A Hermit in Culcairn
“St Patrick’s Church in Culcairn made history last week with the first ever Christian hermit professed at the church.
Ross McKeown has taken on the “unique lifestyle” of a religious hermit.
“It probably won’t ever happen here again,” Mr McKeown said.
As a religious hermit Mr McKeown prays seven times a day and helps the community and people wherever possible.
“You don’t stand behind a door by yourself, that’s not Christian at all,” he said.
“My day starts very early in the morning but I get ready to pray not ready for work.”
Aside from praying he supports the parish priest and community.
He has an obligation to pray every day and support people if they need it.
“If someone wants to talk all day I put aside anything I had planned to sit and talk with them,” he said.
Since being professed his lifestyle hasn’t changed greatly as he was already living a life of prayer.
“This prayer life has always been attractive for me,” Mr McKeown said.
“It was 10 years ago when I first approached the bishop (about becoming a hermit).”
Before becoming a Christian hermit Mr McKeown worked as a nurse in Henty for 12 years but always lived in Culcairn while working there.
Originally from Northern Victoria he moved to Sydney and lived in various cities around the world before settling in Culcairn.
As a Hermit Mr McKeown inhabits and maintains a “kind of powerhouse of prayer” that “helps illuminates the lives of the community with the presence of Christ”.
Mr McKeown said there are around 20 people living as Hermits around Australia with the number growing. In France there are around 400.
While many people may think of a hermit as an old man who lives alone and hates everyone a religious hermit is very different.
“The simplest definition of a Hermit or spiritual solitary is someone who lives alone by choice for spiritual reasons,” the definition states.
This excludes people who live along through unwanted circumstance or those who dislike society.
“They are not selfish individualists merely seeking their own comfort, but rather passionate lovers of humanity who, through their lives of prayer foster a compassionate care for all their brothers and sisters.””
Culcairn is a town in the south-east Riverina region of New South Wales, 514 kilometres (319 mi) south-west of Sydney.