A Bridge Between

A Bridge Between

Spanish Benedictine Missionary Women in Australia

Authored by: Katharine Massam orcid

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This sensitive account of Spanish Benedictine women at an Aboriginal mission in Western Australia is poignant and disturbing. Notable for its ecumenical spirit, depth of research and deep engagement with the subject, A Bridge Between is a model of how religious history, in its broader bearings, can be written.
— Graeme Davison, Monash University

With great insight and care, A Bridge Between presents a sympathetic but not uncritical history of the lives of individuals who have often been invisible. The story of the nuns at New Norcia is a timely contribution to Australia’s religious history. Given the findings of the Royal Commission, it will be widely read both within and beyond the academy. History is, here, a spiritual discipline, and an exercise in hope and reconciliation.
— Laura Rademaker, The Australian National University

A Bridge Between is the first account of the Benedictine women who worked at New Norcia and the first book-length exploration of twentieth-century life in the Western Australian mission town. From the founding of a grand school intended for ‘nativas’, through links to Mexico and Paraguay then Ireland, India and Belgium, as well as to their house in the Kimberley, and a network of villages near Burgos in the north of Spain, this is a complex international history. A Bridge Between gathers a powerful, fragmented story from the margins of the archive, recalling the Aboriginal women who joined the community in the 1950s and the compelling reunion of missionaries and former students in 2001. By tracing the all-but-forgotten story of the community of Benedictine women who were central to the experience of the mission for many Aboriginal families in the twentieth century, this book lays a foundation for further work.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Oct 2020
ANU Press
Biography Series
Arts & Humanities: History, Philosophy & Religion

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A Bridge Between »

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  1. To Name and to Remember: The Reunion of 2001 (PDF, 2.2MB) doi
  2. The Company of St Teresa of Jesus at New Norcia, 1904–10 (PDF, 2.4MB) doi
  3. Benedictine Oblates: Outsiders in Community (PDF, 1.7MB) doi
  4. St Joseph’s Native School and Orphanage: Workers at the Edge of the Town (PDF, 0.9MB) doi
  5. Agencia Benedictina: Burgos, Belgium and the Kimberley (PDF, 3.2MB) doi
  6. Monastic and Missionary Sisters: ‘Their Currency and Savings Were the Work’ (PDF, 2.1MB) doi
  7. Gathering New Energy: Abbot Catalan Recruiting in Spain, 1947–48 (PDF, 0.7MB) doi
  8. Triggering the ‘Second Part’: Old School Patterns, a New Bindoon Community and Visiting the Villages Again (PDF, 0.8MB) doi
  9. Winding Together: ‘The Grace of God Is Not Tied to Any Colour, Race or Nationality’ (PDF, 1.4MB) doi
  10. Spinning Apart (PDF, 2.9MB) doi


‘This book is not a dispassionate analysis of the lives and work of the Benedictine missionaries at New Norcia in Western Australia, but a deeply felt, sympathetic investigation of the lives of women who lived and worked at New Norcia and associated institutions at Kalumburu, Bindoon, and Girrawheen. Katharine Massam researched this book over more than twenty years building up an extensive archive of interviews and documentary evidence … Massam has gone to great lengths to accumulate firsthand accounts from surviving Sisters, travelling to Spain and other parts of the world to undertake interviews and scouring the records to find scant archival material such as letters, both private and institutional as well as reports, and any other written and photographic records she can unearth.’

— Peggy Brock, Journal of Religious History, October 2021

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