New Zealand Places to Stay The Big Trip

Time to retreat… at Jerusalem New Zealand

The Old Convent, Jerusalem, Whanganui River Road New Zealand
Written by Stuart Wickes

From:      Stuart
Date:       27th February 2005
Subject:  Time to retreat
Place:     Jerusalem, Whanganui River Road, New Zealand

Jerusalem, Whanganui River Road, New Zealand

The church of St Joseph watches over the Whanganui river at Jerusalem

Time to retreat… at Jerusalem New Zealand

Stuart Profile SmallJerusalem, on the Whanganui River Road, is a special spot. Home to the Sisters of Compassion and a peaceful place to stop and rest on our long journey North.  It’s a simple place, not big on home comforts but welcoming and full of a spirit of peace and harmony.  

St Josephs', Jerusalem, New Zealand

St Josephs’, Jerusalem, New Zealand

A moment of peace… kind of

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 the dog.

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.

The Old Convent, Jerusalem, Whanganui River Road New Zealand

The Old Convent, Jerusalem, Whanganui River Road New Zealand

This is Jerusalem, New Zealand

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 retreat.

St Josephs', Jerusalem, New Zealand

Catholic and Maori influences meet in St Joseph’s church

A special place

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 and curtain.

Bedroom at Jerusalem New Zealand

You can feel the history in this place

Powerfully peaceful

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’.

Grounds of Jerusalem New Zealand

Grounds of Jerusalem New Zealand

A joyful discovery

“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.

Gardens of Jerusalem, Whanganui River Road New Zealand

The Rosary Way Garden where Matthew made his miraculous discovery

About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!

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