After 120 years of faithful, loving service, on Tuesday 31 January, 22 sisters including Victoria-Tasmanian Regional Leader, Sr Sue McGuinness, made their way to St Joseph’s in Warragul, Victoria for a farewell from the Diocese of Sale.
Sr Madeleine White’s move to Melbourne at the end of 2022 marked the end of the Josephite presence in Gippsland. At the time, Bishop Greg Bennet expressed a wish to celebrate with and thank the sisters for their service to the Diocese. This was a day of joy and celebration but also tinged with sadness. Bishop Greg joked that he had failed his KPIs by losing the three last sisters in the Diocese after he arrived.
Many of the diocesan clergy were present to thank the sisters in a celebration of the Eucharist. This was followed by a delicious formal meal at the Warragul Country Club Function Centre.
While lamenting the Sisters’ move from the diocese, Bishop Greg spoke fondly of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and thanked us for our many years of service. Bishop Greg particularly noted the support and friendship provided to the priests of the diocese often in remote and isolated places.
This theme was also reiterated in Fr Denis O’Bryan’s thank you speech at the dinner where he noted the Sisters of Saint Joseph’s willingness to go in twos and threes to these remote and isolated parishes. Gippsland was a significant area of service for the sisters who were present in 28 communities within the 27 parishes.
Sr Mary Davis spoke after communion on behalf of Sr Sue McGuinness and all the Sisters. Sr Mary named the work undertaken by the Sisters and thanked the people for their generous support and partnership in the mission. Mary also noted that several Gippsland women had joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph and life vows had been celebrated in Morwell (Sr Mary Davis), Lakes Entrance (Sr Helen Robinson), Bairnsdale (Sr Cathy Dean), and Yarram (Sr Sharon Teresa).
The day was a great celebration and, although sad, it reminded us of the pioneering work of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and as Bishop Greg noted in his homily, Mary MacKillop’s tomb reminds us that ‘We are all but travellers here’.
Geraldine Larkins rsj