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Report of Rosendo Sahado to Propaganda Fide in 1900.

Editor and translator: Stefano Girola

Publisher: Abbey Press, Northcote Vic, 2016

ISBN: 9780995381599

Paperback, 114 pages

Reviewed by Irene Franklin (*)

Rosendo Salvado was born in Tui, Galicia in northern Spain in 1814 and entered the Benedictine Abbey of San Martin in Compostela.

He arrived in Western Australia in 1846 and died in 1900, while on a visit to Rome, at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls. His body was returned to New Norcia three years later and buried behind the high altar of the Abbey church.

Salvado wrote a number of reports to Propaganda Fide in the fifty-four years that he was associated with what became New Norcia. Salvado with a few companions went by oxcart into the rugged bush, where only aboriginals lived, on his arrival at the Victoria Plains in Western Australia. In his time he was priest, missionary, bishop, author, teacher of the aboriginal people in literacy but more of practical importance for that time, various skills for building, growing vegetables, fruit and livestock. All this before he thought it possible to start teaching them anything about Catholic religious belief.

What was of paramount importance was his respectful opinion of the aboriginal people. He was a staunch friend of them when they were challenged by the white "New Australians" who believed them to be less than human and he quoted the work the aboriginal men and women had done in the various fields of endeavour they had acquired and spoke of them with pride.

The aboriginal people had at times of great need, before the missionaries arrived, resorted to cannibalism. So it was a very long cultural journey for them to take, in a relatively short time.

They helped the missionaries, in time, to clear the bush, build the church, monastery, dormitory for boys and later for girls when a father insisted they take his daughter to care for her and educate her by walking off into the bush and leaving her behind. A garden had to be enclosed, planted and cared for--hard work in poor soil and a difficult climate. Eventually livestock was added.

They had their problems quite apart from the weather and the soil. Their main problem was their fellow Catholics. The local Perth bishop helped himself to the finances that Salvado had raised from fellow Benedictines on his trips overseas and his visits to the Pope. Later he demanded produce from New Norcia, that they could ill afford to share.

It amazed me how many miles he managed to travel in between the hard work he did at "home" in those days of more difficulties. He went several times to Rome to inform the Pope in person and then visits to monasteries in Spain and Italy. It is this personal acquaintance with these people that aided Rosendo Salvado by supporting him and his endeavours when he was being undermined by the Bishop of Perth and his supporters.

This book is even more interesting if a person has visited New Norcia.

It is a valuable exercise for anyone who is interested in the interpersonal relationships. This slim volume deserves reflection.

(*) Irene Franklin is a retired GP and member of the Australian Catholic Historical Society.

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Author:Franklin, Irene
Publication:Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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