New Norcia historical book launch marks founder’s bicentenary

Fred Chaney (third from left) with authors and translators (from left) John Kinder, Bernard Rooney, Bob Reece, Peter Gilet and Joshua Brown.
Fred Chaney (third from left) with authors and translators (from left) John Kinder, Bernard Rooney, Bob Reece, Peter Gilet and Joshua Brown.

THIS was a deeply moving experience for a grateful Fred Chaney.

The former Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister had been asked by the abbot of New Norcia and his fellow Benedictine monks to launch four books associated with the WA monastery town to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of its founder, Rosendo Salvado.

But when he stood to address the packed Palms Community Centre in the Benedictine-linked Subiaco last week he started with a confession: he hadn’t read all of the books from cover to cover because they had only been delivered to him the previous night.

He was particularly fond, therefore, of a letter he found in one of the books from Pope Leo XIII on April 3, 1880 in which the Pontiff wrote to Benedictine monk Theophile Berengier explaining how he could not read his history of New Norcia 1846-1878:

“We do not doubt that it would be agreeable to read your word if, however, the cares of our office give us leisure for it.”

Mr Chaney did have the benefit, however, of an early typescript of Fr Rooney’s The Way of the Boorna-Waangki – A Tale of Cultural Endurance and another of the books was delivered on disc.

He said he remained moved from the material in the books and was particularly taken with the Italian priest Raffaele Martelli, who followed Salvado out to WA in 1853.

“I just thought I really like this man,” he said.