The Jesuits

St Aloysius' Church

St Aloysius' Church has served the Parish of Sevenhill since its completion in 1875. Mass is conducted at St Aloysius' each Saturday at 6pm.

A magnificent example of Gothic Revival architecture, the historic church is a striking building set among the vines and gardens of Sevenhill Cellars. Built from local stone, it features a slate roof, Mintaro slate floors, exquisite stained-glass windows and a painting of the Madonna presented to the Jesuits by King Ludwig of Bavaria in 1848. The southern transept and front steps are recent additions.

The crypt, whose entrance is outside the church on the northern side, is unique for a parish church in Australia. The crypt is the final resting place for 41 Jesuits and, since 1901, only those who died at Sevenhill have been buried there.

To contact the Parish Priest, telephone (08) 8843 5930, email sevenhillparish@bigpond.com 

Centre of Ignatian Spirituality

The Sevenhill Centre of Ignatian Spirituality provides a unique setting for prayer and contemplation within the tranquil surroundings of the oldest winery in South Australia's Clare Valley. Established in 1851, Sevenhill is the birthplace of the Jesuits in Australia.

The Centre offers accommodation in 24 rooms, some with en suite and others with shared bathrooms. Other facilities include a large church and small chapel, two meeting rooms and three dining rooms. All meals, which include home-grown fruit and vegetables, are fully catered and Sevenhill's award-winning table wines are offered with the evening meal.

The Centre, which is open to all denominations, is ideal for silent retreats, planning days, formation programs and day workshops. The park-like setting, shrines, the Stations of the Cross, surrounding vineyards and walking paths, including the nearby Riesling Trail, create an environment conducive to encountering God in a hospitable, peaceful rural setting.

For more information, contact the Centre's Director, Fr Robert Morris, SJ. Telephone (08) 8843 5935 or email sevenhilljesuits@tpg.com.au. Visit http://sevenhillretreat.com.au/

Jesuits in Australia

Sevenhill, in the Mid North of South Australia, was the birthplace of the Jesuits in Australia after they arrived in Adelaide as chaplains to a group of Austrians that fled Europe to escape political and religious oppression. The immigrants settled near the township of Clare and the Jesuits purchased 100 acres of land in 1851, naming it Sevenhill after the Seven Hill district of Rome.

In addition to serving Catholics as the population grew in the north of South Australia, the Jesuits of Sevenhill planted vines, built a church and opened a college, which became the first Catholic boys' school in the colony and also served as a seminary for the training of priests.

Sevenhill Cellars, St Aloysius' Church and the College building remain today as integral parts of the Jesuit community, with the Sevenhill property regarded as a site of spiritual and historic significance.

From their beginnings at Sevenhill, the Jesuits' presence in Australia expanded to include the eastern colonies, with the Austrians of South Australia joined by the Irish in Melbourne and Sydney. Both groups worked industriously to expand their role in education, missions, parishes and retreat houses. In 1901, an Australian Mission was formed and this became a fully constituted Jesuit Province in 1950.

Today, Jesuits in Australia are involved in a variety of missions, including extensive commitments in parishes, education, publishing, spirituality programs and social justice. Their early work with Aborigines in the Northern Territory has evolved into new programs involving Indigenous communities and there is a significant focus on the disadvantaged, including refugees and the homeless, unemployed and drug-dependent. The Australian Jesuit Mission to India is another major project.

More information at www.jesuit.org.au


Vale Brother John May SJ

Br John May SJ AM, the long-serving winemaker at Sevenhill Cellars in the Clare Valley, died on 18 August 2021 aged 92. 

John was the seventh Jesuit Winemaker at Sevenhill, a position he held from 1972 until his retirement from full-time work in 2003. The winery was established is 1851 by the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order commonly known as the Jesuits.

“John’s engagement across the cellars, St Aloysius’ Church, and in later years the on-site retreat centre characterised Br John’s deep commitment to an active, but contemplative and devotional, faith,” says Jesuit Provincial, Fr Quyen Vu SJ.

“John was so committed as a Jesuit to his mission in winemaking, which was unexpectedly entrusted to him.”

His ministry was very much as a Jesuit, offered to God with his Jesuit companions and friends. Fr Quyen recalls arriving at Sevenhill with a group of young Jesuits at the conclusion of a pilgrimage.

“We were all tired and weary, Br John was there to welcome us and took care of us like younger brothers in a family.”

Born in Sydney in 1929, as a child John was an altar boy at the Jesuit-run St Mary’s Church, North Sydney. After finishing school, he took up a carpentry and joinery apprenticeship. Following work in the building industry, he joined the Jesuits in 1949 at Loyola College, Watsonia in Victoria. He spent the next fourteen years there, performing various tasks and learning new skills through the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).

His first assignment to the Jesuit winery at Sevenhill began in 1963, when he was sent to work with Br John Hanlon SJ. He was there for seven years.

It was Br Hanlon’s sudden death in 1972 that led to Br John’s recall to Sevenhill. After arriving, he asked that the interim appointment be made permanent to ensure the winery would survive. Returning to Sevenhill as Winemaker, without qualifications, he relied on his gifts with his hands and the fact that, in his words, he had spent his previous period there “with eyes and ears open.”

Over time he took courses in laboratory and cellar procedures at winemaking schools and was generously assisted by the local community of winemakers in the Clare Valley as he honed the craft.

Br John led the expansion of the Sevenhill vineyards, using the best clones of varieties suitable to the Clare Valley, and production grew from 80 tonnes to 500 tonnes per year by 1990.

Sevenhill’s Sacramental wine distribution expanded across Australia to countries throughout South-East Asia. The range of table wines was developed, and a Cellar Door established, attracting up to 40,000 visitors per year.

Br John’s passion for the Clare Valley was evident in his role as a founding member of the Clare Valley Vine Improvement Society and inaugural President of the Clare Valley Tourist Association, as well as memberships of a range of industry and community groups, including the Clare Valley Winemakers Association.

“This service to winemaking and the local community has been widely recognised,” says Jonathan O’Neill, the General Manager of Sevenhill Cellars.

“Brother John was inducted into the Clare Valley Hall of Fame in 2014 and received a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2016 and became a lifetime member of the Wine Makers Federation in 2004, which is now called Australian Grape and Wine.”

After retiring from full time winemaking, Br John could be relied upon to prepare morning tea for the winery staff, to continue his care for St Aloysius’ Church, which is on the Sevenhill site, and to offer tours to visitors around the property.

Fr Quyen notes Br John’s vocation was, in his own words, “to offer my gifts and talents; my hands are to serve the Lord through the Society of Jesus”.

“Along with his deep faith, it was his engagement with community that was most important to him,” according to Mr O’Neill.

“What he would have been most proud of is what he did for the local community,” he says. “John May was a great man, one of the truly great gentlemen of the Australian wine industry and community, who will be sorely missed.”