Never See a Need…. During a Pandemic.

Sisters, and those inspired by the charism of Mary MacKillop, have ministered in a Josephite spirit since 1866. They have been inspired by the words of their Founder Rev Julian Tenison Woods: ‘Never see a need without doing something about it’ and their ministries have been in many settings.

They have ministered with people in country, outback and city places in Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, Peru, Brazil and Fiji. They have worked in educational settings, in healthcare, in parishes and prisons. Those, women, children and families, who are poor have been the main focus and concern of the sisters. These include Indigenous persons, asylum-seekers and refugees. In order to minister, the sisters have often been found visiting homes, hospitals, “camps” in the Kimberleys, jails or detention centres. As they have aged or situations have changed, sisters over the years, have become involved in other ministries such as Spiritual Direction, being a Director of a Board or pastorally caring for the aged or mentally ill.

They were ready therefore to respond to the changes in mid-March 2020, when the Coronavirus was declared a Pandemic and people were told to “stay at home”. Indeed, the need now was to keep oneself safe so as not to be a burden on medical staff, hospitals, religious communities or society and not to spread the virus. Many found themselves praying, gardening, cooking, reading or following a creative pursuit. At first, meetings and appointments were crossed out of diaries. Then new meetings on ZOOM or telephone, started to be pencilled in. New ways were found to communicate, meditate communally, attend Liturgies, do courses and support others.

Some sisters worked from home in Leadership, as School Pastoral Workers, Spiritual Directors, Supervisors, and attending or giving Inservices. Contact was made with parents who were home-schooling children, asylum-seekers, or those finding it difficult socially or financially. Many candles were lit, and contemplative prayer and Novenas were offered, especially for those in countries where the virus was claiming many lives and causing enormous pain. There was concern too, for our own Josephite Sisters and Associates in various places, including Peru and Ireland, and indeed, for people all over the world.

Mystic, Julian of Norwich, lived most of her life (1342-c.1415) with the terrifying ‘Black Death’ which raged for most of her life and killed 25 million people in Europe. In her homeland of England, it is estimated that one–third of the population died. Yet Julian trusted in and taught about God’s unfailing love and wrote “All will be well; every manner of things will be well.” Centuries later, Saint Mary MacKillop wrote: “We must often feel weary and tired and yet God brings us through all these things” (5 June 1874). Our sisters and ancestors experienced the Spanish Flu a hundred years ago.

Josephites, inspired by those who have gone before us, continue to minister in new and unexpected ways, wherever each of us finds ourselves in this age and time in history.

Denise Brosnan rsj