The boys chase each other up and
down the stairs, skidding across polished floorboards, sliding
on old patterned rugs, bouncing on the creaky springs of
rows of beds lining the wooden dormitory walls. "This one's
for Puppy The Wuppy" says Matthew throwing his Pup onto
a shiny silver and red spotted bedspread. "NO. That's mine.
I want it," says Cameron defiantly as he reaches to remove
I sit in an old armchair next to
one of the beds and look out the window. The peaceful atmosphere
of this place consumes me. For a moment two noisy boys disappear
from my consciousness and I catch a moments respite from
the demands of parenthood.
This is Jerusalem, named after the
famous one, a tiny settlement on a hill overlooking the
mighty Wanganui River. This Jerusalem is home to the Sisters
of Compassion who look after the rambling Old Convent and
pretty wooden church that sit up on the hill. The two remaining
Sisters uphold the tradition of a working Catholic mission
that dates back to the 1880's, working with the local community
and welcoming travellers, visitors and those seeking a peaceful
The church of St Joseph watches
over the Whanganui river at Jerusalem
The Old Convent is a special place,
a rabbit warren of plain wooden rooms, simply but comfortably
furnished. Downstairs, quiet rooms, altars, religious icons
and shelves of spiritual and theological books provide constant
reminders of a spiritual purpose. Upstairs, the dormitories
tell stories of community living as a school, orphanage
and convent, each bed with its own crucifix, lamp, cupboard
You can feel the history in this
Now the place is silent, empty,
powerfully tranquil. We're the only ones staying here and
I'm ready for a little retreat. I think we all need it.
We've been travelling together for fifteen weeks now; 105
days, 24 hours a day, eating, drinking, sleeping and living
together on the road. It's a pretty intense experience and
moments of peace and tranquillity can be few and far between.
So, when you find a place like this, you stop, do nothing
and soak it up.
Doing nothing is hard. The boys
don't want to. They want to play games, make noise, fight,
consume your attention. The idea of quiet time, reflection
or meditation is of no interest; they're already full of
spirit and it needs no further nurturing. But as parents
ours do. So Kirstie and I take turns to take the boys away
so we each get some 'me-time'.
I wander around the church and listen
to its old wooden bones creak in the wind. I sip tea in
the kitchen and watch bees buzz into window panes. I sit
in the quiet room and read about the miracle worker Padre
Pio. I listen in the silence and try to hear my calling.
I love 'me- time'.
Catholic and Maori influences
meet in St Joseph's church
"Daddy, Daddy I want to show you
something really, really amazing. It's absolutely amazing.
Come with me. Come on Dada." Matthew hauls me up from the
chair and out into the bright afternoon sunshine. "You know
those seeds we found the other day. The ones we got from
the pods. I've found the tree they come from. Look. See.
Here." He points excitedly to the seed pods hanging off
the tree, a perfect match for those we found on the ground
a week ago. "They're absolutely the same Dad," he adds with
wonder. I'm filled with the joy of his amazement in discovering
something about the world for himself and reminded how while
'me-time' is great, kids are great nurturers of spirit too.
The Rosary Way Garden where Matthew
made his miraculous discovery