As a visitor and pilgrim from Sydney, Australia, I was privileged to be present on Saturday, June 7, for the blessing and naming of the Southern Star Monastery’s new guest house. It was indeed a joyous occasion.
The building of this guest house was the outcome of several years’ planning on the part of the monastic community.
In following the Rule of St Benedict which emphasises the balance of prayer, study and work, the monks are committed to offering hospitality to those who come to the abbey and, with this in mind, have long desired to improve the accommodation available to their visitors.
Much effort was put into raising sufficient funds to enable the community to come to the stage of selecting an architect to design a building which reflected the vision of the monks. Hugh Tennant, a well known architect from Wellington, worked with the building contractors and the community.
The result is a structure of simplicity, space and serenity, providing comfort and privacy to those seeking a spiritual refuge from the cares of the outside world for short periods. The views from the large windows reveal the beauty of the surrounding countryside and help the guests reflect on God’s presence in their midst.
Evidence of the abbey’s importance in the lives of many people was provided by the large crowd which arrived at daybreak to join the monks in the Blessing Ceremony. The Blessing, a blend of Māori and monastic elements, was conducted by Kaumatua Manahi Paewai and Abbot Brian Keogh. Having named the house Whare o te Rangimarie, all present processed though the building for the blessing and then on to the church for the mihimihi.
Led by Kaimihi Danny Karatea-Goddard, the congregation was addressed by Bishop Peter Cullinane, Bishop John Bluck, Huia Borrell speaking for the Tangata Whenua of Takapau, Marie Palmer for the Associates of the Abbey, and Hamish Kynoch for the Advisory Board of the Abbey, before accepting the community’s invitation to join the monks for breakfast.
The celebration continued with the Mass of Thanksgiving at 11am, again attended by a large crowd, and was followed by lunch with the community. The visitors took advantage of further close inspection of the Guest House throughout the day and all agreed that it is an inspiring and beautiful building. The day ended with Evening Prayer in the church.
As one of the first guests to stay in the guest house, I am sure it will be a source of joy and inspiration for many other people in the years to come (for more on Kopua: www.kopuamonastery.org.nz).