An ‘architectural gem’

St. Mary’s Monastery was built by the Redemptorists in the 1860s as a centre for missions and retreats. In the words of a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Scotland it has “been central in the development of the spiritual lives of most of our priests in Scotland over the years – as well as, of course, helping tremendous numbers of religious and lay people”. For well over a hundred years, every single priest in Scotland made his retreat at St. Mary’s, and, from St. Mary’s, Redemptorist priests travelled throughout Scotland preaching parish missions and retreats.

In the 1980s, in response to the needs of the wider community, the facilities of the monastery were made available to the general public. The courses in spiritual and human development which are now offered by the staff of St. Mary’s attract people from all over Britain, and from countries around the world. Twice a year, St. Mary’s has a Seven Week Sabbatical Course for Priests, Religious, and Lay Pastoral Leaders. On these courses you will find men and women from New Zealand and Australia, USA and Canada, the Philippines and South America, and from many of the African countries. Bishop Logan drew attention to this when he wrote, “St. Mary’s, Kinnoull, is a unique resource in Scotland and its role is both national and international”.

The Monastery offers ecumenical hospitality to all the Churches in Scotland. Presbyterian ministers, Episcopalian priests, Methodist Ministers, together with members of their parishes and congregations, find an ideal environment for their own spiritual renewal in the tranquillity of the monastery, with its peaceful gardens. The Rev. David Ogston captured the atmosphere well when he wrote, “the very stones breathe contemplation and prayer”. And the former Episcopal Primus, Bishop Bruce Cameron, wrote, “St. Mary’s plays a significant part in the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Through summer schools for ordinands and lay ministers, to Cursillo weekends, and conferences and retreats many Episcopalians have experienced the warmth of Kinnoull hospitality. We are very grateful for the openness of the Institute to this ecumenical involvement”. When one contemplates the difficulties which were put in the way of the founding members of the community by some, but not all, of the other denominations, this is a remarkable and providential change, indeed.

The Crypt at St. Mary’s was officially opened by Provost Hulbert on 1 November 2007. This is a new facility, comprising four rooms underneath the church, which will now be available to groups from the city of Perth for their own educational, cultural and social needs. The Crypt, designed by Andrew Heiton Jr., Perth’s most illustrious architect, has been called an “architectural gem” and will provide a unique ambiance for meetings. Once more, St. Mary’s is playing its part in the wider integration of the Catholic community of Perth with the rest of the city. And, like the Catholic community, it has been able to do so without losing its own, unique culture.