid the chaos of our lives. It is wonderful and very refreshing to come here and be part of a real community where people do things for each other in the most unselfish way. There is hard work but also laughter, giggles, interesting conversation and most of all, love. There is also a reward: a delicious lunch cooked by Sr. Gaby, shared with whoever happens to be here on the day!

Having said all that, I have not had a lot of time to meditate while I walk in the garden… yet!

Karen Lawrence

I am the mother of a busy family with seven children, living in Billericay . Once our youngest daughter was happily settled in full time school I wanted to find some regular voluntary work so that I could get out of the house, meet new people and give a little of my time to others. I looked at a few enticing opportunities, but soon settled on Abbotswick as a wonderful place to get involved as the atmosphere is so peaceful, the house and grounds so beautiful, and the sisters and other volunteers so friendly and welcoming.

I really look forward to Tuesdays when I help out in the gardens or the house. Whether I am planting flowers, weeding, cleaning rooms or peeling apples, the work is always rewarding and appreciated. The sisters provide a delicious lunch, and it is lovely to sit down and relax with the other volunteers after a morning’s work. I have been made to feel part of the Abbotswick family – it truly feels like a home from home. Every week I go away feeling refreshed – it is like having a mini retreat. There is always plenty to do, so I am sure more volunteers would be very welcome!

Josephine Kilkenny

Josephine KilkennyI come from Donegal in Ireland but now live in Chigwell and have been coming to help the sisters regularly on a Thursday morning since they first arrived in the autumn of 2004.

My great love is gardening (having worked in catering all my life) so I especially enjoy tidying up the flower beds around the house and the window boxes in the courtyard.

I also help with odd jobs in the house and usually there is a good pile of ironing to do when I arrive as well as lots of love and warmth received from the people around the house. This is what builds my strength for commitments during the following week.

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