Final chapter for Catholic bookshop

After 57 years in Adelaide, Catholic bookshop Pauline Books and Media, a ministry of the Daughters of St Paul, will close its doors this month, The Southern Cross reports.

The Daughters of St Paul have decided that the congregation’s Adelaide community is no longer viable, resulting in the closure of the three-storey shop in Hindmarsh Square and the departure of the two remaining Sisters. However, they are exploring the feasibility of having a smaller shop run by lay staff.

Sr Grace   Matsumoto   and Sr Marisa Valzasina in the Daughters of St Paul’s Adelaide bookshop which will close at the end of the month. (PHOTO: The Southern Cross)

Sr Grace Matsumoto and Sr Marisa Valzasina in the Daughters of St Paul’s Adelaide bookshop which will close at the end of the month. (PHOTO: The Southern Cross)

“We are sad, I am crying,” said Sr Marisa Valzasina, who has been inundated with customers expressing their disappointment since the ‘closing down sale’ signs were put up last month.

“But the reality of our life is like this, we are elderly and we have no Sisters replacing us.”

 “I feel terrible because I feel Adelaide is losing a little bit of its soul.

“People go to church and other rituals but the Spirit is here, we are part of the people.”

Born in Italy, Sr Marisa came to Adelaide in 1988 for six years and returned in 2003. Her co-worker Sr Grace Matsumoto came to Australia from Japan in 1989 and to Adelaide in 2007. At 81 and 74 respectively, they have continued to work six days a week from 9am to 5pm. “We go to Mass in the morning, come to work, go home and cook our dinner,” they said. “We hardly have time to pray.”

The Daughters of St Paul, whose mission is to spread the good news of the Gospel through modern means of communication, will continue to have two communities and book stores in Melbourne and Sydney.

The Adelaide premises, which are owned by the Daughters, will be put on the market shortly. Sr Marisa said the dismay of customers had made her determined to explore other options for a smaller shop run by lay staff in a different location in the city.

She said there would always be a need for religious books to “sustain people’s faith”.

Sr Grace said the Sisters knew that the time was coming to leave but they kept putting it off.

“Everybody’s upset, we didn’t want to disappoint people but we had to decide,” she said.

“They (the customers) see the sign saying we are closing and the first thing they say is why?”

Regular customer Jack Blanch typified the reaction of customers. “I’m so sorry to hear that,” he said.

“I come here a lot, for baptism and confirmation gifts for friends’ children. Working in the city, it’s been very handy to be able to come here.”

Another customer said she was Anglican and was “really sorry to hear another bookshop was closing”.

Sr Grace said sometimes people came into the shop “just to talk” or to say a prayer in the chapel.

“A lady just came in because she’d lost her mother, this is part of our ministry too,” she said.

The Sisters reminisced about Sr Edoarda who worked in the bookshop for nearly 50 years before returning to Italy in 2015 for a holiday and deciding it was time to retire there.

“Sr Edoarda knew the whole of Adelaide,” Sr Marisa said.

“The customers called her ‘nonna’ and would bring us in meals.”

She also paid tribute to the current staff which comprises Kirsty Power, Erminia Pittaway, Grace Beaumont and Michael Terminello.

Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ said it was “indeed a very sad day for the Archdiocese and the whole Church in SA”.

“The Sisters have provided a wonderful service which has done incalculable good and they have done this day in and day out for 50 years,” he said.

This is an abridged version of an article by Jenny Brinkworth which was published in The Southern Cross.