Weikert Cottage Blessing and Opening
Sunday 19th March
The blessing and opening of the renovated Weikert Cottage by the Jesuit Provincal, The Very Rev. Fr Quyen Vu, S.J., was a joyful occasion.
Thank you to the Weikert Heritage Committee
and all the parishoners for your generous support of the cottage for so many years. Thank you also to the St Joseph's School parents and students for the wonderful afternoon tea.
Fr Robert Morris assists
the Very Rev.
Fr. Quyen Vu S.J.
See below for extracts from Fr Quyen's Reflection at the Blessing
Weikert Heritage Committee Members
Mary MacKillop and her connections to Sevenhill Retreat and Spirituality Centre.
Thank you for the invitation to be here on this special occasion. It is always a precious time when you walk in places where Mary MacKillop lived and visited. Here is one of those special places.
Mary MacKillop had a long occasion with the Jesuits both here at Sevenhill and at Norwood. It was Fr Tappeiner who guided her through the turbulent years following the excommunication.
Her initial connection with Sevenhill was no doubt Fr Woods who did his seminary training here not long after he arrived in Adelaide. He was ordained as a diocesan priest on 4 January 1857 and then took charge of the large parish of Penola. I imagine that he spoke to Mary of his experiences here for we know that he organised for Donald and Peter to attend the Sevenhill College. It was while they were students here we know that Mary MacKillop first visited this special place. On 14 September 1869 she writes to her mother:
I am sorry Donald is so careless about writing – indeed I am surprised he has not written to you, for I saw him about two months ago at Seven Hills, when he promised me faithfully that he would write and that regularly in the future to you. (SOSJ Archives North Sydney)
Things must have improved over time for on 10 September 1870 we find Mary writing to her mother again:
Though it is of my own brother I am speaking, I felt that I was talking to a holy youth when I saw him at Sevenhill, and all I heard of him form the Fathers confirmed me in that opinion.
(SOSJ Archives North Sydney)
Later when Donald heard that Mary was going on an unexpected journey to Rome he writes from St Aloysius’ College at Sevenhill on 26 March 1873, that he is sorry that he will not see her before she leaves and goes on to mention the places he would like her to visit in Rome connected to the Jesuits and to pray for him there. He recommends that she takes this letter with her, so she won’t forget. (SOSJ Archives North Sydney) Mary left two days later for Rome. Fr Tappeiner was at the wharf to farewell her on this journey.
For Peter her youngest brother the experience was not so pleasing. In 1877 he writes to Mary from Glenforstan Station in February 1877:
Would it be possible for me to remain anywhere but at Sevenhill; indeed Mary, if you knew how I dislike that place, you would not force me to go there. Could I not go to work at once?
(A Faith- Filled Family – Mary MacKillop’s Sisters and Brothers, Judith Geddes rsj p133)
In our records there is a letter to Sr Rose Cunningham (Circa 1868-69) which indicates that Mary stayed for three nights at Seven Hills:
We were two nights at Sevenhill. I was three, for it was on my way home and the Fathers advised me to stay there the night before so that I might hear Mass in the morning. One of them kindly said Mss at 5 in the morning.
(SOSJ Archives North Sydney)
While the Sister’s presence in the district was evident from the earliest days it was not until 1880 that a convent and school were opened in Seven Hills with the Sisters of Saint Joseph in residence. This would indicate that Mary stayed somewhere on this property in those earlier visits to see her brothers. We can only assume that she stayed in Weikert Cottage as our records do not hold any specific documentation.
Our records in letters that Mary wrote show that Mary also visited Sevenhill in 1891 and 1896. It is probable that she stayed with the Sisters in Sevenhill and we know that she definitely visited the College on the Jesuit site in 1896 as indicated in her diary:
S.M. Thomas gave me 10/-. Mr Philip Gillen drove us all to S. Hill. A surprise to Sisters there. Saw children – gave lollies and half holiday. Went in the evening to the college, FF. Herden and Strele. The latter took us to the vaults and church. Felt very lonely – would like to have been left alone in the vault. F. Polk was not in – nor any of the dear Brothers I asked for. Had conference later with each Sister and looked over accounts.
(Mary’s Diary – Wednesday 28 0ctober 1896)
There are some lovely stories associated with the Sisters at the school in Seven Hills.
This was always a small school. Only in 1880 did enrolments reach 70. Mostly there were between 20 and 40 children. In 1880 a sister wrote: The grape harvest is over and the children will come back to school by degrees.
