Thank you for your prayerful support during the first assembly for the Plenary Council here in Australia. The members of the assembly felt the power of prayer embracing them during these days. It was indeed a spirit-filled time. As you can imagine there was a rich diversity among the members but somehow through it all, the Spirit enabled us to hold the paradoxes together.
There was a sense of deep listening – gathering as missionary disciples, with each person’s voice adding to the rich tapestry of the Catholic Church as we prayed and shared together. There were divergent views with pieces of wisdom to be distilled as we worked in small groups or in the larger plenary sessions in a respectful manner.
Each year we recall Julian Tenison Woods on the 7 October anniversary of his death and laud his talents and deep spirituality. While Mary and the early sisters didn’t readily express their attachment to Julian’s eco-spirituality in writing, I am certain that his vision brushed off on them and that they shared his wonder at God’s creation.
We read that, “Mary took a broad view of his activities, not restricting her interests to his spiritual ministry. Her selection of quotations from his writings reveals not only his fine literary style and the variety of his interests, but also her own eye for colourful detail and the natural works of creation.”  Mary, like Julian, enjoyed the outdoors and was a fine horse rider.
Surging wonder and gratitude were unexpected feelings for me when I saw the picture of Mary MacKillop hanging on the walls of St Peter’s Basilica on the day of the canonisation, 17 October 2010. World recognition of the workings of God through this woman was an awe-inspiring thing indeed.
In her Ministerial Statement made to the New South Wales Parliament that day, the then Premier, Kristina Keneally, pointed out that while Mary MacKillop’s canonisation was significant for the universal church, it spoke to Australians in particular:
“She will be forever a reminder that our nation is at its greatest when we care for all in our communities, especially the most vulnerable. She will always be known as a great pioneer of egalitarianism, mateship and compassion that we now call a fair go. Her life is inspiring to any Australian.”
As we approach the International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October, I thought I would ask our Josephite Action Group (JAG) volunteers for their input on what a just and fair world should look like for young women. Their responses are below.
The Josephite connection with the Gulf region of Far North Queensland began in the 1970s, when the church’s ministry was known as the Gulf Mission.
In the 1990s, the Gulf Mission became the Gulf Savannah Parish where I was ministering as the pastoral associate. Over the years, I have met and worked with many wonderful rural women who hold values that encourage and inspire. Sharon Prior, a Ewamian woman and General Manager of Ewamian Aboriginal Corporation (EAC), is one such woman.
I have been involved with the Sudanese community since I first found them in 1998 in the refugee flats in Auburn. At their request, I helped them set up the St Bakhita Centre in Flemington. To understand the culture more I lived in Mapuordit, South Sudan, in 2006.
In 2017, John Cinya, Chaplain to the Sudanese Community in Parramatta Diocese, asked me to help young members of the community. They were consistently falling out of education and failing to find employment once they left school.
To celebrate the 7 October anniversary of the death of Fr Julian Tenison Woods, co-founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, this year we have done something special.
Fr Julian was a man of many talents: an environmentalist, scientist, priest, explorer, campaigner for social justice and the rights of Indigenous people, among many others.
To introduce Fr Julian to the next generation, we have produced the attached resources for children and adults.
Update 14 October 2021: Sr Monica Cavanagh reflects on the themes and achievements of the first Assembly.
The long-awaited first session of Australia’s Fifth Plenary Council begins this Sunday, 3 October. After a long process of discernment and hard work, hundreds of delegates will gather to undertake “the challenging task of trying to understand what it means to belong to the Catholic Church in Australia at this particular moment in our history and what God is asking of us as his Church now and into the future.” (Instrumentum Laboris, 2) Among these delegates are many Sisters of Saint Joseph.