It’s more than just a bookshop
BY FIONA VAN DER PLAAT
THE assortment of stock to be packed into boxes for the Catholic Bookshop’s move from Braddon to Manuka tells the story of a place that is more than its name suggests.
While hundreds of publications line the shelves, it is not just a bookshop. Music, DVDs, gifts, candles, icons and sacramental goods are also on display or available to order from around the world.
It’s not a shop only for Catholics, either. While business might boom during the Catholic sacramental “seasons” (and, of course, Christmas and Easter), the clientele throughout the year is ecumenical.
Manager Anne Woods says the shop, which has been in operation for about 25 years, will continue to provide its unique brand of service for all in the Archdiocese – Catholics and otherwise – after it moves.
“A lot of people come in at critical junctures in their lives and those of their loved ones,” she says.
“It could be baptism, marriage, death or any of the important milestones in life. We need to be sensitive to that.”
Providing guidance on the products is important but knowing when to listen is equally important, she says of the job Archbishop Christopher Prowse calls her “apostolate”.
Anne and her colleagues, David Sellars, Anne Hartwell and Joseph Doyle, are “looking forward to serving everybody at the beautiful new location in the St Christopher’s Pastoral Centre, Manuka”.
“The peaceful ambience of the shop is an attraction for many customers and we will endeavour to maintain that,” she says.
“People coming in from a busy day seem to have a contemplative moment. You can see their stress dissipating while they browse.”
The variety of customers makes the shop a fascinating place to work. For instance, on the same day recently the Apostolic Nuncio dropped in.
“Then a lady who was brought up by the nuns in an orphanage came in and spoke about her 74-year-old husband, who was a Chinese Buddhist and came into the Catholic Church only last year. We get all sorts of people in here.”
But business is not limited to the drop-in browsers or to the people of the Archdiocese who often cross paths in the shop.
“We send things all over the nation and beyond. We have customers in every state and territory,” she says.
Among the bestselling products are the children’s Beginner’s Bible and Michael Leunig’s illustrated prayer book When I Talk to You.
A variety of crosses – notably olive-wood versions from Jerusalem, and hand-painted Australian indigenous and the El Salvadorian crosses – are also popular, as are the long-“burning” flicker candles for churches, schools and prayer groups.
“Developing the giftware range is a focus for us right now, and we want the bookshop to continue to be a peaceful environment where people can come in, bump into someone they haven’t seen for a while, buy a beautiful product and go away encouraged,” she says.
- Anne co-organises the ‘Call to Connect’ women’s ministry in Canberra with Bronnie Schlager.