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THE MOTHER HOUSE OF THE ORDER OF SAINT CHARBEL

AN OVERVIEW



A general view inside the Community facing towards the front entrance
of the 33 acre property at Cambewarra, New South Wales

This Community is the Motherhouse of the Order of Saint Charbel. It is dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ in honour of His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is located in the state of New South Wales, near the city of Nowra, in a little town named Cambewarra. It is the second Community to be established by the Founder, the Little Pebble. Originally, the property enclosed 33.6 acres of pasture land. In recent years we have been able to purchase two adjoining properties of 7 acres and 12 acres respectively. The land is very rocky but has patches of good soil for gardening.


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In 1991 a good view of trees and undulating terrain. The caravans were setup in prime locations.

There are many trees on the property and a creek passes through the area. Originally, the 33 acre property was the site of a Caravan Park. Purchasing this land, we also had the benefit of a few buildings on the property -- a house (partially built); another small one-bedroom house; horse stables with an adjoining bunkhouse; a partially enclosed building used as a barbecue area for picnics, etc; and an amenities building with toilets and showers for visitors and guests. The paddocks were also fenced for horses.


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The previous owner had fenced these paddocks for horses in 1987

1987

The Little Pebble called a meeting of the Inner Circle (simply a term used for those good people who believed in the Mission given to the Little Pebble) on November 8, 1987 at a home on an adjoining property. The Little Pebble spoke about the Order of Saint Charbel, giving a general summary of the latest news of progress. He elaborated on the plans to build up the Community -- beginning with plans for moving certain members onto the 33 acre property. These persons were the first to move onto the property -- two single laymen and Fr. Broussard. The Little Pebble set up an initial 'schedule of the day' for these three.


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Summer of 1987 front entrance to the Caravan Park property

The November 8th meeting also explained the basic guidelines for a Community Council to be operative as the Community began to develop. The chief aims would be to attain 'self-sufficiency'. Another topic was -- how to vote on members coming into the Order. The Little Pebble also presented the bigger picture of several Communities were in process of being formed: in Victoria, Queensland, Gilgandra, and Adelaide. The projection was that by May 1988 the Community would have another Catholic Priest living on the property as a member of the Order.


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Early 1988 with much work ahead of us ... A Chapel was built for the Community

The Gethsemane Community was founded officially on the property on February 8, 1988. Three mobile Caravans were made available. Soon after, the building used for outdoor barbecue (shown above) was remodelled and enclosed to accommodate the need for a Chapel. This was the first Chapel. This building was fitted with carpet and a nice Sanctuary was constructed with a portable Altar and a Tabernacle was donated. Various statues were brought in and suitably adorned in places of honour. This Chapel could seat a maximum of 50 people. The Holy Mass and Community Prayers were situated here for years to come until 1993 when a new Chapel was built.


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Altar in the old Chapel in August 1989. This Chapel could seat 50 people.

In 1984, initially Our Lord had only given the Little Pebble a basic "shell" of the Rule of the Order of Saint Charbel. In 1987, this basic shell was adopted by a group of families in Gilgandra, New South Wales. One of these families made their large farm (6,000 acres) available to the Order in order to form a Community. Several of these families moved onto this property and began to live a Community life according to the basic structure of this "shell". This was the first attempt to form a Community. With the passing of time, it became apparent that there were many loose ends in these initial efforts to live Community life. For this reason, the Little Pebble decided to modify this initial "shell" and apply it to the initial establishment of the Community of Gethsemane.

1988

The Community of Gethsemane was established at Cambewarra, N.S.W. (February 8, 1988) and these new changes were incorporated into this Community. As progress was achieved, a better understanding came about concerning the difference between the Rule and the Constitutions. These changes were amended and were written into the latest documentation at that time. This method would be adopted from then on -- it would be through the lived experiences of trial and error. In this way, the necessary flexibility for families was achieved through a gradual change for the better. A formation program was initiated in June 1988. It took form in classes held bi-weekly which included formation in the Catholic Catechism along a theme which focused upon the formation of religious life.

In October 1988, on a journey to Rome, the initial documentation on the Rule and Constitutions were hand-delivered to the two Roman Congregations competent to judge "new forms of consecrated life" (Canon 605). On November 30, 1988 the first edition of the Rule and Constitutions was promulgated by the Little Pebble. These were made into simple booklets for further study. Thus by the end of 1988, the Community of Gethsemane was composed of three Catholic Priests; two laymen; a Japanese couple; a young man from Singapore; and another Japanese woman who joined the Second Branch of Religious Sisters. At this time. there were many other families who lived outside the property who were invited by the Little Pebble to join the Order. Many of these were people who had been long time supporters of the Mission given to the Little Pebble.

