Different cultures and colours, united in one faith
Penrose Park, approximately 150 kilometres southwest of Sydney and almost of the same distance northeast of Canberra, is known to Catholics as a place for pilgrimage. It is home to the only officially crowned icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Australia.
The icon of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, also known as the Black Madonna, was brought to Australia from Poland in September 1983. It is locally venerated under the title of Our Lady of Mercy. Her golden crown was blessed by the late and soon-to-be-declared-saint Pope John Paul II and installed by the Apostolic Nuncio, Francesco Canalini, and then Bishop of Wollongong, Peter Ingham, in August 2001.
The Last Supper: Passion Play at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy. Photo from the Pauline Fathers website.
The growing number of pilgrims led to the construction of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, which was consecrated as a church in May 1997 by the Bishop of Wollongong, Phillip Wilson. Today, the Shrine consists of the church and 43 international chapels, which range from the chapels built by Asian and European communities to those built by organisations and individual pilgrims. Please click here for details.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, the "Black Madonna", in Penrose Park. Photo from the Pauline Fathers website.
A pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy at Penrose Park and its international chapels is religious, social, and cultural at the same time. The pilgrimage itself is expected to be a journey of faith, but the pilgrim is likewise called to a better and deeper understanding of the different cultures represented in the communities that built the 43 chapels at the Shrine which reflects the increasingly multicultural demographics of Australia.
Church service inside the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy. Photo from the Pauline Fathers website.
The postal address of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy and its caretaker, the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit, otherwise known as Pauline Fathers, is Berrima, NSW. However, the pilgrimage site is still some 19 kilometres south of Berrima, at 120 Hanging Rock Road, Penrose Park. It is, however, nowhere near Penrose village, which is on the other side of the state forest.
To get there from Goulbourn and Canberra, turn left to Hanging Rock Road from Hume Highway approximately 3 kilometres from Paddys River. From Sydney, turn right off Hume Highway some 2.5km from the McDonald's Sutton Forest Family Restaurants to Hanging Rock Road. It can be easy to miss the place, but if you have GPS on board, just use the coordinates S34° 37' 38" E150° 11' 45".
If, while looking for Penrose Park, you get to Berrima, take the opportunity to visit the St. Francis Xavier Church, one of only two surviving Pugin-architecture of its kind in the world. It is for that matter a heritage-listed site. Besides, a pilgrimage to Penrose Park can always be capped with a side trip to this gem. Click here to learn more.