Wagga's Carmelite Monastery was full to overflowing with parishioners and well-wishers for a 'mass of thanksgiving' to mark its closure after 53 years.
Catholic Diocese of Canberra Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse and Vatican City ambassador to Australia Adolfo Tito C. Yllana joined the packed congregation at the monastery's chapel in Ashmont on Wednesday afternoon.
Archbishop Prowse said Wagga's Bishop in 1966, Francis Henschke, had sought to establish a "spiritual powerhouse" with the monastery but died before the building was opened two years later.
"It's a sad day but at the same time a day of thanksgiving to the Lord for allowing 53 years of the presence of the Carmelite Sisters," he said.
Archbishop Prowse said he had visited former Wagga Bishop Frank Carroll in hospital as he had been unable to attend the mass and passed on his reflections.
"One of Bishop Henschke's dreams had always been to have two communities of contemplatives in his diocese - one for women and one for men," Bishop Carroll stated.
"He had a great faith in their lives of prayer and looked to them to be a spiritual powerhouse for the local church."
The mass also recognised the support of the Women's Auxillary and Men's Committee in establishing the monastery.
Archbishop Prowse paid tribute to the monastery's "courageous leader" Sister Bernadette who was the superior at Wagga for 43 years after "settling into the plains of the Riverina" to with the original small group of Sisters.
Superior of the House Sister Maria said she had been given the "rare privilege" of effectively "speaking at your own funeral" but also joked about the monastery's famous lamington and cake sales.
"You have no doubt seen in the media the statistics that the Riverina has the highest rate of diabetes and obesity on the land; well perhaps this is the forgiving moment to publicly acknowledge our complicity," she said.
"In making those luscious lamingtons for 20 years, we were only thinking of shrinking our debt, spreading joy and making friends, and that we did."