Franciscan brothers first arrived here in 1921 to establish a home of refuge and rehabilitation for the large number of displaced men who were then tramping the roads of rural England.
At the Friary they found a welcome as brothers, the restoration of their dignity through shared work, and the opportunity of rehabilitation and training.
From this small beginning has grown the Society of St Francis, an Anglican order of men and women inspired by the example of Francis of Assisi; SSF now has communities of brothers and sisters, and many lay or ‘tertiary’ members, throughout the world. It is now a retreat centre and welcomes guests from all over the world to Dorset.
Today at Hilfield Friary there continue to live the Franciscan brothers of SSF, but they are now joined by other men and women – young and old, married and single – who together constitute the Hilfield Friary Community.
This Community shares in a rhythm of daily prayer, looks after the Friary land and buildings, and offers hospitality to guests and visitors.
People of all backgrounds are welcome here – Christians, those of other faiths and of none – for rest, retreat, and renewal of life. The emergency provision for ‘wayfarers’ ended in 2004, but the Friary still provides a place of acceptance and supported living for those who are in particular need.
Following the example of Francis of Assisi there is a particular emphasis on living simply, generously and joyfully on God’s earth.
The land and the animals it supports are cared for and provide food for the community. There is a common table around which the Community and its guests share meals, and yet there is also time and space to be quiet and alone.
The Friary is not just a beautiful, peaceful oasis; the Community has a concern for promoting justice and reconciliation in a troubled world, and for proclaiming a wise ecology in the face of our culture’s environmental foolishness.
At the heart of the Friary lies the Chapel where the Community comes together for prayer four times a day. Celebrating the Eucharist and praying the scriptures in the Daily Office, as well as the times of silent meditation, bring us back to the source and goal of all creation, renew us in the life of Jesus Christ, and unite us with our brothers and sisters throughout the world.