September 30, 2012
The Catholic community of Allora, a township of the Darling Down in southern Queensland, knows how to welcome the stranger and to farewell the friend.
|Josephites Attending the Farewell Celebrations|
Ninety–six years ago a community of Sisters of St Joseph arrived to a welcome spoken in Gaelic – ‘A hundred thousand welcomes’ was called as they stepped from the train. On Sunday 9 September, after Mass in the local parish church, two hundred people shared a two course dinner in the local Community Hall as a farewell gesture to the Sisters of St Joseph. It was a day for celebrating friendship, reminiscing, praising God and offering thanks for the highs and lows of daily life that the people of the Allora district and the Josephites had shared over almost a century.
For the nineteen Sisters of St Joseph who were present the overriding feeling was one of gratitude for the privilege to have been invited to minister in the parish and for the trust and unfailing generosity of the people and their support. The Sisters also were conscious of the women from the Allora district who had joined the Josephites and were now deceased and were pleased that Sr Monica Cavanagh who came from the parish was present as a representative.
During the dinner some of the children who attend the parish school entertained the diners with song. Memories of times past were triggered by a power point presentation, along with a display of memorabilia. Three speakers shared their appreciation of the Josephite presence in their midst. One pointed to the influence of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop for the establishment of fifteen Catholic parish schools in the Toowoomba diocese, the school in Allora being the third parish school on the Darling Downs.
|Moya Campbell rsj and Joyce Gibson|
Another recalled the fifty-two years when all the staff in the parish school was Josephite and the years when lay teachers joined the staff and how after 1985 the Sisters who had retired from teaching returned to share in the pastoral care of the community and help in the faith education programme for the children not attending the parish school.
Another shared memories of preparation for school concerts, balls and sports days, and reflected on the values of respect, compassion and generosity along with the witness of a faith in a loving God that underpinned all.
Prior to the final cup of coffee Sr Moya Campbell who was a past principal of the school and now the Queensland Provincial replied on behalf of the Josephites. She spoke of the Sisters’ gratitude for their association with the parish, the companionship they experienced over the years, the privilege of sharing in the education of the children, the fun shared along the way, the grief of parting and she reminded the gathering that the Josephite Associates would continue Mary MacKillop’s vision.
|Mrs Ilma Cavanagh presented a donation
for Mary MacKillop International to Angela Carroll rsj
Prior to the presentation of a plaque of remembrance Mrs Cavanagh, Sr Monica’s mother, presented a donation for the Josephite mission in Peru.
Farewells were shared over coffee, the convent was renamed ‘Mary MacKillop House’ and as the visiting Josephites drove away they were conscious that a new era had dawned. They hoped, in the words of one of the speakers that Mary MacKillop would say: ‘Yep… that is exactly how I wished it would be. Those kids and the people of Allora have learned to walk in the footsteps of Christ because my Sisters have lived amongst them’.
Photographs courtesy of Glyn Rees.