Marian Valley, spiritual oasis for young Brisbane Catholics

Marian Valley, spiritual oasis for young Brisbane Catholics

Br Barry Coldrey

Young dedicated Catholic adults can feel very isolated among the mass of non-practising, secularised, 'census' Catholics. However, the tremendous crowds which attended World Youth Day in Sydney last July proved that while these practising young Catholic adults may be scattered they are out there in numbers waiting to be reached.

In Brisbane, following World Youth Day, Faith-on-Tap was initiated, financed, and was a project of the Thomas More Centre through its then full time officer, Allison Atkins, and a group of WYD attendees. The group is now led by Tristan McLindon, Allison Atkins and Justin Lynch, and form a lively committee to match those in Sydney and Melbourne.

A hotel provides a congenial setting in which young Catholic adults can enjoy their evening meal, have a drink and listen to an address on some challenging aspect of their faith by a well-known public figure. Questions, comments and discussion follow easily.

Catholic orthodoxy

The Brisbane group is energised by Father Greg Jordan SJ, a towering figure of Catholic orthodoxy and Ignatian integrity in the fractured Archdiocese of Brisbane. Fr Jordan assists in organising Faith-on-Tap evenings for the second Monday of each month.

Each of the five meetings in the second half of 2008 was attended by around 200 young adults. The venue is the popular Pineapple Hotel, 706 Main Street, Kangaroo Point, close to the centre of Brisbane.

Fr Greg Jordan shows what an older, dedicated priest can do in providing the inspiration and background advice for some very intelligent young adults. Fr Jordan is National Chaplain for Courage, an association of Catholics of homosexual orientation who seek to follow Church teachings. He is also National Chaplain of ACSA, the Australian Catholic Students Association, and leader of the Latin Mass community in southern Queensland.

However, the Church in Queensland is also blessed with a team of talented and vigorous young Catholics who can organise the specifics of Faith-on-Tap themselves.

This team held a day Retreat at the glorious shrine to Our Lady, Marian Valley, on 24 January 2009, to maintain focus and enrich their spiritual lives through deepened relationships with Our Lord.

Marian Valley, Canungra, as with Penrose Park, south of Sydney, is the inspiration of the Pauline Fathers (Order of St Paul, the First Hermit). Marian Valley's Prior, Father Columba Macbeth-Green, has long been supportive of initiatives such as Faith-on-Tap.

The Pauline Fathers were invited to Australia from Poland in 1981 and while they have a special relationship with the Polish-Australian Catholic community they have established local roots quickly. Their community at Marian Valley reflects the ethnic variety of the modern Australian Catholic Church. The Order has two young Australians training for the priesthood at a Roman seminary and another young man doing his Novitiate in Poland.

Marian Valley is an hour and a half's drive from Brisbane in the Gold Coast hinterland. Visitors take the motorway south as far as the North Nerang exit and pick up the Nerang- Beaudesert road in the direction of Canungra. A couple of kilometres before Canungra village they make a left turn into Beechmont Road, and pass the Australian Army's Canungra Jungle Training Base on the left. Eight kilometres down Beechmont Road, on the right, is the clearly-signposted entrance to Marian Valley.

Marian Valley is a sacred space in an idyllic setting, a shrine to honour Mary as Mother of God. Each year, thousands visit the shrine which was opened and blessed in 1995. Pilgrims come for Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration in the Chapel of Divine Mercy, Eucharistic processions, the Rosary, devotions, reflections and retreats - everything that leads to spiritual renewal and conversion. After prayer and worship there are fine facilities for picnics and barbecues.

Highlights of Marian Valley include the fifteen distinctive shrines built by various ethnic groups to honour Mary. The Vietnamese community has a shrine to Our Lady of Lo Vang, the Indian Catholic community honours Our Lady of Vailankanni, the Polish community, Our Lady of Jasna Gora, and so on. The shrines provide special areas for worship of God and veneration of Our Lady on national feast days.

Special events

During 2008, 350 pilgrims celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday at Marian Valley; the Spanish-speaking community honoured Our Lady of Guadaloupe with Mass and prayers; and on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Joseph Oudeman led 700 in a solemn Eucharistic Procession. This is the pattern of special events each year.

On 24 January 2009, the thirteen members of the Faith-on-Tap leadership group fitted easily into this rich spiritual context with Father Columba conducting the retreat. Here they could move from the frenetic pace of modern urban living into a quiet space to make room for God, consider their spiritual lives and maintain focus on their ministry to Brisbane's young adults.

During the day, there was further input, time for confession and spiritual direction, Mass, a festive luncheon, a Holy Hour and private walks through the natural beauty of Marian Valley.

Dr Barry Coldrey CFC has taught in many Christian Brothers colleges and written numerous books and articles. He is a regular contributor to 'AD2000'.

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