Stewardship unparalleled!

6 June 2018 | General Interest

Claire Larkin welcoming guests

Another significant milestone was reached last week in Penola and celebrated in true Penola style.  On Thursday evening, 31st May, exactly twenty years to the day when the Mary MacKillop Interpretive Centre was officially opened, the community gathered to rejoice and to give thanks. Over a shared meal, lots of convivial conversation, entertainment and fine speeches, the twenty years of careful stewardship by volunteers of the Mary MacKillop Interpretive Centre was celebrated.

Special guests at the gathering included the architect for the building, Mr Michael Fielder and his wife, Anne, and the Museum interior designer, Mr Peter Templeton.  In her recollections of the early days of the Centre, co-coordinator Claire Larkin recalled how over eighty design proposals were received from members of the Royal Institute of Architects all over Australia and internationally.  These were numbered and then assessed by five jurors, including Archbishop Faulkner and Claire Larkin, over three days.  The Adelaide firm, Michael Fielder Architects’, submission was the winning proposal.  In his reply speech, Michael Fielder described his delight at being able to be present to view the building twenty years on and indicated his great satisfaction at what he saw and experienced during his visit.  While he is now retired, he remains as advisor for further developments planned for the Centre.  Michael proudly described this project as among his best designs.

Architect Michael Fielder

Similarly, Mr Peter Templeton spoke about the early stages of the interior design of the Interpretive Centre.  He paid tribute to our local historians, Margaret Muller and Anne-Marie Matuschka, who were largely responsible with Claire Larkin for preparing the texts for the content of story boards and suggesting specific artefacts to be displayed.  Again, Peter is continuing to offer advice on the proposed upgrades of the interior of the Centre.  He, too, was proud to hear of the many comments of admiration and appreciation which continue to be offered by visitors to the Centre.

Museum designer Peter Templeton with local historians Margaret Muller and Anne Marie Matuschka

Father Michael Romeo, parish priest, paid tribute to Archbishop Faulkner and Father Paul Gardiner and the many volunteers, now deceased, who have generously served at the Centre over the twenty years since its opening.   He sang the Introit to the Requiem Mass and prayed for their eternal repose.  It was Archbishop Faulkner whose vision and love of Mary MacKillop encouraged the establishment of the Centre and Father Paul’s learned and loving guidance which ensured that Mary MacKillop’s story would be faithfully recorded and instilled in the hearts of the community members.   In recent years we have been very fortunate to have the Sisters of Saint Joseph living in Penola and helping at the Centre and in the parish.  At this time we are blessed to have Sisters Loreto O’Connor and Sue McGuinness who both live in the convent and assist wherever there is a need.

It is all the volunteers, however, who have taken up the challenge to keep the story alive on behalf of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.  Theirs is an impressive record of stewardship which is continued day by day, 363 days each year.

Among the many memories shared during the evening were those of Jan Pfieffer who has been a volunteer at the Centre for over twenty years.  Jan and Mary Leech also reported on some of the “adventures” of volunteering!

Prompted by Anne Marie’s Matuschka’s invitations and her winning persistence, the entertainment during the evening show-cased the considerable gifts and talents in our community.  Kathryn Mules played a moving rendition of “Memories” on the flute and Judith Georgeson, accompanied by Margaret Muller on the guitar, sang “The Green Green Grass of Home.”   Brian Larkin presented a wonderful recitation (by heart) of “The Ballad of the Birdsville Drover” and Damian Flint recited John O’Brien’s, “Tangmalangaloo”.   Father Michael roused the Assembly to active participation with his Italian song.  Following the most appropriate and beautiful singing of “Bless this House” by Judith Georgeson, the lively spirit of the evening was captured in the “Grand Finale” – the Penola Footy Song, ably led by Mary Cram, Margaret Hanel and Judith Georgeson!

As with every memorable milestone, there was the cutting of the celebratory cake, made and decorated by Josie Gibbs.  This symbolised the incredible service provided by the volunteers over the Centre’s twenty years in Penola.  Over a quarter of a million visitors have walked through the doors in that time, each one to be touched in some mysterious way by the spirit of Mary MacKillop, lived out by the welcoming hospitality and sterling commitment of the volunteers.  Congratulations to all on stewardship unparalleled!