By Alison Healey
Although thousands of Australian women came under the direction and guidance of Adelaide Crookall, this inspirational woman probably never enjoyed the public
acclaim she deserved for her immeasurable contribution to the Australian Church and society.
Adelaide Cecilia Crookall, who died in Kew, Melbourne, after a long illness, was a founding member of the Grail
movement in Australia.
Born in South Australia on January 26, 1914, Adelaide was the youngest of six children. Her mother, Ellen, was the daughter of an Irish immigrant family and a fervent Roman Catholic,
devoted to her parish and charitable works.
Her father, Walter, who emigrated with his parents as a small child from London to South Australia in the 1870s, was raised in the Anglican Church. At the age of
29, he was general manager of The Adelaide Advertiser, the city’s main daily paper, and when he died at 82 years of age, he was still a member of its Board of Directors.
Adelaide had began her career as a
teacher of small children when she met Judith Bouwman, one of five Dutch Grail women who arrived in Australia in 1936. It was Judith who inspired and encouraged her to dedicate her life to God as a lay woman in what
is now called the Nucleus of the Grail.
Having attended the first Grail Summer School for young women in Australia and New Zealand held in Sydney in 1938, she went to the Grail Training Centre at Springwood
in the Blue Mountains in 1939 and, with Rosemary Goldie, Elizabeth Reid, Maria Malone and Joanna Waite, made up the first group of young Australians to pioneer the Grail here.
Apart from representing
Australia in international meetings and relatively short visits to other countries, Adelaide remained always in Australia to lead the Grail through significant phases of its history. Her role and influence was
immense, especially in her years as the first Australian national president from 1951 to 1965.
Adelaide was closely associated with Tay Creggan, a large house in Melbourne which accommodated 50 young women,
where every year from 1940 to 1970 the Grail ran programs of Christian education and formation.
In the final 10 years of that 30 year period, in the 1960s, Adelaide initiated a big expansion of Tay Creggan’s
program into wideranging adult education for men and women of all ages, with literally thousands benefitting from her vision and her responsiveness to the needs of the time.
This was the decade of Vatican II
and the Grail played a major role in opening up to lay people (and many religious Sisters) in Melbourne the full range of the perspectives of the Council, providing a place where highly qualified speakers and
teachers could exchange with interested adults in an atmosphere of freedom and open inquiry.
Early in her presidency, Adelaide responded to the opportunity for the Grail to take responsibility for a Catholic
library in Sydney. It was a great means of promoting Christian life through books and journals. The Grail staff successfully built it up into a lively and influential centre of thought and discussion over several
In 1954, and again in 1964, Adelaide negotiated the opening of two new Grail centres in Queensland. The first, Ballybra at Mackay, provided leadership and resources for 30 years in personal and
community development, adult education and social action.
The second was St Raphael’s College for women students on the campus of the University of North Queensland at Townsville. Both grew into effective
centres of Christian life and mission, with a significance far beyond their immediate localities.
A woman of many gifts, Adelaide was an original thinker, perceptive and imaginative, and a challenging, always
entertaining teacher. She was a brilliant wordsmith: a writer of plays, prose and poetry, a witty conversationalist, and an eloquent public speaker. She was also a faithful woman. The significant days in the lives
of family and friends were always remembered and she was never late with her greetings or gifts. She was capable of extraordinary thoughtfulness and loving attentiveness when friends were in trouble or sorrow.
Her last years were spent at a home for the aged run by the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny at Kew, just five minutes walk from the Grail Centre.
Adelaide died quietly in her sleep on October 5 last year,
leaving her legacy in the fruitful lives of generations of Australian women.
She was farewelled at a Requiem Mass, celebrated at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Deepdene, and was laid to rest in Eltharn