The Pioneer Order of South Australia.
As this memorable nineteenth century draws near and nearer to its close, the rush and whirl which has been so marked a characteristic of at least the latter half of its existence would seem to press onward with accelerated speed, and our lives, as if in sympathy or more probably of necessity, tend ever more to rush on with it with an increasing fret and hurry; full to overflowing of affairs and of business, and leaving further and further behind those peaceful leisured times and long roomy days which, in the opinion of many, is nothing short of a necessity for our spiritual and temporal well-being. This tendency will be well exemplified in the nature of the mental pabulum with which we are content to satisfy ourselves. We are a reading people, but more emphatically are we a busy people, and in these latter days all that is noblest and most worthy in literature stands but a poor chance beside the latest society novel, the “storiette,” or the comic paragraph.
[St. Aloysius’ Church and College, Sevenhills.]
But could we, for a space, go back to these roomy, leisured days, and, as a preliminary to the subject which we have chosen for our sketch, read up those glorious records of Christian missions, of men striving with a holy emulation to surpass each other in carrying out the command of their Divine Master to go forth and teach all nations; of toil and hardship, obstacles and contradictions, and miseries of every kind; of bloodshed and lives laid down with joy and gladness, could but the light of faith be brought to those who sit in darkness, how edifying and soul-stirring would be the task.
And if we can extend our leisure, and with burning hearts read on, we will find that amongst these noble armies of brave hearts and holy, stands one pre-eminent; one that seems to have a genius for piercing further into unknown and untried wilds, and who there find material to their hand which, humanly speaking, would be wholly impracticable and beset with difficulties almost insurmountable; one which has suffered more oppression and persecution, more personal vilification, than any other religious Order within the Church—the illustrious Order of the Society of Jesus. It is, perhaps, because of these things that the sons of St. Ignatius have been so blessed in their work in almost every spot of earth on which they have ever set foot. The history of the Jesuit settlement in Paraguay—to cite but a solitary instance—better known to our readers as ‘New Australia,’ that shattered socialistic dream of a few years ago, is an idyll fit but for the pen of a poet. But it is the work of the Jesuit Order in our own fair land of South Australia that we would at present speak.
To South Australia belongs the honor of having received the first Fathers of the Society of Jesus, and any Catholic history of early days, as well as of times more recent, must be in the main one with the work and progress of the Jesuit Fathers. The Jesuit Order will always be remembered as the pioneer religious Order of South Australia, and in full measure did they receive the usual pioneer’s portion; the burthen and toil and heat of the day of poor and small beginnings and strenuous living.
Not only were the Jesuits the first religious Order to land in South Australia, but the manner of their coming was somewhat remarkable; one of those events which, to our eyes, seem but small and insignificant, but which are some times laden with vast and unforseen possibilities for the future. In the years 1847 and 1848 the countries of Europe were in a very disturbed state, and the enemies of religion directed their hatred and persecution particularly against the Jesuits, whom they expelled from Austria. About the same period a certain landowner of Silesia, Weikert by name, with some of his friends, proposed to set sail and make for themselves a home in the distant land of Australia. Mr. Weikert and his friends were Catholics, and without the Catholic priest they were not willing to embark on such an enterprise. Obstacles stood in the way of bringing about the fulfilment of their pious desire. At last it was found that two of the lately expelled Jesuits from Austria were ready and will ing to accompany the emigrants. One condition only did the Superior-General of the Order desire to lay down; that the two Fathers appointed be allowed to reside together, and to lead a life, as far as possible, in accordance with the rules of their Order.
Under such circumstances, on Dec. 6th, 1848, the two first Jesuit Fathers of the Australian province, Fathers Aloysious Kranewitter and Father Maximilian Klinkowstroem, landed in Adelaide. The great spiritual writer, Father Faber, somewhere, in speaking of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, likens those little actions so fraught with far-reaching consequences to the ever-widening eddies which are seen when a small pebble is cast into a pool of water. St. Stephen, when being stoned to death, prayed for his persecutors, foremost among whom was St. Paul. St. Paul’s, conversion follows on the prayer of the martyr, then St. Paul’s great work for God, and on and on to eternity does the prayer of St. Stephen bear fruit. So with this little band of emigrants, who loved their religion so well that they would not start out on their journey without the priest to minister to them. Almighty God not only granted and blessed the pious desire of His faithful servants, but in His Wisdom He made use of the occasion to firmly establish in the new land to which they were bound, the great Missionary Orders of the Society of Jesus.
