Monday, 31 August 2015

Paul Ephriam Zundolovich

The story of Paul Ephriam Zundolovich is one of the most remarkable stories of early Lithuanians in Australia that I have encountered.  For he was a Lithuanian Jew who not only became a Catholic priest - in itself this would have been highly unusual - but he also became one of the most respected pioneer priests serving outback and rural Australia.

His life was briefly summarised by Father T J Linane in From Abel to Zundolovich, Vol 1, 1979:
Paul Zundolovich ... was singularly a Lithuanian Jew, a convert to the Faith in Egypt, and recruited for the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese by Bishop William Hayden.  Ordained from Propaganda College, Rome, in 1891, Paul served in unglamorous places for over 40 years, dying at Moama in 1935. 

This photo of 'Father Paul', as he was widely known, during the First World War is from the first page of From Abel to Zundolovich, Vol 1.

Not much is known of Zundolovich's early life.  According to his WW1 attestation papers he was born in Mosėdis, Lithuania (he wrote this as 'Maished' - the yiddish version of Mosėdis - in the Telšiai district of the Kaunas gubernia) on 15 May 1865.  Somehow as a young man he found his way to Egypt, or perhaps Palestine, and converted to Christianity before undertaking theological studies in Rome.

He arrived in Sydney aboard the Austral in 1892 as a missionary priest and was despatched to Broken Hill, during or immediately after the 1892 miners' strike.  While in Broken Hill he probably had ample opportunity to make contact with the Lithuanian Jewish community there.

The rest of his life revolved around his priestly vocation, primarily in western New South Wales.  In 1895-96 he served as a chaplain at the Wentworth gaol, and by 1898 he was naturalised as a British subject and living at Wilcannia, responsible for the Wilcannia and White Cliffs region where he would remain for the next 15 years apart from annual breaks in Broken Hill.  In 1908 he travelled overseas to North America, and probably also to Europe.  In 1915 he was appointed to the town of Hay but that posting was to be of only short duration as he enlisted in 1916 to serve as a chaplain on AIF transport ships between Australia and Europe.  He was appointed to the parish of Moama in 1917 which he served until his death in 1935.

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