Father Julian Tenison Woods.

Father Julian Tenison Woods had a deep connection with Tasmania over many years. As a missioner, he encouraged many young women to join both the Sisters of Saint Joseph on the mainland and the founding group of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Aware of the needs in Tasmania, Fr Julian wrote to St Mary MacKillop in 1869:

There is no diocese, however, which wants the Sisters so badly as that of Tasmania. I am to see the Bishop of that place today or tomorrow on the subject and whatever comes I would send Sisters there if I am asked.[1]

No foundation was made at this time, however within twenty years a foundation had been made in Tasmania from Bathurst in May 1887.

In poor health, he maintained contact through letters dictated to Sr John Dowling. In response to news of their arrival in Westbury, he wrote:

I am glad to find that you are established and well taken care of in St Joseph’s island of Tasmania for I have never seen any place so fitter [sic] for the Institute as your island, nor where it will do more good.[2]

Having been forced to break ties with the other diocesan groups, Fr Julian was anxious that his correspondence not be made public.[3] His assurance of support for the sisters was vital as they relied on him for their understanding of the Rule as the Book of Instructions and the Directory had been destroyed at Perthville during 1883.[4]

These letters of 1887 provided the founding community with both the opportunity of learning from the co-founder, the spirit of the Institute and the importance of the Rule.[5] The letters reveal a closeness to Fr Julian and the desire that he visit them, while he in turn discloses his declining health.

“Unless some very complete miracle was wrought which must alter all the circumstances surrounding me, I do not see how I could go to Tasmania. Still ‘hope on’ hope ever.”[6]

The correspondence contains a mixture of practical advice and wisdom regarding the various difficulties they encountered. Fr Julian’s letters included many practical details for their daily life as well as conforming to the bishop’s requests regarding the teaching of music and concerts, in preference to returning to Bathurst as a solution.[7]

Fr Julian’s influence resulted in the Tasmanian Sisters’ steadfast adherence to the 1878 Rule and its spirit through the episcopacy of five Bishops. Regarded as faithful to the Rule in diocesan Josephite circles, the congregation attracted Josephites from other foundations in the 1890s.[8]

After a separation of 135 years, the fusion of the Tasmanian Sisters with the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart in May 2012, brought to realisation Fr Julian’s hope in his letter to Francis McCarthy, “But I think the time will come… when all St Joseph’s children will be brought back together again and be what they were in the beginning”.[9]

Jo Brady rsj


[1] Letter, J.  E. T. Woods to M. MacKillop, April 24, 1869. Copy Tasmanian Sisters of St Joseph Archives (TSSJA ) uncatalogued
[2] Letter, J. E. T. Woods to F. McCarthy, August 1887. TSSJA.
[3] Letter, J. E. T. Woods to F. McCarthy, August 1887. TSSJA.
[4] Letter, J.E.T. Woods to F. McCarthy, n.d., 1887.TSSJA
[5] Letter, J. E. T. Woods, n.d.,1887. TSSJA
[6] Letter, J. E. T. Woods to F. McCarthy, December 20, 1887. TSSJA.
[7] Letter, J. E. T. Woods to F. McCarthy, September 30 1887. TSSJA.
[8] “Register of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart Tasmania.” In Register, 1898. TSSJA.
[9] Letter, J. E. T. Woods to F. McCarthy, August 1887. TSSJA.

References can be viewed here.