Opening of Mercy Valley in Mareeba, North Queensland

Opening of Mercy Valley in Mareeba, North Queensland

Garry O'Brien

The Pauline Fathers have opened a new Monastery and Divine Mercy Shrine just inland from Cairns in far North Queensland.

The order – whose official name is the Order of St Paul the First Hermit (OSPPE) – already conducts the much loved Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians at Marian Valley, just south of Brisbane, and the popular Marian Shrine at Berrima, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

The Shrine of Divine Mercy and Immaculate Heart of Mary at Mercy Valley in the Cairns Diocese was officially blessed and opened by Bishop James Foley on 22 February 2014 with ten priests and over 450 people in attendance. Then, along with priests of the Diocese, Bishop Foley blessed the Pauline Monastery. The day's celebration included a light lunch followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Benediction and, most moving of all, an individual blessing of each person with the Blessed Sacrament.

The Shrine, located at 27 Spena Road, off the Kennedy Highway in Mareeba, North Queensland, is a 45 minute drive from Cairns.

The Order of St Paul the First Hermit OSPPE expressed its deepest gratitude to Bishop Foley for inviting it to the Diocese and for his outstanding support. Fr Andrew Joachim Dembicki OSPPE has taken up residency at the newly established Monastery at Mareeba. Eighteen years ago, Father came to Australia for the first time to build the Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians at Marian Valley. This time he came from Rome to help establish the Shrine in the Cairns Diocese.

A colour brochure being distributed describes the Shrine at Mercy Valley as located in beautiful gardens of 35 acres around a lake and as being a place of peace, prayer, devotion, retreat and spiritual renewal. If one is looking for a place to find solace, serenity and spiritual renewal and needs to unburden a troubled heart and conscience then the Shrine is the place to be.

One can spend time in adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on special feast days and any day upon request of a group of worshippers. Prayer groups and individuals or families are welcome to a day of reflection, spiritual direction and liturgical celebration. Volunteers are always welcome: to serve the pilgrims, keep the chapel clean and beautiful, care for the gardens of the shrine and keep the grounds welcoming.

Each Sunday Mass is preceded by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Hour, Rosary and Reconciliation. Similar devotions are held on the fourth Saturday of each month (Divine Mercy Saturday) and on the first Saturday of each month (Fatima Day) which includes the Eucharistic/Rosary Procession to the Grotto of Our Lady of Fatima.

The property was purchased in 2002 by Max David with the intention of it being dedicated to the Glory of God and for the spiritual benefit of people as a Shrine of the Divine Mercy. He invited the Pauline Fathers to establish the shrine there and with the blessing of the Bishop of Cairns the shrine has been established.

Over the last ten years much work has been done in preparation for a suitable shrine for Our Lord and Our Lady. Many people worked, often unpaid, putting in infrastructure: earthworks, stormwater drains, electrical and mechanical work, professional advice concerning building and planning. The backhoe, excavator, dozer and truck were used for collecting rocks from around the property which were then put in place as retaining walls as part of the landscaping.

Work is still proceeding on this evolving spiritual and peaceful site. Beautiful gardens, grottos, lush lawns, and a lovely chapel are now ready to inspire people and bring them closer to God.

On Saturday 26 April approximately 130 people made their way from Cairns and surrounding areas by buses and private cars to attend devotions of Divine Mercy at the Shrine followed by lunch by the lake. After returning to the chapel Father Andrew gave a spiritual talk followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, with the Divine Mercy Chaplet being sung by all, and finally Benediction and blessing of each person present with the Blessed Sacrament.

Worldwide impact

The Pauline Fathers are one of the oldest religious orders in the world. They was founded in 1215 in Hungary by Blessed Eusebius. It was through his efforts that the saintly hermits of Hungary were united in monasteries under the patronage of St Paul the Hermit who had lived the solitary life some 870 years earlier.

The Order spread rapidly throughout Hungary and then into Croatia, Germany, Poland, Austria and Bohemia. In the 14th century, they became the custodians of the miraculous picture of Our Lady, known as the Black Madonna.

The monks established a Shrine for the venerable image of the Blessed Mother in the small town of Czestochowa in Poland. Today this Shrine is the Mother house of the Order, and is also the largest monastery, with over 100 Fathers and Brothers, belonging to the monks of St Paul the First Hermit. It is seen as the spiritual capital of Polish Catholics and is visited by more than two million pilgrims each year from all over the world.

Today the Order has monasteries and shrines in Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, Italy, USA, South Africa and the United Kingdom, as well as Australia. Seeking to expand the apostolate of fostering devotion to the Mother of God, the Pauline Fathers arrived in Australia in 1981, and since then, have enjoyed extraordinary growth.

For further information contact Fr Andrew Joachim Dembicki: (07) 4093 7898; Email: divinemercyshrinecairns@hotmail.com.au

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