Once Were Monks

Once Were Monks

5 x 26 Minute Episodes

Melbourne is home to a fascinating, eccentric, erudite and warring tribe of men. They are pious and bawdy, gregarious and solitary, indulgent and ascetic, radical and conservative, young and old. They are the men of the Blessed Sacrament Order at the St Francis Monastery in the heart of Melbourne. Their lives are turned upside down when they are forced to move to a pub during renovations.

Many of the fathers and brothers are facing old age. They can no longer climb the stairs and it is hoped that new en-suite bathrooms will ease the problem. While most of the men relocate to the pub across the road, Father Ken Boland decides to stay on-site in a workers shed. Others seek alternative accommodation: historian Father Donald Cave moves to his old house in inner-city Melbourne, Father Gonzalo Munoz takes a job as live-in caretaker of a meditation centre, and Brother Gerard Develin must part with his pet budgie for the period of construction.

The renovation acts as a catalyst, prompting the men to question their faith and commitment to the Catholic church. A number are even unsure whether they will return to the monastery once refurbishment is complete.

Throughout the upheaval, church life goes on. Mass is still said and confessions are heard. A young member of the order, Brother Boris Perlaki, is ordained and a funeral is held for Brother Bernard Scanlan, who dies on his 102nd birthday.

The series follows Father Donald to Rome where he delivers his latest book on the order’s founder, and to Istanbul where he fulfils his life-long dream to visit Aya Sofya, once one of the greatest churches in Christendom. Back in Melbourne, Brother Gerard makes regular trips to the outskirts of the city to visit his budgie, now boarding with a friend.

Once Were Monks is the story of what happens when this tight-knit community is thrown into the outside world. It is about the problems of faith in the modern era, the forces of change and the pressures of tradition. Ultimately it is about a group of men who share in religious life with all its joys and sorrows.