Fr Eugene Stockton, Hermit in The Blue Mountains

blue mountains
For Fr Eugene Stockton, a retired priest in the Diocese of Parramatta: “Retirement is not the end, but a new stage on the journey of life.”
eugene stockton 2
Living and working in the parish community of Our Lady of the Nativity at Lawson in the Blue Mountains, Fr Eugene still brings his considerable talents as an educator, theologian and archaeologist to the table with as much verve and wisdom as he has since his early days at St Columba’s Seminary at Springwood.
church lawson
Born in 1934, Fr Eugene and his family have lived in Lawson since he was six. He lives in the house he built for his mother 50 years ago and enjoys the company of his family and friends who still live in the district. “It is great to be able to retire where I grew up,” he said.
“Now I can enjoy saying Mass as a parishioner rather than as a parish priest. Many people in the community are those I grew up with and I feel close to them.”
At Lawson, Fr Eugene is part of a nurturing village lifestyle, the place where many talented professionals and creative souls come to enjoy the tranquillity and revel in the inspirational scenery and atmosphere.
“I love this area. It is a little haven for amazing people; a hub of adult education. Many scholars, musicians, doctors, psychologists and artists make their home here.”
Fr Eugene first announced his intention of becoming a priest at age six, and despite initial opposition from his parents was accepted into the seminary when he was 13.
It was during his first year at Springwood that he embarked upon another life journey, which still continues to consume his interest and along with his considerable theological expertise has earned him a formidable reputation in academic circles.
“At school I found some rocks on the side of the drive. I did geology at the time and I knew that they didn’t belong there. I took them to the Australian Museum in Sydney. The curator told me they were Aboriginal artefacts and as I had correctly identified them, took me under his wing.”
Eugene was a regular member of archaeological digs, gaining valuable experience. By the time he was ordained in 1958 he was conducting his own digs.
“At that time there was only a dozen or so people in the whole country working in the field. It was possible to get reports published. It was very much at the pioneering stage.”
While continuing his theological studies in Jerusalem he joined digs with the British School of Archaeology. Later, when working as Aboriginal Chaplain in the Archdiocese of Sydney he became interested in Aboriginal spiritualty and history and directed his talents to the study of local archaeology.
eugene archaeology
His first book “Blue Mountains Dreaming” on Aboriginal anthropology was published 20 years ago and was revised in a second edition in 2012. Fr Eugene continues to participate in ground-breaking archaeological work, uncovering new sites and studying Aboriginal heritage, mainly in the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains areas, and has gone on to write further books and many articles on the subject.
blue-mtns-dreaming
And as a gifted educator, throughout his career he has shared his knowledge with the world, giving workshops and forums on Scripture, archaeology, Aboriginal issues and spirituality.
Fr Eugene’s first appointment was to St Patrick’s Seminary at Manly as a teacher of sacred scripture. “I had a Degree in Scripture, and they needed a teacher. I loved teaching, and even now if I get a chance I will get up in front of an audience.”
While Fr Eugene describes himself as more of an academic than a pastoral person, he relishes his life as a priest and has a real interest in what is happening in people’s lives.
“When you are physically unwell you see a doctor and he judges objectively what is wrong and gives a remedy. The priest has the same spiritual relationship with people.”
As a diocesan priest he enjoyed working in the community and took an active interest in local affairs, which resulted in his academic work. While parish priest of Riverstone, Fr Eugene became interested in contemplative prayer.
“It seemed to me that the lifestyle most appropriate to contemplation was that of a hermit. I tried living out this life as best I could in parish ministry.
“People are naturally suspicious of this way of life. Hermits are assumed to be odd, anti-social, psychotic or just drop-outs from society.”
In 1999, Bishop Manning granted Fr Eugene leave to study lay hermits and he found it was more important not to attempt to conform to a perceived definition of what it was to be a hermit but to seek to answer the call to be alone with God in the given conditions of a person’s life.
“There is no real definition; each has their own way of working out their vocation with more attention given to prayer. There is a need to keep working on simplicity (beware of collecting clutter), mindfulness (deliberate attention to little things) and stillness.
“In 2001, I retired a bit early in order to live this life. It is one of key times of silence and solitude in prayer, not necessarily living away from the world. However,
I keep excursions into the outside world to a minimum. “Taking diocesan vows as a consecrated hermit has opened up a whole new way of life in what should be my retirement. It has given me something to live for, something to work for, under the formula quoted in ‘Lay Hermits’ seeking to live with God alone and for God alone. “The consecration vows and plan of life make what is already a way of life into something more definite and concrete and committed.” Fr Eugene genuinely loves to share the wealth of his profound knowledge and spiritual insights with others. Today he now spends most of his time expressing this through writing. His latest book “The Deep Within: Towards an Archetypal Theology” is a study on consciousness and its religious expression at a new level.
In 2008, Fr Eugene established the not-for-profit Blue Mountain Education and Research Trust to publish and promote research and education on Blue Mountains history, archaeology, religious ideas and philosophy. Many of his recent books have been published under its banner. Under its auspices he also operates the Blue Mountains Centre for Religious Enquiry, which hosts Sunday afternoon forums where guest speakers disseminate knowledge and ideas. “There is a tendency in Western civilisation to set aside the older members of society and dismiss them. We should take our cue from other cultures, for example Aboriginal communities where elders are respected for their experience and their advice and counsel are sought.”
“Fr Eugene Stockton, consecrated hermit: ‘There is a need to keep working on simplicity, mindfulness and stillness’” by Virginia Knight
CatholicOutlook (Parramatta, NSW) August 2013 http://www.parra.catholic.org.au/catholicoutlook/features/feature–vocations-awareness-week-2013/fr-eugene-stockton–consecrated-hermit.aspx
eugene stockton

Some of Fr Eugene’s writings:

“Mysticism in the Australian environment: Calls to a new consciousness” “Compass: A Review of Topical Theology” Summer 2002 Vol 36 No 4 http://compassreview.org/summer02/3.html

“Lay Hermits”“Compass: A Review of Topical Theology” 2002 , vol. 34, no. 2
http://www.hermitary.com/articles/stockton.html

“Forest Dweller: An Alternative Life Style for Seniors” http://www.hermitary.com/articles/stockton_forest.html

“In Search of the Deep Within…The Search for an Archetypal Theology” “Catholica” http://www.catholica.com.au/specials/TheDeepWithin/005_dw_170413.php

“The Search for a Theology that Speaks to God’s People” “Catholica” http://www.catholica.com.au/forum/index.php?id=143129
deep within
His most recent book is “The Deep Within: Towards an archetypal theology” , Blue Mountain Education and Research Trust, 2011

For a review, see http://www.catholicweekly.com.au/article.php?classID=3&subclassID=20&articleID=9840&class=Copyright&subclass=Books

For the Blue Mountain Education and Research Trust: http://bmert.org/ and http://bluemountaintrust.blogspot.com.au/

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