Category Archives: Spirituality

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and W.A.

Here in Western Australia, we hold St Elizabeth of Hungary in special love and esteem, because of the presence here from 1928-1957 of the Anglican Sisters of St Elizabeth who worked in the south-west of this State.

Tertiary George Harvey grew up near their mother house in Bunbury and recalls the huge influence the Sisters had on him: as a server, he was particularly conscious of their devotion to worship. We would probably now regard their style of worship as old-fashioned Anglo-Catholic, but for George and the Sisters then, this worship was rich and redolent of God’s presence. That atmosphere still permeates the little chapel dedicated to St Elizabeth and pictured below.

The Chapel of St Elizabeth, Bunbury, Western Australia

Alongside their rich life of devotion, the Sisters devoted themselves to the care of the Group Settlers, English people who were brought to Western Australia to open up dairy farms and populate the forest country south of Bunbury. The Sisters lived in the same struggling pioneer communities in Busselton, Margaret River and elsewhere.

Those of us who live in this region know that behind the picturesque vineyards and glorious beaches lies a history of hardship, as newcomers came without farming skills to an environment that can be quite harsh and unforgiving. Huge karri and jarrah trees had to be cut down, or killed by ring-barking, thus delaying any income that the pioneers might derive from the land. And even when the land was ready for cattle, prosperity was still not to be found. It is only in recent years that better ways of living in this country are being found, as the harvesting of old-growth forests has been slowed, and tourism established as the main industry.

Back in the 1930s, the group settlement farms were isolated from one another and their communities. Families lived first in primitive shacks, and then in basic cottages, so everyday living was a struggle. The Sisters gave themselves to ministering in this poverty and remoteness and in the process wore themselves out.

Their story is told eloquently in Merle Bignells’ 1992 The Little Grey Sparrows.

The contrast between the poverty of the Sisters’ external lives and the wealth of their internal lives strikes me as one authentic way to be Franciscans: being poor, we discover ourselves, like St Francis, to have inherited the enormous wealth of creation.

In St Elizabeth’s life this contrast also shone forth: she who was a princess became poor to help the poor. But, like St Francis and her other mentor St Clare, Elizabeth did not give up the wealth she had inherited – not the wealth of her husband’s dominions (which she did forego), but the wealth of worship, the wealth of intelligent ministry to the poor, the wealth of creation and people.

For the Tertiaries of Western Australia, the plucky “little grey sparrows” have become part of the richness of our life, and we give thanks for their sacrificial service in this place. We gladly share this story with the wider Franciscan family.

Ted Witham
Minister Provincial

Feast of St Elizabeth AD 2010


It is easy for Christians to criticise Christmas with its consumerism and sentimentality for example. But as a Franciscan, I resist giving oxygen to the negativity of the Christmas critics.
St Francis was positive. The San Damiano crucifix told him to repair the church, not point out its ruins and its faults. So, I have compiled a list of the 10 Things St Francis would approve in our culture’s celebration of our Lord’s Nativity.

1. Christmas cribs and other Nativity displays which show the birth of Jesus in poverty.

2. People filling churches and flocking to Carols by Candlelight to be touched in some way by the story of Christmas.

3. Christmas lunches put on for the homeless and the poor.

4. Politicians taking real action to help the homeless.

5. The financial system reflecting on the fall of Wall Street, and looking for ways to lift the poor in developing nations out of poverty.

6. Families are gathering in joy.

7. Donors to Christmas Bowl, Christian Blind Mission, and countless other charities.

8. Artists, singers, writers of carols and poems communicating the Gospel story.

9. Peacemakers in Palestine/Israel… and everywhere else.

10. Muslims, Hindus and others, who love Christmas as well as Christians do.

Happy Christmas!

Friends of the Monastery

The ‘Friends of the Monastery inc.” is a non-profit organisation which was formed to care for the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Stroud, after the Second Order Sisters vacated the premises and it’s future was uncertain.
We aim to preserve it’s Franciscan ethos, promote Franciscan spirituality and provide an oasis of spiritual and physical refreshment for weary souls and bodies who seek respite there; and a sacred space for parishes and other groups to hold retreats or workshops etc. We are committed to praying for the future of the Monastery. We work closely with the First Order Brothers, whose Hermitage is on the same piece of land, and who care for the grounds; and the Society of St Francis Association, Inc. who own it. We rely on income from hiring the Monastery out and on our ‘Friends’ membership fees to maintain it.
The unique mud-brick buildings of the Monastery, including the beautiful Chapel with it’s hand-made stained glass, rock and camphor laurel altar and Sister Angela’s woodcarving, are resonant with the prayers of the many hundreds of spiritual pilgrims who have found solace and strength there.
A labyrinth has recently been constructed, and everything lies peacefully in a natural bush setting. Please find a membership form below!
God’s peace be with you.

Pirrial Clift, tssf,
Chairperson of the Friends of the Monastery, Inc.
Friends of the Monastery Brochure