Sunday, April 17, 2011


It might be a good time to be a little systematic about the long retreat at Sevenhill, beginning with a brief description and some photos of the place.  Sevenhill Winery is the first winery in the Clare Valley in the state of South Australia.  It was begun by Silesian Jesuits in 1851.  There are now 35 wineries in the  Valley. 

Sevenhill sits on about 1000 acres of rolling land mostly covered with grapevines.  About 20% of production is altar wine exported to Asia.  The other wines are dinner wines which are sold in Australia as well as exported.  Sevenhill is just beginning to enter the U.S. market.  In Boston!  The wine is very good.  We had it often at dinner (in silence of course).  In reality I am more of a beer drinker but to my unsophisticated wine palate, it was good wine. 

There were twelve Jesuit tertians, two directors, and three other priests in the long retreat group.  There was not enough room in “the College” which is the main retreat house.  Six of us, five Jesuits, were in buildings about 2/3 mile down the road.  The house in which I stayed with two other men had been, until four years ago, an exclusive bed and breakfast called Thorn Park; set on 65 acres of rolling pasture land.  The Jesuits had owned the land, sold it in the ‘50’s and then repurchased it about 4 years ago.  Surprise would understate my feelings when I went in.  The place was beautiful, but it certainly didn't look like any retreat house I'd ever been in.  For the first three weeks there were a few things I couldn’t understand.  The furnishings were antique.  The headboard in my room was about 6 1/2 feet tall, made of very heavy dark wood.  The three bedrooms were each decorated according to a particular theme.  There were about a dozen teapots, with several dozen matching cups etc. on a shelf in the kitchen.  There were some very large kitchen appliances.  None of this fit with how Jesuits typically furnish and stock houses.  However, I stumbled across an article in the house from a wine and travel magazine describing a weekend at “Thorn Park” in the Clare Valley.  I noted the address was College Road,  which is where we were (it is not a long road).  Then the picture caught my eye.  It was the kitchen.  The kitchen in which I was sitting at that moment.  It appears we purchased the place fully furnished and stocked.  Which explained the hand-held froth maker for cappuccino (Huh?), the six burner kitchen stove, and the towel warmers in the bathrooms (that is definitely not Jesuit retreat house amenities).  A chat with community members after the retreat ended confirmed everything.  Sevenhill will remain one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been for an extended period of time.  Below are some photos of the grounds.

This first is the outside of the house.  The small roof covered a brick patio that went 3/4 of the way around the house.  We all spent a lot of time out there praying, meditating, and drinking coffee.

The photo below is the view from the porch toward the meadow across the road.  
The next is the road just off the driveway leading up to the College.  It was one of the rainy and foggy days. 

The next is a windmill in the meadow just to the right of the house.  I was fascinated by this and took photos from many angles. 

The last is a view from up behind the church looking down toward where the house was though it is not visible in the photo.  This was sunrise on the second repose day about 21 days into the retreat.  

As I said.  Beautiful.  

Am now in Adelaide, South Australia.  It is Palm Sunday night.  In two days we will begin the 20-hour drive back to Sydney.  I am less than thrilled at the prospect.  

Will try to post more photos tomorrow. 

+Fr. Jack

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