AJASS Principals (pilgrims) with Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar and Sr Monica Cavanagh.
We are but instruments in the hand of God.
Father Julian Tenison Woods 1870

In mid-June, Principals of the Association of Josephite Affiliated Secondary Schools (AJASS) completed a pilgrimage to learn more about the history and charism of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, with a focus on the Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar and Father Julian Tenison Woods (the co-founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph). Congregational Leader of Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Sr Monica Caavanagh also joined for part of the pilgrimage.

AJASS is an independent association which aims to embrace, extend, strengthen and perpetuate the charism of St Mary MacKillop and Fr Julian. Schools that are part of the AJASS endeavour to develop and grow in the Josephite spirit through the sharing of ideas, events and gatherings.

I was honoured to be invited to attend the pilgrimage, entitled In the steps of Julian in the Diocese, joining the AJASS Principals for an immersive experience in the world of Fr Julian and the impact of the Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar in the region.

To start the pilgrimage, we all gathered the evening before at the Newcastle foreshore (where Fr Julian first set foot) to remember and reflect on Fr Julian’s arrival in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle (NSW).

Fr Julian first arrived in Newcastle on 29 September 1871 and was to give a three-day retreat at St Mary’s Church, located in The Hill. Sr Jan Tranter, a Sister of St Joseph Lochinvar, shared the history of Fr Julian’s arrival and spoke about his life and his character.

Fr Julian’s greatest gift was his confidence in God.
Sr Jan Tranter

With an early start, we set off on our first full day travelling by bus to Sacred Heart Cathedral located in Hamilton. Enroute, we passed St Mary’s Church at The Hill. Whilst travelling, Sr Jan shared more about Fr Julian’s presence in the diocese.

After attending Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, we then travelled to Corpus Christi Church in Waratah. At the church, Sr Jan shared more of the story of Fr Julian and the Sisters of Saint Joseph and brought to the pilgrims’ attention the beautiful stained-glass windows and wood artwork of Mary MacKillop with children designed by Sr Dorothy Woodward.

We then proceeded to travel to the Dominican Chapel located within the grounds of St Mary’s Campus of All Saints College, Maitland. Fr Julian preached in this chapel at the opening and blessing in 1872, and many times during his mission years from 1877 to 1882 where he earned the admiration of the people of Maitland.

Enroute to St Joseph’s Catholic College Lochinvar, we stopped outside St John’s Church in Maitland located next to the Hunter River. During Fr Julian’s time, this church was the Cathedral of the diocese and this is where Fr Julian preached more than anywhere else in the region.

Arriving in Lochinvar, we visited St Joseph’s Catholic College, where we explored the foundation buildings including the Chapel. This is also where we met up with some of the Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar and were treated to a scrumptious lunch, prepared by the College. We learnt about the history of the College, and the history and foundation story of the Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar from Sr Patricia Egan. The hospitality of the College was exceptional, truly Josephite!

To finish the first day of pilgrimage, we quickly visited St Patrick’s Primary School across the road and saw the school’s newly built MacKillop Park which features quotes of Fr Julian and Mary MacKillop. This was followed by a visit to the Sisters Cemetery where we learnt more about the lives of the Lochinvar Sisters.

The next day, the pilgrims had an Aboriginal cultural immersion experience. Uncle Warren Taggart showed us Baiame Cave which is the heritage-listed and cultural site of the Wanaruah, Wonnarua People. We learnt more about Aboriginal culture and spirituality, and that Fr Julian in his time had observed and written about Aboriginal people.

On the final day of pilgrimage, we all visited St Mary’s Catholic College Gateshead. At the College, we had the opportunity to view an exhibition exploring the life of Fr Julian and watched an Aboriginal performance by some of the students, learning Aboriginal words and completing an artwork inspired by Aboriginal art. We also learnt about what the College is doing to look after the environment, including Laudato Si’ and eco-spirituality initiatives. The hospitality at St Mary’s was also exceptional!

The AJASS pilgrimage was an enriching experience and sparked a greater interest to share more about Fr Julian and his charism in the schools. The pilgrimage invigorated and strengthened the relationship between Josephite schools and the passion to keep the Josephite charism alive.

To learn more about Fr Julian’s time in the Newcastle-Maitland Diocese, you can view Sr Jan Tranter’s article Tenison Woods and the Maitland Diocese: from vulnerability to renewed vigour, 1871-1882 in The Australasian Catholic Record here.

Mary Baynie
Communications Officer, Congregational Administration Services

Sr Jan Tranter speaking to the pilgrims at the Newcastle foreshore.
Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton.
Stained glass windows and Mary MacKillop artwork designed by Sr Dorothy Woodward at Corpus Christi Church, Waratah.
Dominican Chapel at St Mary’s Campus of All Saints College, Maitland.
Sr Patricia Egan speaking at in the Chapel at St Joseph’s College Lochinvar.
MacKillop Park at St Patrick’s Primary School Lochinvar.
Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar cemetery.
Smoking ceremony with Uncle Warren.
Uncle Warren speaking at Baiame Cave.
A section of the Fr Julian Exhibition at St Mary’s College Gateshead.
Learning about Aboriginal culture and words at St Mary’s College Gateshead.
Learning about earth care initiatives at St Mary’s College Gateshead.