1989

The year 1989 was a year of growth and adaptation. The lived experience of religious life within a community environment brought with it many insights and various problems. The concept of the "extended family" gradually took hold. The virtues required to live the Christian life to perfection were often tested in living and working together -- all striving to live by a way of life envisaged by the Rule and Constitutions.


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September 13, 1989 on the Holy Grounds. A typical Atonement Day of Prayer

Decidedly, on September 29, 1989, a total of thirteen persons made their initial Promise midway into their Novitiate for the Third Branch. Four persons also began their Novitiate on this day. There were monthly Community Council meetings for solving the problems that came up from time to time. Work rosters were set in place to implement the priorities set by the Community Council. Prayers as a Community remained part of the daily routine. Because there were several Priests in the Community, the members enjoyed two or three Masses each day. More than one Mass each day was needed because of the families with children. Thus baby-sitting could be easily arranged.

One of the most important achievements was the establishment and beginning of the Saint Joseph's School during this year. Initially, the classroom was inside one of the large homes on the property. It went very well and parents were quite pleased.

1990 to 1999

In January and February 1990, eight more persons made their Promise in the Third Branch. On May 1, 1990, the profession of Minor Vows took place in the Chapel. Twenty-two persons completed their Novitiate.

The years 1991 to 1992 were to see the continuation of the daily schedule. More modular homes were moved onto the property. These were purchased by the members themselves and suitable places were allocated for these homes. On August 11, 1991, seven persons made their Promise during their Novitiate of the Third Branch. Ten person began their Novitiate.


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In 1991 another view of the property ... more modular homes

The construction of a new Chapel was begun during this year. It was to be named: "The Chapel of All-Apparitions". There were many devout persons who assisted out of their means to help build this Chapel. Donations were received from believers from many different countries which enabled the project to be realised.

The beginning of 1993 saw the continuation of construction for the new Chapel of All-Apparitions. It was originally planned for completion by May 1993. However, because of various delays it was not possible to complete the job on schedule. In May, the partially built Chapel was dedicated by the blessing of the corner-stone. This blessing was given by a Bishop from France, who had come to visit our Community. In August, the Chapel was formally opened with the celebration of the first Mass inside the Chapel. The Chapel was about 90% finished by this stage. Finally, on December 8, 1993 our Community began the daily Mass schedule for the new Chapel. This Chapel also became the place of the Apparitions for the Atonement Days and First Saturdays of each month. The old Chapel would now be prepared to become the new school house -- which was very much needed for our increasing enrolment of school children.


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THE CHAPEL OF ALL-APPARITIONS
Community of Gethsemane


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THE ALTAR
Chapel of All-Apparitions

In August 1995, the Little Pebble made another six-week journey overseas. Fr. Broussard was able to travel with the Little Pebble for the first time -- having received his permanent residency in Australia.

In October 1995 there began a series of special meetings with the various Community Superiors who were available to consider the revision of the current edition of the Rule and Constitutions. In November 1995, the revisions were completed and setup for a new printing was planned. The Little Pebble advised the Community of Gethsemane that we would all begin to live more intensely the life of the Order according to its latest revisions. Much had been learned over the last several years through the lived experience of the way of life. Thus the latest revisions were a better refinement of what was good and removal of what was non-functional. The original "shell" of the Rule was gradually developing into a comprehensive document which carefully preserved the original charism of the Founder -- the Little Pebble. This revision was then promulgated to all the Communities around Australia.

In light of these latest revisions -- on January 2, 1996, the whole Community of Gethsemane made formal Promises to begin a three year Novitiate. The Little Pebble set aside the whole month of January to travel to all of the Communities, in order to receive the same Promises of all the Communities -- thus everyone would be starting on the same footing and progress would be mutual for all Communities. In this year, the total number of adult members (not including children) reached 57 affiliated with the Community of Gethsemane. Of these there were 27 members of the Fourth Branch having chosen to affiliate with the Community of Gethsemane.


Profession of Temporary Vows by the Religious Sisters
July 1, 1999 - Chapel of All-Apparitions


Third Branch members take their Minor Vows
August 15, 1999 - Chapel of All-Apparitions

By the time of the December 1999 and the end of the Millennium the Community numbers 130 persons, with several new additional families on their way to entering the Community after the first of the Year. The Mother of God revealed some years ago that eventually our Community would number about 360 members.


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