Difficulties, however, were not at an end. On landing in Adelaide Father Klinkowstroem was of opinion that there would be here no field for his labors. The few shepherds’ huts in the North of South Australia did not give him the scope which he desired, and as the spiritual wants of the Catholic emigrants who accompanied Mr. Weikert were already provided for in the person of Father Kranewitter, he decided to return.
Mr. Weikert and his friends proceeded to take up land on the Hutt River, two
miles south of Clare, while Father Kranewitter selected for himself that section of land on which the college and church at Sevenhills are built. The title of Sevenhills was given to the new settlement by Father Kranewitter—a most appropriate title for the place which, in the years to come, was to be such a root and centre of Catholicity. To this solitray representative of the sons of St. Ignatius did Bishop Murphy entrust the care of souls over the whole vast country north of the Wakefield, and even more southwards, as of the German Catholics in Tanunda, Angaston, and Lyndoch. The first years were years of the greatest hardships and poverty. At that time the male population flocked over to Bendigo. The two lay brothers—Brothers John and Sadler—had to toil for the poorest living. Brother John carried on foot, twenty-five miles, butter to the Burra miners for sale, and brought back in his large basket what he could get in exchange for their living. A little pine hut was their only residence for several years—oratory, sitting, and dining-room all under the same thatched roof.
In 1852 Father Tappeiner came from Austria, in 1856 Father Pallhuber—names well-known and shining with the lustre of a great work done—and in the course of time the number of Fathers and Brothers was steadily increased by new arrivals for the work. Benefactors in Austria supplied the means for the travel and for the outfit, house, and church. The missionary work of those few Sevenhill Fathers was over an area of, say, 25,000 square miles, from 150 miles one way to 250 the other, and travelling on horseback amongst the most scattered population, to the farthest lonesome shepherds’ huts, and to the springing up hamlets and townships as the years went on. With the increase of the population, however, the secular clergy also increased in numbers and as new foundations were made and new churches and schools built, many of the districts which had been in the hands of the Fathers were given over to the secular clergy.
The Sevenhill Fathers were relieved a good deal when the Bishop was able to appoint secular priests: in 1868 for Kadina, Wallaroo, Moonta, and Port Wakefield; in 1869 for Tanunda and Angaston; and in 1874 for the whole country north of the county of Victoria. In 1870 to 1877 Sevenhills founded residences of one or two Fathers with one lay brother in Manoora, Georgetown, Jamestown, Port Pirie; and in 1885 in Kooringa. Kooringa has been only the other day placed under the care of Rev. Father W. Doyle, who was removed from Port Pirie to take up the work of this district. It was here, and during his residence of thirteen years, that the Very Rev. Father O’Dowling, now stationed at Norwood, built the present residence, the finest in the whole of the North. For all there (sic) houses, Sevenhills was the father house and the centre. The growth of Catholic life in this vast missionary field, and the places founded and attended by Fathers, will be seen by the following list:—St. Ignatius’, Norwood; St. Mary’s, Beulah-road; St. Aloysius’, Sevenhills; St. Michael’s, Clare; Mintaro, Hill River, Georgetown, Gulnare South, Laura, Narridy, Redhill, Gladstone, Jamestown, Caltowie, Yarcowie, Terowie, Kooringa, Farrells Flat, Hallet, Mount Bryan, Saddleworth, Port Pirie, Crystal Brook, Warnertown, Burnburney, Wallaroo Bay, Kadina, Moonta, Undalya, Rhyine (sic), Riverton, Navan, Auburn, Lower Wakefield, Balaklava, Port Wakefield, Tanunda, Angaston, Lyndoch, Blinman, Blackrock, Pekina, Tarcowie, Port Broughton, Mundoora, Yongala, Lancelot, Port Augusta, Saltia, and Melrose.
