Perthville Fusion ‘Weaving Dreams’ logo.

“Ten years on and I thank God that we took the step when we did,” is one Sister’s observation as we give thanks on the 10th anniversary of the fusion of the Sisters of Saint Joseph Perthville with the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

The Josephite foundation at Perthville on 16 July 1872 was the first in New South Wales, after Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods responded to the request of Bishop Matthew Quinn. Four years later, the Josephite community painfully moved into two separate pathways when Bishop Quinn insisted on having a Diocesan Congregation at Perthville.

In 1967, in response to the increasing desire for unity among the Diocesan Congregations founded from Perthville, the five groups formed the Australian New Zealand Federation of the Sisters of St Joseph. Strong ties then developed between the Federation Sisters and the Central Josephites. Through prayer, dialogue, retreats, shared endeavours, and a richer understanding of our common beginnings, we started ‘weaving dreams’ towards becoming one Josephite Congregation.

A significant decision was taken by the Perthville Sisters at their Extraordinary Chapter in 2013 to seek fusion with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Three other Diocesan Congregations (Tasmania, Goulburn in NSW, and Whanganui NZ) had also travelled this path. A historic Mass celebrated on 3 May 2014 publicly acknowledged the decree from Rome dated 19 March 2014 authorising the Fusion.

There is much gratitude as Perthville Sisters reflect on the gift of fusion on this 10th anniversary. While there are aspects of our Perthville life that will always be treasured, we needed to come back to our roots; we were founded by Mary and Julian and our strength lies in our unity. The spiritual growth into Fusion was the answer to the ‘Oneness’ sought between the ‘Brown and the Black’ Josephites. Belonging to a bigger cohort – and really embracing the belief that ‘where one is we all are,’ has enabled a united group to forge a future together. Sharing in mission and community has broadened outlooks and opportunities. We have shared in the richness of companionship, and the variety of ministries.

The opportunity to follow an individual passion through participation in Congregational committees such as Eco-Spirituality, Josephite Justice Network and Eldering has been life-giving. Support has enabled Sisters to remain in the Bathurst diocese where we have been a presence for over 150 years. While it has taken courage to step into fusion, to live in unexpected communities with other consecrated women we hadn’t known before, it has enabled an on-going growth into listening and communication. Each time we meet as a Region and as a community, the tent is widened, new relationships are formed, and our ministry is enhanced.

One Sister remarked “I’ve been particularly grateful to get to know so many other Sisters and to listen to the way they live their commitment. So many amazing women – all enthused by Julian and Mary. I’m so glad I experienced this.”

What was separated in the establishment of the Diocesan Perthville Congregation was reunited through fusion. We have come full circle. It is an ever-evolving story which we live into each day. We offer thanks to God as we continue to live God’s mission, following in the footsteps of our founders Saint Mary MacKillop and Fr Julian Tenison Woods.

Sr Therese McGarry