Camperdown abbey founder dies

THE founder of St Mark’s Benedictine Abbey near Camperdown, Father Michael King, has died aged 72.

Father Michael King, pictured in the Camperdown abbey’s vegetable garden with Sister Mary Emmanuel in 2009.    090205CC13  Picture: Cassie Cowling

Father Michael King, pictured in the Camperdown abbey’s vegetable garden with Sister Mary Emmanuel in 2009. 090205CC13 Picture: Cassie Cowling

Known universally as Father Ernie, the well-regarded Anglican priest trained at Morpeth Theological College and became a priest in the Riverina diocese in the late 1960s.

He moved to Broken Hill and later to Melbourne in 1971, where his commitment to working with the destitute and marginalised was well known.

Retired Anglican priest Ted Witham said Father King moved to St Mark’s Benedictine Abbey near Camperdown in 1980, where he felt most at home.

The religious educator said Father King was one of the few Anglican Benedictine ministers in Australia, an order which has a close association with the Catholic Church.

“Father Ernie, as we all knew him, did a great deal of good work in Fitzroy and the surrounding suburbs in the 1970s,” Mr Witham said. “Fitzroy back then was a very poor place, high-rise apartment blocks and a lot of people that were ignored by society. Father Ernie was deeply committed to giving everyone a helping hand.”

The veteran priest was a popular figure within the Anglican community and known for his tireless devotion to his faith. Apart from dedicated prayer, the Camperdown abbey became known for the manufacturing of incense and mounting replica icons under Father King’s leadership. 

The small monastery supplies all of Australia’s major cathedrals and many parish churches with incense. 

“When the Pope was at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney last year for World Youth Day, it was our incense they were using,” Father King told The Standard in 2009. “One of our big customers is St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. But we still haven’t received any orders from the Vatican,” he chuckled. 

However, the Camperdown-made incense was used during Pope Benedict’s visit to Australia in 2008, for celebrations connected to World Youth Day at Randwick Racecourse.

Camperdown reverend Hayden McKellar said Father King was a man who was deeply committed to his faith.

“He was a really wonderful person,” he said. “A very faithful man and a very meaningful man.” 

Father King’s funeral mass will be held in the abbey church tomorrow.

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