Saturday, February 2, 2019


New Benedictine monasteries seem to be popping up all over the world in the strangest of places and started by Americans.  Silverstream in Meath, Ireland is one example, but the latest is in one of my favorite places, Tasmania.  I visited there 12 years ago, staying with a vet friend I knew from California. It is so unlike the rest of Australia, being a lot more our San Juan Islands.

Gorgeous hill country of Southern Midlands
“Separated from the Australian mainland by 140 miles of the treacherous pitch and toss of Bass Strait, Tasmania is a byword for is like outer space on earth and invoked by those at the 'centre' to stand for all that is far-flung, strange and unverifiable,” Nicholas Shakespeare writes in his book “In Tasmania.”

Notre Dame Priory is led by Father Pius Mary Noonan, a monk from Kentucky who lived previously as a monk in a French monastery in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.

Tasmania’s first Benedictine monastery is near the small town of Colebrook on over 2,700 acres of green pastureland  in the island’s idyllic Southern Midlands, which is about 45 minutes north of Hobart.. While I can’t say I visited this town, I did drive several times through this gorgeous hilly country, which had more sheep than people ( typical Australia). Interestingly, the land is named Jerusalem Estate, as the Jerusalem river runs through it.

“For us, the abundance of the house of God is the immense spiritual treasure of the monastic life which it is our honor and privilege to bring to Tasmania, and through it, to the rest of Australia. The abundance is meant to fill the monks to the brim, as they each strive to reach perfection, and it is meant to overflow through the continual prayer that they send up before the throne of God, and also through the retreats which allow souls to share in that abundance in a more tangible way.”  Prior Noonan

The young Benedictines - their average age is less than 30, and most of them, with the exception of one monk and the American prior- come from mainland Australia. In just  two years there are  10 monks.

At present they say daily Mass in the old church in Colebrook. Soon the local bishop is having an old wooden Church moved to the site, so the monks can pray on their own land. Like us they sing Gregorian chant.
As part of their labora, they lead silent and guided retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola

.In 2017 meeting with members of Benedictine communities in Rome, Pope Francis said the order offered quiet and prayer amidst a rushed world.
“In this age, when people are so busy that they do not have enough time to listen to God’s voice, your monasteries and convents become like oases, where men and women of all ages, backgrounds, cultures and religions can discover the beauty of silence,”   These monks “Downunder” certainly fill the bill!

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