For us as Josephites, celebrating the feast of the Sacred Heart (24 June) is intimately connected to God’s compassionate love. The Constitutions of the Sisters of Saint Joseph remind us:

Mary MacKillop believed that God’s compassionate love symbolised by the Sacred Heart would become a reality for her sisters and the people with whom they shared their lives through.
Constitutions of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart

This compassionate love speaks of the nearness and love of God filling our lives, inviting us to live this love in our daily encounters. It is an involved love, that is up-close and personal and in the words of Scripture reading for this feast, ‘seeks out the lost, heals the broken-hearted and honours the dignity of every person’.

Joyce Rupp O.S.M in her book The Cup of our Life speaks of compassion in this way:

The God of compassion has shown me a loving face; now I am to be that reflection in return. All of life is part of me and I am part of all of life. All people are my brothers and sisters. In each one I recognise the face of the Divine Presence looking back at me.
Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Life, Ave Maria Press 1997 p.116

From this belief, I am called to action. At this time of the year here in Australia, the St Vincent de Paul Society holds its annual Winter Appeal. In the process, we hear stories of those struggling through lack of resources, unemployment, homelessness and illness, and like Jesus, our hearts are moved with compassion.

Our response calls us to be messengers of God’s love reaching out without judgement to needs of people that confront each day. This week, I read a news item in which Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee, reflects on a recent United Nations study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Program, stating that there are 49 million people at risk of famine globally. This is being impacted by two key factors, the war in Ukraine and the intensifying climate emergency. We are left to ask, what is mine to do as we face these critical realities in the world?

Each one’s response whether that be small or large impacts the whole. It may mean being a supportive neighbour, contributing to the St Vincent de Paul Winter Appeal, providing clothing or shelter, holding in prayer those seeking a compassionate response, or speaking like Ilhan Omar publicly of this perhaps hidden reality.

Etty Hillisum reminds us that even amid the most terrible human suffering, “all that matters now is to be kind to each other with all the goodness that is in us”.[1]

As we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart this year let this be our prayer:

Help me to spread your love everywhere I go, just as Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods did in their time. May God’s compassionate love guide you and be with you in every daily encounter.

Sr Monica Cavanagh
Congregational Leader


[1] Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941–1943