Such a record will give an idea of the extent of the labors of the Fathers, but no list can give an adequate record of the self-sacrifice, zeal, and untiring devotion of the Fathers, and of the solid foundations of faith and piety instilled into the hearts and souls of those under their care, and to this cause may we not attribute that staunch loyalty to the faith—that grit, backbone—call it what you will, which is so striking a characteristic of the main body of the country Catholic population?
But in these interesting records we have been tempted away from the subject of our sketch—the Church and college at Sevenhills. At the arrival of Father Kranewitter in 1848 there was only one little church in existence, namely, the present schoolroom of St. Michael’s, in Clare. Up to 1880 the number of churches and chapels—many of them spacious, most substantial, nay grand, buildings—rose to 27; the children were educated in 26 schools, most of them by Sisters of St. Joseph, who had their convents near the school. Regular stations, monthly or quarterly, have been held by the Fathers during those years in more than twenty different localities.
A most important department of the work of the Fathers at Sevenhills has yet to be noticed—the educational work of St. Aloysius College, Sevenhills. It began in 1857, and continued to the end of 1885. At this time the college was closed; at least, temporarily. Several grave reasons advised that step, prominent the constantly increasing work of the province in Austria itself—financial difficulties of the farming population of that time in South Australia; most of all, the too great distance of Sevenhills from Adelaide, and the manifest drawback, nay, essential difficulties, of college work and college life in such a distant and lonely country place. But ere it closed its doors it had a noble record to look back upon. During those years, 1857-1885, it had a total of 340 boarders from different colonies and externs 150.
Amongst those scholars Sevenhills counts—besides many other prominent men in high position—ten secular priests and six Jesuit Fathers. Most of these continued and completed their studies in Europe. Father J. D. Woods, the well known missioner and renowned geologist, pursued his studies at Sevenhills, and amongst the names of those well known to the present generation were the late Archbishop Beynolds and Dr. Byrne, who studied theology under the late Father Tappeiner. Here also did Fathers Jorgensen, Cornes, and Adamson study for a time. Several of the students of St. Aloysius College eventaully (sic) joined the Order, amongst whom were the two Fathers O’Brien (Thomas and John), Fathers Thomas and Frank Carroll, and Father MacKillop, whose name is well known in connection with the mission for the aborigines in the Northern Territory. There are at present six Fathers and nine lay brothers. Some of the older lay brothers, who have long been stationed there are really store-houses of information of a most interesting kind in connection with the Order.
No sketch of Sevenhills would be complete that did not include the vineyard and orchard cultivated by the lay brothers, and which is one of the largest in the North. Brother Screiner, an Austrian, was the first to begin the cultivation of the vineyard. The income derived from it helped towards the support of the Fathers and Brothers, the locality being at that time poor and but sparsely populated. An old Catholic custom survives at Sevenhills, the blessing of the wine on St. John the Evangelist’s day. It is related that an attempt was made by the enemies of the saint to poison him, but on raising the vessel to his lips a serpent reared its head, and thus gave the saint warning, and it is from this incident that we see St. John the Evangelist represented with a goblet or chalice of wine in his hand, from which issues the head of a serpent. Sevenhills and district is staunchly Catholic, and there is still a little settlement of Poles on the Hill River, descendants of those first setlers who accompanied Mr. Weikert.
With this outline of the founding of the Jesuit Order in South Australia, we will close our sketch, but had we that leisure, the loss of which so many of us deplore, how willingly would we follow the good Fathers in all the details of their vicissitudes and wanderings over the lonely tracts of hill and valley, of bush and arid waste, where, animated with zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, their patient footsteps led them. But ’tis not for record of man, nor yet for the glory of an illustrious name, that such things are done. The spirit which rules them through all is that expressed in that glorious watchword of their Order—”Ad majorem, Dei gloriam.”