Abbot Placid Spearitt OSB of the Benedictine Community of New Norcia passed away on October 4. Fr John Herbert OSB reflects on a life well lived.
Born Selwyn Spearritt in Bundaberg Queensland on September 17, 1933, Fr Placid was the youngest in a family of five boys. His father was a baker by trade and the family attended the Anglican Church.
He was educated at Brisbane State High School and the University of Queensland where he graduated with an MA. During his university days, he sang with the University’s Madrigal Singers.
After spending a year teaching at Warwick State School in the Darling Downs, he returned to Queensland University to work in the library.
At the age of 22, he decided to become a Catholic and also felt called to be a monk. He joined the large Benedictine Monastery of Ampleforth, near York in England, in 1959 and was given the religious name Placid.
For the next eight years he went back to being a student, doing postgraduate work at the Catholic University of Freibourg in Switzerland. He graduated in Theology and Philosophy and was ordained a priest in 1967.
Returning to Ampleforth, Fr Placid settled into teaching philosophy in the monastery and English and Religious Studies in the boys’ boarding school.
He continued to gravitate to the library and was consequently made the librarian.
For a brief period, he went to Canada as Visiting Fellow at the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies at St Michael’s College in Toronto.
In 1979 he was appointed Prior of Ampleforth Abbey. Four years later, he was asked to be the Prior Administrator of the New Norcia Community, a position he held for a number of years.
On February 1, 1997, he was elected sixth Abbot of New Norcia. Having reached 75, he was due to retire from his abbatial role. During his time, New Norcia Catholic College closed and, since then, the monastic community has gradually taken over the management of the whole town.
Today, New Norcia seeks to preserve its unique monastic, indigenous and European heritage, and share it with all who visit.
After attending the General Chapter of the Subiaco Congregation (to which New Norcia belongs) and the Abbot’s Congress in Rome, Abbot Placid died suddenly at Ampleforth Abbey, the monastery of his profession. The details of his funeral at New Norcia are yet to be finalised.
A canonical visitation consisting of the Abbot President of the Subiaco Congregation, Abbot Bruno Marin OSB, and an appointed abbot from another monastery will take place within the next few months, which will include the election or appointment of a new superior.
Prior of the Benedictine Community of New Norcia, Dom Christopher Power, says the community is deeply saddened by the sudden death of Abbot Placid, whose search for God was “deeply rooted in his monastic vows of obedience, stability and conversion”.
Abbot Placid’s 25 years of humble prayer, work and service have guided New Norcia into this new era, making a significant contribution to the Church and wider community of Western Australia.
– Details provided by New Norcia Archives.