Hobart, Australia, Jan 25, 2019 / 13:46 pm
The wind blows in great gusts over snow-capped mountains on the other side of the world, across the island of Tasmania. Whipped up by the Southern Ocean's infamous Roaring Forties, wave upon wave of wind buffets the Australian state on the very peripheries of the world.
"Separated from the Australian mainland by 140 miles of the treacherous pitch and toss of Bass Strait, Tasmania is a byword for remoteness...it 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 aptly writes in his book "In Tasmania."
If you seek out the peripheries, in other words, whether from Rome, London or Washington, it is hard to get any further away than Tasmania. And yet there, on the other side of the world, on a heart-shaped island the size of West Virginia, a new Jerusalem is emerging.
Tasmania's first Benedictine monastery is gradually taking shape on over 3,000 acres of green pastureland, felicitously named Jerusalem Estate and abutting an eponymous creek in the island's idyllic Midlands. On a visit in late August 2018 - in the middle of Australia's winter, drawing in an Antarctic chill - the monks were still living in trailers and sheds fashioned from corrugated iron on a rented paddock at Rhyndaston, several miles down the road from their future home.
Once a day they travel to the neighboring town of Colebrook, to pray and celebrate Mass in the local church. They have decorated the altar and put out fresh flowers for Our Lady. Though they live like beggars, their liturgical prayer is dignified, and their Gregorian chant nothing short of divine.
Soon, thanks to the archdiocese, an old church will be brought in by truck from the north of the island, the monks tell CNA. Then the young Benedictines - their average age is less than 30, and most of them, with the exception of one monk and the American prior, hail from mainland Australia - will at last have a first church of their own in which to sing, pray and celebrate.
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.
One day an Australian couple knocked on the door, asking the abbot to help organize a retreat in their country. That was almost 10 years ago, and Father Pius - one of the few fluent English speakers at the French abbey - became a regular pilgrim to Australia.