History of the Shrine

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Side view of the Church showing St. John Paul II

When Fr. Augustine Lazur OSPPE first set foot in Australia in April 1981, he was given the mission to spread the honour of Our Lady of Jasna Gora to yet another country. After many fascinating adventures, Father was led to the Southern Highlands of New South Wales and, in 1984, with a great deal of faith, and the help of many benefactors, purchased the property now known as Penrose Park.

It is a story that stirs the imagination, but those early days of the Order in Australia saw many miracles of faith. Miracles that have continued through to the present day. Just ten years after Father Augustine arrived in Australia, the Pauline Fathers first moved into the newly-built Monastery, and in 1995 a start was made upon further extensions, the Pauline Fathers moving into their improved quarters and their lovely private chapel during that year.

Thanks to the tremendous response of the pilgrims who came here in large numbers, especially for the Fatima Day celebrations on the 13th day of each month, work progressed on the beautiful new church from mid-1994 until the present, when we can see the fulfilment of all our dreams.

May 24th 1997, was a great day of celebration. With the consecration of the new church and monastery, work continued to make the Church and the grounds of Penrose Park even more beautiful. With the blessing of Our Lady of Mercy, as She is known in Australia and the support of thousands of faithful pilgrims, we have already witnessed many miracles here. Following the Consecration of the Church, due to the popularity of the Shrine, special events have been held here.

One of the most important events was on 25 June 2000, the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Final Celebration of the Diocese of Wollongong’s Eucharistic Congress, which culminated in a Solemn Mass and Procession. The principal celebrant was His Excellency Archbishop Francesco Canalini DD, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, who was joined by Most Rev. Philip Wilson DD JCL, Bishop of Wollongong; Most Rev. Barry J Hickey DD OAM, Archbishop of Perth; the Community of the Pauline Fathers and other visiting Bishops and Clergy.

The Icon was crowned in 2001 with crowns also blessed by the pope for the occasion. The tradition of crowning an Icon began in Rome as a way of acknowledgement of the powerful intercession of Our Lady for all pilgrims. Why we crown Our Lady of Mercy: Holy Mother, the Church has on many occasions asserted that it is lawful to venerate images of Christ, his Mother, and the saints and has often instructed the faithful on the proper understanding of such veneration. Coronation is one form of reverence frequently shown to images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the East and West, the practice of depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary wearing a regal crown came into use in the era of the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431). Since then, Christian artists have often portrayed the glorified Mother of the Lord seated on a throne, dressed in royal robes, and surrounded by a court of angels and saints. In many such images, Christ is shown placing a crown on his Mother’s head.

It is especially from the end of the 16th century that the practice became widespread in the West for the faithful, both religious and laity, to crown images of the Blessed Virgin. The popes not only endorsed this devout custom but “on many occasions, either personally or through bishop-delegates, carried out the coronation of Marian images.” As the Order of Crowning states, ” … it should be noted that it is proper to crown only those images to which the faithful come with a confidence in the Mother of the Lord so strong that the images are of great renown and their sites centres of genuine liturgical cults and religious vitality”.

Approx. Seventy thousand pilgrims visit our Shrine annually, and in keeping with the tradition of the Church and the generosity of the pilgrims, we were able to crown our Icon. This was the first time a Holy Image was crowned in Australia. Saint Pope John Paul II blessed the crowns in Rome on 23 May 2001. The coronation ceremony took place in the Shrine Church on 26 August 2001 during the Solemn Mass, with the main celebrant being His Excellency Archbishop Francesco Canalini DD, with the assistance of His Lordship Peter Ingham, DD Bishop of Wollongong. Also present were Most Rev Bishop William Murray and representatives of the Federal, State and Foreign governments, as well as other priests and religious.

In 2008 we welcomed the Youth of the World as part of World Youth Day 2008. We were designated as a place of pilgrimage. The young people came in their hundreds from America, Germany, Italy, Spain, South America, France, England etc.

In 2010 we decided to purchase the property adjacent to our Shrine. The property consists of 2 houses situated on approx. 50 acres of land. This has enabled us to move our Religious Shop into one of the houses and increase its stock. It has also provided a temporary retreat accommodation for very small groups.

In 2011 we began renovation of the building known as the Old Monastery, which was the place of residence for the first priests before the construction of the Church and Monastery as is today. The renovations should be completed by the end of 2011. The building will be a reminder of the life of the first Pauline Monks in Australia, and the Chapel will be able to be used by small groups of pilgrims for special occasions.

Our Shrine’s future developments include building a Pilgrim Hall; accommodation is to be built as soon as we have the means to do so. The accommodation will be available for retreats, while the pilgrim hall will house a museum and library. 

We have great faith that your fantastic support will be maintained and that Penrose Park will continue to be a place of pilgrimage and a sanctuary of peace for all who come here.