The formidable story of the Jesuits of Sevenhill in South Australia’s Clare Valley has been set down in a new book which documents their remarkable contribution to religion, spirituality, and the wine industry.
Fr Aloysius Kranewitter travelled to Australia as one of the chaplains to a group of 146 immigrants seeking a new life away from the religious and political oppression of Europe.
The group was led by Franz Weikert, an enterprising Silesian farmer who decided to settle near Clare in South Australia’s Mid North. This led to Fr Kranewitter travelling north with them on the advice of the first Catholic Bishop of Adelaide, Francis Murphy, who was keen for the Church to have a presence in the emerging rural communities.
In addition to their pastoral care for the community, the Jesuits’ determination and work ethic provided much needed income from selling produce. This allowed Fr Kranewitter, with the help of some financial assistance from Austria, to purchase 100 acres (40 hectares) of land, part of a property known as Open Ranges, which he renamed Sevenhill after the Seven Hills of Rome.
The Vine and the Branches documents the humble beginnings of the Jesuits when they took up residence at Sevenhill in April 1851, living in a small thatch hut built by Br Schreiner, who had carried all his possessions and tools to their new home in a wheelbarrow.
So began the Jesuits’ notable presence through the establishment of a community residence, training centre for priests that also operated for a period as a secondary college for boys, construction of St Aloysius’ Church and crypt, and the development of a parish and program of spiritual retreats. Vineyards were planted and a winery established to produce sacramental wine.