Sr Brigdet wrote to Mary MacKillop of her experience:
I like my new mission very much. (May 1880)
(SOSJ Archives Adelaide)
Oral tradition indicates that Mary once stayed in a cottage at the Jesuit College to make her retreat and this remains part of the tradition of Mary’s presence in Weikert Cottage. There was obviously a close connection to the Weikert family for their granddaughter Mary Teresa Elizabeth Lummer, already a trained nurse, joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1902. She was one of the Sisters who nursed Mary MacKillop during her last long illness. (Information SOSJ Archives North Sydney)
We do know that Mary had a fondness for this sacred place and felt extremely supported by the Jesuits both here in South Australia and while travelling to Rome and through Europe. In fact, Ignatian Spirituality is one of the influencing factors in the development of our Josephite spirituality.
We also know that two of Mary’s earliest companions Andrea and Calasanctius Howley were from Sevenhill. Both these women made a significant contribution to the Sisters of Saint Joseph in our early history and both were women in whom Mary MacKillop had deep trust and confidence. Both held leadership positions in the Congregation supporting the early mission and development of the Congregation. According to Josephite tradition, the Howley sisters are buried at Sevenhill in fulfilment of a promise made to their parents at the time of their entry into the Congregation.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph feel honoured to be part of this on-going story of Weikert Cottage and the founding story of the Jesuits in Australia here at Sevenhill. The Sisters who lived in Sevenhill write fondly of their experiences and their visits to the College. We know that a strong bond continues to exist with the Jesuits and we will be forever grateful for the influence of Fr Tappeiner during the difficulties of those early years of the Institute. Without this our existence would not have been built on such a strong foundation. We hope the many visitors and pilgrims who visit this special place “Weikert Cottage” will be inspired by the devotion and commitment of those early families and the founding Jesuits.
Mary MacKillop’s spirit lives on here, and so we pray that each visitor will receive a double portion of her spirit while resting here. In moments of hardship, they will be encouraged by her courageous spirit. Weary souls will draw from the well of her compassionate heart and others will find a moment of quiet to replenish their spirit and be refreshed by the beauty of the surroundings and know as she knew ‘Truly wonderful are the ways of God’. (Mary MacKillop 1873)
Thank you for sharing this day with us.
Monica Cavanagh rsj - Congregational Leader of Sisters of Saint Joseph. 19 March 2023
“We are all pilgrims on a journey. The first Jesuits as well as the Weikert family came here as pilgrims. I came from Vietnam and came out to Australia as a refugee. On any journey, whether it is physical or spiritual, we need to look back over our shoulder (or check the relevant app on our mobile devices!) to discern our own starting point.
Why do we do that? The answer is simple. We do it in order to gauge not just how far we’ve come but also to take into account the obstacles that have been conquered along the way. When we take the time to create that perspective, we then truly appreciate how much has been achieved in the 175 years since the first Jesuits arrived in South Australia. Today is no different. The blessing and opening of the renovated Weikert Cottage reminds us to look back at the foundation of the Jesuit presence in Australia. This historic cottage was severely damaged by the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983. There are deeply significant Biblical overtones in this story. That was 40 years ago, and the number 40 is a recurring theme in the Bible, representing the most testing times.
Jesus spent 40 days fasting and praying in the desert after being baptised in the Jordan and as he prepared for his life’s mission. Moses spent 40 days in prayer and fasting as he asked God to pardon his people. And surely 40 years must have seemed like an eternity for the people of Israel who traversed the desert as they waited to enter the Promised Land. But today, in a very different scenario from the sorrow and devastation of the Ash Wednesday fires, we are all here to celebrate what has been accomplished. The rebuilding of Weikert Cottage, completed in early 2020, has ensured that its religious and historic significance has been honoured and protected. This was not just due to the support of the Jesuits; it reminds us of the donations that came in, the many fundraising efforts and the tireless work by a small but deeply committed local committee behind the scenes that made it possible. …….. Franz Weikert, after whom this cottage is named, was a prominent farmer from Silesia, a Baltic province of what was then known as Prussia. Seeking religious freedom, he and his wife and eight children led a group of 146 Catholics to Australia. To fund the group’s journey to their own promised land, Franz Weikert sold his farm and used the proceeds to pay the fares of all those in their travelling party………………... Franz and Fransiska are buried not far from here. I’d like to believe that God led them here for many reasons, not least of which was to create the first Jesuit presence in this country. By blessing this rebuilt cottage, we honour and give thanks for their legacy. We pray that God may grant us the discernment to remember their vision and their boldness in venturing into the unknown. May their legacy of spirituality enlighten each of us on our own individual and collective journeys.”