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Final chapter for Catholic bookshop

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After 57 years in Adelaide, Catholic bookshop Pauline Books and Media will close its doors this month.

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The Daughters of St Paul have decided that the congregation’s Adelaide community is no longer viable, resulting in the closure of the three-storey shop in Hindmarsh Square and the departure of the two remaining Sisters.

“We are sad, I am crying,” said Sr Marisa Valzasina, who has been inundated with customers expressing their disappointment since the ‘closing down sale’ signs were put up last month.

“But the reality of our life is like this, we are elderly and we have no Sisters replacing us.”

“I feel terrible because I feel Adelaide is losing a little bit of its soul.

“People go to church and other rituals but the Spirit is here, we are part of the people.”

Born in Italy, Sr Marisa came to Adelaide in 1988 for six years and returned in 2003. Her co-worker Sr Grace Matsumoto came to Australia from Japan in 1989 and to Adelaide in 2007. At 81 and 74 respectively, they have continued to work six days a week from 9am to 5pm. “We go to Mass in the morning, come to work, go home and cook our dinner,” they said. “We hardly have time to pray.”

The Daughters of St Paul, whose mission is to spread the good news of the Gospel through modern means of communication, will continue to have two communities and book stores in Melbourne and Sydney.

The Adelaide premises, which are owned by the Daughters, will be put on the market shortly. Sr Marisa said the dismay of customers had made her determined to explore other options for a smaller shop run by lay staff in a different location in the city.

She said there would always be a need for religious books to “sustain people’s faith”.

Sr Grace said the Sisters knew that the time was coming to leave but they kept putting it off.

“Everybody’s upset, we didn’t want to disappoint people but we had to decide,” she said.

“They (the customers) see the sign saying we are closing and the first thing they say is why?”

Regular customer Jack Blanch typified the reaction of customers. “I’m so sorry to hear that,” he said.

“I come here a lot, for baptism and confirmation gifts for friends’ children. Working in the city, it’s been very handy to be able to come here.”

Another customer said she was Anglican and was “really sorry to hear another bookshop was closing”.

Sr Grace said sometimes people came into the shop “just to talk” or to say a prayer in the chapel.

“A lady just came in because she’d lost her mother, this is part of our ministry too,” she said.

The Sisters reminisced about Sr Edoarda who worked in the bookshop for nearly 50 years before returning to Italy in 2015 for a holiday and deciding it was time to retire there.

“Sr Edoarda knew the whole of Adelaide,” Sr Marisa said.

“The customers called her ‘nonna’ and would bring us in meals.”

She also paid tribute to the current staff which comprises Kirsty Power, Erminia Pittaway, Grace Beaumont and Michael Terminello.

Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ said it was “indeed a very sad day for the Archdiocese and the whole Church in SA”.

“The Sisters have provided a wonderful service which has done incalculable good and they have done this day in and day out for 50 years,” he said.

“It is simply so sad that circumstances of declining vocations and the general run down of bookstores as people buy online has resulted in the closing of what had been one of our finest ministries of the Church in this State.

“We thank the Sisters most sincerely, from the bottom of our hearts, for all the good they have done, conscious of the Father sees all that is done….

“We wish them every grace and blessing as they go with our heartfelt thanks.”

The first St Paul Book Centre in Australia was established next to St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Adelaide in 1962.

The Daughters of St Paul were founded in Italy in 1915 and came to Australia in 1955, establishing their first house in Sydney and starting a printing operation and recording studio there a year later.

The first St Paul Book Centre in Australia opened on May 24 1962 in what is now Mary MacKillop Plaza, on the western side of St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in a building owned by the Archdiocese. The establishment of a Sydney book centre soon followed, and subsequently one in East Hawthorn, Melbourne, opened to the public.

In 1973, Pellegrini’s closed its Adelaide outlet in Rundle Street where Dymocks is now and the Daughters were able to take over the lease and move into larger premises.

Their move also coincided with that part of Rundle Street being converted into Rundle Mall, a project which wasn’t completed until 1976, and no doubt caused much difficulty for customer access, and a great deal of noise and dirt for the Sisters to deal with.

In 1976 the Sisters were able to purchase their first book centre premises, a three story building in Rundle Street, where the Target carpark entrance is now.

In 1987, development plans for the corner of Rundle and Pulteney streets prompted the Sisters to move to their current location in Hindmarsh Square.

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