From the Principal
I have a fascination with religious buildings. Not just churches - any building, of any faith really, that people have erected as a sign of community, faith and worship. I think their design and use provides a really indelible snapshot into the priorities of the time, and the ways that our ancestors expressed a sense of grandeur, wonder and service.
I am equally interested in their repurpose! In modern times, all over the world, places of worship, convents and monasteries have become less utilised and less populated, as attendance at church and potentially religion itself has become much less important to societies. So, should you want to, you can pick up an early Tudor era church in the UK for about $400 000. People do this. Methodist chapels in Welsh mining villages and some grandiose 18th century designs that come with some nice acreage and about 100 graves that you have to commit to maintaining. In the town of Cricklade (the source of the Thames) the Catholic diocese purchased a 1000 year old medieval church that was declared redundant by the Anglican diocese - thus re-occupying a building that their faith initially used up to the 1530s.
The same occurs closer to home. Places of worship in Queensland are sold and repurposed as hotels, child care centres and family homes, to name just a few.
What we build and how we use those buildings is a reflection of what we see as important.
I was moved recently to read about the repurposing of a convent in Canberra by the Sisters of St Joseph. MacKillop House in the inner north of the City was built in the late 1960s as a place for Josephite sisters to study before commencing their ministry. In that way, it helped to support the mission established by St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.
The Josephite order has always operated in the margins. Today, Josephite sisters can be found supporting the homeless, the waged-poor, indigenous rights and the rights of women. So, it is no surprise that today that same convent has been repurposed to provide targeted support for women rendered homeless by the Covid-19 pandemic. Sr Noelene Quinane, who first entered the convent as a nun in 1969, now visits regularly to support the residents. She said,
"It's giving them their dignity, it's giving them hope, and that's what this place has been about for the whole 50 years. It's almost like a full circle."
The messages emerging from the Covid/post Covid world is that we are not through the woods yet. We are reminded consistently of the threat of a second outbreak, the latest prediction is that Australia is 100 days from 'falling off an economic cliff' and we already have the spectre of the financial support offered by the Government being withdrawn. When the time comes to support our neighbour, let's focus on the need for us all to give them full dignity, and full hope.