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Moving tribute to Daughters of St Paul

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After 57 years serving the South Australian Catholic community, the Daughters of St Paul were farewelled at a thanksgiving Mass in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral last night.

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The Daughters have closed their Pauline Books and Media Centre store in Hindmarsh Square, signalling the end of their presence in Adelaide.

In a touching homily, Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ said it was a sad occasion for the Sisters and those they had served so well.

“The book store and media centre staffed by the Sisters and devoted lay people was a place of pilgrimage, a place of advice and counsel, a spiritual centre in the heart of Adelaide,” he said.

“Country people made sure to come there to the book store because those resources weren’t available and priests would make a pilgrimage to pick up what they needed for Scripture and liturgy resources…it was a place of witness of the work of the Sisters in opening up the Word made flesh.”

Bishop O’Kelly said when the Sisters first arrived in Adelaide and set up a shop adjacent to St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral – their first bookstore in Australia – they lived at St Peters and would go “door to door” with a suitcase of books.

Over four different sites, they had continued the mission of their order’s founder Italian priest Blessed James Alberione to use new methods of communication to evangelise and spread the Word.

“The foresight of Blessed James, it was 1915 and when you think of what communication was like then compared to the mass media and electronic communication we have now, where we can turn on the television and see a football match being played overseas – we have this miracle of communication.

“There was no suggestion of things we take for granted now like Blue Tooth, WiFi or anything in the electronic age, but this man assisted by Mother Thecla (Merlo) had the idea that this was going to be an instrument of evangelisation and gathered around themselves a group of Sisters to work in that apostolate.

“It was something new, something nuns had never done before, and we here in SA were beneficiaries of that.”

Bishop O’Kelly spoke of Sr Edoardo who worked at the book store for nearly 50 years and “knew all of Adelaide”. “She was a better source of information than an enclosed Carmelite,” he joked.

“Edoardo didn’t have a great command of English but it didn’t matter…she heard so many people’s confessions the
Archbishop wanted to give her the right of absolution.”

He expressed his gratitude to Sisters Marisa and Grace who had “strived so hard” to spread the Word and whose work was now coming to a completion.

“You are very much part of this community, you are very dear to us, so we pray that the seeds you have planted will grow…that somehow the vacuum will be filled in our Church.”

Daughters of St Paul provincial, Sr Nerina Zernado, who travelled from Sydney for the farewell Mass along with other members of the community, thanked the SA Catholic community for its support of the Daughters and listed the Sisters and lay staff who had worked at the store.

Sr Marisa and Sr Grace bring the gifts to the altar.

“In a special way I want to thank Marisa and Grace, for their many years of ministry in Adelaide,” she said.

“They are strong sisters, brave and courageous. They’ve borne the emotional toll, the brunt of the closure of our Book Centre, with the flow–on practical consequences and hard work. To say they are broken-hearted to leave and that they have shed tears, is an understatement, but their acceptance of letting go, and gratitude for being part of this community, are saintly.

“We leave here broken-hearted but also with grateful and joyful hearts because our hearts are filled with beautiful memories and gratitude to God for having given us the opportunity to serve in this place, a most wonderful and welcoming place where for 57 years we were able to give expression to our charism and mission, a familiar place where the Daughters of St Paul always felt at home.

“It has been our privilege to know, love and serve God and God’s people in this beautiful city and State.”

 

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