Father Joseph Tappeiner sj

Father Joseph Tappeiner sj

Joseph Tappeiner, Jesuit priest, was born in Austria on 18 December 1820 and died in South Australia on 10 February 1882. St Mary MacKillop writing to the Sisters about this man who was such a wonderful support during the period of excommunication said:

                He has gone to his reward – the reward of his many virtues and wonderful charity. … We have lost a treasured friend and father … St Mary MacKillop

Father Joseph Tappeiner sj arrived in South Australia in 1852. He was appointed Director of the Sisters of St Joseph in August 1871 replacing Father Julian Tenison Woods who left Adelaide on 1 August 1871. Tappeiner ministered in Sevenhill[1] till 1870 and then became Parish Priest of the newly established mission of Norwood, Adelaide. He died on 10 February 1882.

Tappeiner was widely known and respected. The panegyric delivered by Father Frederick Byrne VG stated:

In our dear departed Father the Church has lost a devoted minister, the Society of Jesus has lost a learned member, the diocese has lost a zealous priest, the clergy have lost a wise counselor and sincere friend, the religious have lost a loving father and the world has lost its greatest treasure – a just man.[2]

Tappeiner was born in Glurns, a village in the Austrian Tyrol on 18 December 1820. He entered the Jesuits in 1841 and was ordained on 25 June 1848. He was well educated, was “well versed in ancient and modern languages especially in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, besides possessing a profound knowledge of theology and philosophy.”[3]

The 1870s were difficult times for the Church in South Australia as well as for the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The Adelaide Diocese was led by Bishop Laurence Sheil osf (1866-1872).[4] Dr Christopher Reynolds replaced Sheil, first as Vicar General and then as Bishop.[5] Tappeiner was a stabilising influence throughout the period.

Woods composed a Rule of Life for the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart in May 1867 and Sheil formally approved it in December 1868. Woods and Mary MacKillop met with Sheil on 17 December of that year to discuss the Rule. The Bishop made a few changes and then gave his approval of the Rule in writing.  Central Government of the Congregation was approved in the Rule.[6]

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Pauline Wicks rsj


[1] Sevenhill is located 128 km north of Adelaide; Norwood is a city parish. The Congregation was founded in Penola on 19 March 1866. Penola is located 383 km southeast of Adelaide.
[2] Observer, 18 February 1882.
[3] Observer, 18 February 1882.
[4] Marie Foale, The Josephite Story (Sydney: St Joseph’s Generalate, 1989), 21. Sheil “spent less than half of his five and a half year episcopate in residence in South Australia.”
[5] Reynolds became Archbishop in 1887. He died in 1893.
[6] Paul Gardiner, The Life of Saint Mary of the Cross, MacKillop 1842-1909, the Official Biography written by the Postulator of the Cause for her Canonisation, Vols. 1 and 11, (Carlton, Victoria: The Miegunyah Press, An imprint of Melbourne University Publishing Limited, 2015,) 151. Referred to henceforth as Positio.