A religious institute in Bathurst will vacate its former convent, now an ecology centre, ending 111 years of continuous occupancy at the site. Source: ABC News.
By Luke Wong, ABC News
Sixty years ago, Sr Patricia Powell arrived at Saint Joseph’s Mount convent to begin her journey of becoming a nun with the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea. Decades later she co-founded the Rahamim Ecology Centre, a ministry dedicated to environmental education.
After years of dedicated service to the ministry and her community, Sr Patricia will depart as the last acting director when the institute winds-down the ecology centre.
“I’m sad to be leaving it because I do have a sentimental attachment to it,” Sr Patricia said of the venue, which had become a spiritual and educational home for her over the years.
“But I’m delighted that what was a very left-field agenda when we started here is now mainstream.”
In 1909, merchant John Meagher gifted the historic Logan Brae residence at Bathurst in New South Wales to the Sisters of Mercy who renamed it to Saint Joseph’s Mount. Postulants and novices lined up on a step in front of a door. The building and its 4.7ha property served as a convent, and later an outreach centre for disadvantaged people, until 2007 when it was transformed into an environmental learning facility.
The centre’s eco-education coordinator Sally Neaves said the Sisters of Mercy were pioneers in eco-spirituality and the centre had become a pilgrimage site for many ministries over the years.
“They were kind of trailblazers, if you like, in the new thinking of the universe story and how this scientific influence could influence their theology.”
A pivotal moment for the centre occurred in 2015, Ms Neaves said, when Pope Francis delivered the encyclical Laudato Si which outlined his concerns over the planet’s environmental degradation.
“After Pope Francis expressed that he was also thinking this way it was a huge endorsement.”
The decision to close the Rahamim Ecology Centre came after its programs had become financially unviable, a spokesperson for the Sisters of Mercy said. The institute said the Bathurst City Community Club will licence the building and part of the land from May, with plans to develop a wellbeing centre on the site.