Pine Tree at German Hill overlooking Mount Canobolas (Orange) in New South Wales.

In a little book entitled Memoirs of Our Founder Rev Julian Edmond Tenison Woods [1] written by one of the first members of the Josephites, we find:

The foundation in Bathurst was a source of great joy and consolation to him. He hoped that there the Institute could be established according to the original Rule. However, he was obliged to make some alterations to suit the Bishop’s (Dr Quinn’s) views, which were to form the Bathurst Sisters into a Diocesan Community. In the early days of the Institute, when it may be said to have had no existence except in his mind, his prayer to God was that while it might accomplish all the good he desired, none of the credit of it might be given to him. 

Due to illness Julian experienced after four years of superhuman exertion [2] in Adelaide and a serious fall from his buggy, he was sent to New South Wales (NSW) by the Bishop to rest. It appears that Julian interpreted ‘resting’ as an opportunity to facilitate missions and retreats in the Bathurst and Sydney Dioceses! Perusing a list of dates where Julian visited the Bathurst Diocese between 1871-1883, it is obvious that he took a great interest in what might provide an avenue for his priestly ministry. Arriving in Bathurst it is noted that he preached on 19-20 August 1871. [3] It appears that this began his sojourn within the Bathurst Diocese, as well as other places.

Indicators within this list of dates occasionally note why Julian was in a particular place at a particular time. For example, we find Julian travelling between 11-14 September 1871 to Bathurst via Dubbo, Wellington, Orange and surrounds. The note marks the occasion for this travel: “Has been touring towns with Bishop Quinn to access suitability as places for Sisters of St Joseph.” [4] He also delivered a lecture in Bathurst on 15 September 1871 entitled ‘Australian Exploration’.

It is interesting to note the early establishments of communities and schools after the foundation was finally made at Queen Charlotte’s Vale (Perthville) on 16 July 1872. These early foundations are found in the same area visited by Julian and the Bishop:

  • Trunkey Creek 1874 (near Perthville)
  • German Hill 1874 (Orange district)
  • Evans Plains 1874 (school only, near Perthville, where the Sisters walked from The Vale and stayed in a former Inn during the week, walking back after school on Fridays)
  • Borenore 1875 (Orange District)
  • Rockley and O’Connell 1877 (Bathurst District)
  • Lincoln, Kaiser, Bodangora 1877 (Wellington District)

One wonders what may have been going through Julian’s mind and settling in his heart as he travelled with Bishop Quinn to these areas. What was the conversation like? Where they on the same page? What was God calling on them to make manifest? This majestic countryside provided endless rich possibilities. What were the seeds that were sown at this time?

Visiting some of the early convents established by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, warms the heart and draws one to acknowledge that these early folk wanted to make a home within the lives of those regional outlying areas occupied by county folk who lived simply and desired the best for themselves, their families and their communities. A recent comment from a living relative who knew those early country Sisters tells it all: “The Josephite Sisters lived close to the people”. [5]

The establishment of the convent and school at German Hill (now known as Lidster, near Orange NSW) states that the Josephites lodged in “a small slab hut through which the weather in every form finds its way”. [6] The locals lived in similar conditions no doubt and did what they could to improve conditions for these Sisters. Julian gave a mission in the church here in 1882, so he had firsthand knowledge of how the Sisters were living, and the ministry they undertook. This place was the most difficult of the early settlements of Josephites. What was in Julian’s heart as he visited here? What was the conversation that took place here?

As he traversed these magnificent parts of our homeland, did he continue to think of himself as a drop, and God an ocean, but an ocean of love. [7] As we sit under the big pine tree spoken lovingly about by the locals who lived at the time, looking toward Mount Canobolas, we could almost hear Julian say: “Be generous with God”. (1869) No doubt he encouraged the Sisters in the same way he wrote to Mary MacKillop, “Let us do all we can to serve God”. (Letter to Mary MacKillop 12.8.1875). Surely, Julian’s prayer was answered… these early Sisters DID accomplish all the good that (God) desired. [8] May we continue to allow the spirit of Julian to draw us into that vast ocean of God’s love, that we too, may accomplish all that God desires of us.

Ann Morrison rsj
May 2023


[1] 1891 Sister Columcille, Memoirs of Our Founder Rev Julian Edmond Tenison Woods by One of the first members of the Institute of St. Joseph. Convent of St. Joseph Hillstone (NSW) p 12-13
[2] Ibid page 11
[3] Julian Tenison Woods and the Bathurst Diocese 1971-1883, list of dates
[4] ibid
[5] Personal friend
[6] The Freeman’s Journal 20 June 1874
[7] 1891 Sister Columcille, Memoirs of Our Founder Rev Julian Edmond Tenison Woods by One of the first members of the Institute of St. Joseph. Convent of St. Joseph Hillstone (NSW) p 22
[8] Ibid p 13