Further studies such as Masters and Doctorate degrees are often completed part-time in order to accommodate an already busy life and career. But distance learning can also allow students the opportunity to concurrently put the theory they are researching into practice. Franciscan Sister Minoress Patricia Jordan is a case in point. While completing her Doctoral research into Franciscan solitude at the Greenwich School of Theology, she chose to stay in full time ministry at the convent of St Clare in Derbyshire and oversee the building of a Portiuncula.

This Franciscan retreat, which was recently nominated for an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects, is based on the Portiuncula in Assisi where the Franciscan movement started and contains five hermitages that practically reflect its principles of simplicity and contemplative prayer.“I wanted sound and rigorous biblical and Franciscan research to find expression in a new building that would meet the spiritual needs of twenty-first century Christians,” explains Sr Patricia, Novice Mistress and Director of Formation at St Clare. “I had to find a way forward that would suit my present commitments and yet allow something new to emerge both theoretically and practically. Greenwich School of Theology gave me the support I needed to translate my dream into reality.

I remained in full time ministry and managed to study at a pace that suited my needs.” This Portiuncula with its eco-friendly features and beautiful views over the Derbyshire countryside was not the only result of Sr Patricia’s research – she has also written two books, recently published by Gracewing Publications: An Affair of the Heart and Come Apart and Rest a While.

“It would not have been possible for me to complete study at this depth if residential weeks or weekends were required,” notes Sr Patricia, who has now added the role of Director of the Portiuncula to her many achievements.

Patricia Jordan