Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rebel Nuns and Emo Priests?

Andrea is...doing research
This blog entry was meant to be more interesting because I was going to talk about how these nuns formed their group because they refused to wear the traditional habit in the tropical climate. This I heard from a friend. It isn’t quite true.

So my research into the Sisters hasn’t yielded the information needed to justify my title (which I’m sure got you interested) but I have learned that the Sisters have done a lot for the people, especially the indigenous people, up this way.

Nine of them came out to WA in 1907 from Ireland. Most didn’t really know what they were getting themselves into. The conditions they lived in were rough. They established missions around the Kimberley, health clinics, a leprosarium (til 1986!) schools and orphanages. During WWII many indigenous and Asian people were evacuated to their missions. They provided a lot of health care and education to the indigenous and Asian population of Broome during the time when the government would not provide such things to them and also took in mixed race children who were not wanted by their communities.

I just read through the Heritage Listing report, and it turns out the priest that was there from 1916-1923 allowed them to “relinquish some of the more oppressive elements of their habit, such as the flannel petticoat, starched guimpe and train, which were unsuitable for the climate”. It also says they were an isolated group and not part of the approved Congregation of Sisters of St John of God. They declined offers to join other orders.

So really, they were rebels; outcast by their order, taking in and serving the outcasts of Broome.

The heritage listed Convent (pictured above) was built in 1926 in a ‘North West vernacular bungalow style’ by
Japanese carpenter and shipbuilder Hori Gorokitchi using a “traditional Japanese carpentry method featuring exposed framing”.

The first Catholic church (which burned down) was built in 1895 in Chinatown with the help of Filipino workers, the second, was built in 1899 on the current site. The current church (technically a cathedral!) was built in 1963 using asbestos sheeting and featuring a copper spire. It is the strangest cathedral I have seen (view of the side, above)! The bell from the 1899 church, which came from France, stands out front.

Upon seeing the sign for the “Fr Nicholas Emo Centre”, I was quite stunned. What is an “Emo Centre” I wondered? Are they trying to reach out to the ‘youth of today’? Turns out the guy’s name was Nicholas Emo, and he was in charge of the Broome mission station in 1895 and later built the mission at Lombadina, further north.


BGSydneyside said...

What a great entry! Really fun. enjoying your blog very much
Belinda (Sandy's sister!)

Mark Edwards said...

That is funny.

Some of the things early Christian pioneers endured, make our preset day struggles seem particularly light weight, and our oneness is Christ seem pretty obvious.

UltraViolet said...

Mark, I should take a picture of the 'original convent' site. They have built a gazebo over the slab. A very small gazebo!