More of WA monastic town revealed in latest New Norcia Studies journal

New Norcia Abbot John Herbert, Subiaco Freeman Heather Henderson and Joan Oakland with New Norcia Studies 2018 contributors Geoffrey Coad, Andrew Walton and Bob Reece.  Picture: J Bianchini
New Norcia Abbot John Herbert, Subiaco Freeman Heather Henderson and Joan Oakland with New Norcia Studies 2018 contributors Geoffrey Coad, Andrew Walton and Bob Reece. Picture: J Bianchini

IT’S simply called the Monastery Chronicle.

And the monks of WA’s monastic town New Norcia have kept it going since their second abbot, Fulgentius Torres, initiated the daily record in 1901.

Up until the mid-1950s the chronicle was in Spanish, reflecting the Benedictine community’s roots.

Now a project to translate it into English is in full swing.

And a section of that work, a translation of the entries for 1911, has just been published in the 25th anniversary issue of the annual New Norcia Studies journal.

Journal editor Joan Oakland launched the 2018 edition at a City of Subiaco-hosted reception at The Palms Community Centre on Thursday night.

She described the 1911 chronicle as a “fascinating read”.

“It gives you a bite-size look into the day-to-day microcosm of life in a monastery, particularly this one, the one we all adore,” she said.

Joan Oakland launches the 25th anniversary edition of the New Norcia Studies journal.

 

“But it also allows a view of the Bigger Picture, the macrocosm of a whole year of time, placed in the history of a 170-year-old monastery and a 1500-year-old tradition.

“It’s possible that if the Monastery Chronicle could have been written by nuns, women being more deeply attuned to the emotional side of life, it could have been a scintillating read. But the sometimes-dry quality of the monks’ chronicle is peppered with some real gems, revealing the personalities and often subtle sense of humour of its authors.

“Woven throughout the entries are stories showing the development of buildings, music, agriculture, Aboriginal life, the political landscape of the early colony, the health and well-being of the monks, priestly relations, and the coming and going of monks.”

Apart from the 1911 chronicle, the 25th anniversary edition of the journal features articles on New Norcia founder Rosendo Salvado’s older brother Santos, who left a valuable photographic record, and Bishop Torres’ establishment of the Drysdale River Mission in northern WA.

There is an article on “remarkable couple” Mary Helen Pangieran and Benedict Cuper, some of the first residents of Salvado’s Aboriginal cottages built in the 1860s.

Of Mary Helen, the first Aboriginal postmistress and New Norcia’s first telegraphist, article author Larrie Strautmanis concludes:

“It was an extraordinary achievement for a young Aboriginal female to be appointed to a government position so early in Western Australia’s history. But Mary Helen’s achievement was even more notable considering that she had to deal with the emotional effects of being removed from her family, unable to have children which she so desperately wanted and the physical effects of tuberculosis.”

The journal also includes a New Norcia link to Ireland’s War of Independence by serving Garda John Reynolds, a look at New Norcia’s contemporary art and its map collection, and a study of renowned composer Dom Stephen Moreno’s Adoro Te.

Ms Oakland said 163 authors had written 259 articles since the New Norcia Studies journal started in 1993 with WA historian Tom Stannage as its founding editor.

“I want to make a special acknowledgement of Sr Anne Carter, who took over editing the journal in 1996 and edited no less than 13 subsequent editions, just over half of the journal’s life span,” she said.

To buy the 2018 New Norcia Studies journal, visit New Norcia’s online shop.

READ MORE: Publications on New Norcia’s history launched