“Pauline Fathers” — Ordo Sancti Pauli Primi Eremitae (OSPPE)
The semi-contemplative Order, seeking to expand its apostolate of fostering devotion to the Mother of God, first arrived in Australia in 1981. The Pauline Fathers, as they are commonly called, are “newcomers” to Australia, yet in a few years and despite their small numbers, they have made tremendous progress in their apostolate.
The Pauline Fathers is an Order which has laboured for almost 800 years for the salvation of souls and to spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As one of the oldest Orders in the Roman Catholic Church, its members humbly look back upon a grace-filled history and look forward to a blessed future here in Australia.
What is the History of the Order?
The Monastic Order of St. Paul the First Hermit was founded in 1215 in Hungary. The founder was Blessed Eusebius. Through his efforts, 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. It is from St. Paul that the Order gets its Coat of Arms, shown on the right. The raven, according to legend, brought him bread and palm tree dates for food. The two lions dug the grave in which he was buried.
The Order spread rapidly throughout Hungary and into Croatia, Germany, Poland, Austria and Bohemia. There was a time when there were over 5000 Pauline monks in Hungary alone.
A highlight in the Order’s history occurred in 1382 when they became the custodians of the miraculous picture of Our Lady, believed to be painted by St Luke the Evangelist. The Icon was brought to Poland by Ladislaus, Duke of Opole, from a castle at Belz, in modern-day Ukraine. He invited the monks from Hungary into Poland to safeguard the holy picture. As a result, the monks established a Shrine for the venerated image of the Blessed Mother in the small town of Czestochowa (pronounced as chen-sto-hova). Today this Shrine is the Motherhouse 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 2 million pilgrims each year from all over the world.
Today there are less than 500 members in the Order throughout the world. The sad history of Europe, ravaged by so many wars and religious persecutions, has dramatically reduced the numbers of a once large and flourishing Order.
The majority of the Order’s monasteries are presently located in Poland. In the Seminary, in Krakow, there are over 80 students, and in Novitiate more than 30 novices.
The Order has monasteries and Shrines also in Germany, Slovakia, Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, Italy, the United States of America, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
There are two monasteries belonging to the Order in Australia. Their first foundation was made in Berrima, NSW, in 1984, where approximately 2000 pilgrims go each month to pray at the Shrine of Our Lady. In 1989 another Shrine was established on Mount Tamborine, Qld and later permanently moved and blessed as The Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia, by the Most Reverend Bishop EJ. Cuskelly, M.S.C, D.D., on 10th December 1995 at ”Marian Valley”, Beechmont Road, Canungra, Qld.
From the very beginning of the apostolate of our Order, Mary has played a unique role. She is present in its life and all spheres of its activities. Our Order has always venerated Her as the Mediatrix of All Graces and has zealously propagated devotion to Her. (Pauline Constitution)