Monday, October 18, 2010

Villa Maria Hostel

Yesterday, Blessed Mary MacKillop was canonised, the final step in her being recognised as a saint - Australia's first. Despite my indifference to organised religion, I have always had the greatest respect for holy people. The Dalai Lama, for example. And Baha'u'llah, and Mother Teresa. People who pay more than lip-service to their faith; people who actually live it without ambiguity or hypocrisy. It seems that MacKillop was one of these people.
(Photo: Courtesy State Library of South Australia; B 23825)

Mary MacKillop spent some time here in Brisbane. She arrived here in 1869 with five other sisters of the order that she had founded, the Sisters of St Joseph. They lived at South Brisbane and worshipped at St Stephen's (which now has a sign proclaiming that fact), and they started setting up schools in poorer communities. Unfortunately, she ran afoul of the autocratic Bishop Quinn about who was in charge of the sisterhood, and she was banished from her post in Queensland. Quinn wasn't the only temperamental bishop she was to face - later, Bishop Sheil in Victoria actually excommunicated her, that action requiring intervention from Rome to have her restored to the church. For greater detail on McKillop's story, take a look at one of my favourite blogs ART and ARCHITECTURE, mainly.

Mother Mary MacKillop founded the Sisters of St Joseph with Father Julian Tenison Woods, and here we have a further connection with Brisbane. Father Woods founded another order, the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, in Brisbane in 1874. This religious order cares for the aged and the infirm, but they also maintain "perpetual adoration"; that is 24/7 prayer (at least one of the order is at prayer at all times.) Because the small group of sisters was becoming even smaller as the nuns were ageing, perpetual adoration in the order's chapel ceased for a time, but now it has been restored with the assistance of other religious and laity. The order's chapel and headquarters are called Villa Maria, located at 167 St Paul's Terrace. It is a huge complex that was constructed in stages from 1924 through to the late sixties, the majority of it during the period that James Duhig was Archbishop of Brisbane. This photograph is from the St Paul's Terrace side and was taken in  1990.

Here's a current picture taken from the Warren St side, and below that is the chapel.

(Photos: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

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  1. I heard that her excommunication had something to do with her exposing a father of some kind in the church who was molester. Was there not enough evidence to support this?
    Like yourself, I am rather indifferent to organized religion but regardless, it is hard to deny those people who actually live out their faith. What a wonderful woman.

  2. I've often wondered about that building. Thanks!

  3. foto and elizabeth, there is a good reason people are indifferent to organised religion, or even turned off by it.

    Mary MacKillop looked after the poor, the unwanted babies, the dispossessed rural families, even children sexually abused by their priests. And what happened?... she was hounded and excommunicated by the bishops who should have protected her.

    Mary MacKillop is the peoples' beloved saint, not the church's. It is the ultimate in hypocrisy for the church to claim her as their own. She was one amazing woman.

  4. True "Christianity", "Religion"...whatever you want to call it is the life that Mary MacKillop lived. Thanks for this info Hels...amazing.

  5. Yes, it seems that the churches were no better than the wider community regarding the treatment of women.


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