Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Three

On 21 May 1887, the Sydney Morning Herald [i] published an article by Fr Julian Tenison Woods on his trip to the Victoria River.

This river (named for Queen Victoria) runs from the northern edge of the Tanami Desert to the coast near the Western Australian-Northern Territory border.

Father Julian obviously enjoyed his trip in 1886 and gives his readers historical and geological background about the river and careful descriptions of all he saw along the way. He describes the river as strangely impressing him, having a beauty of its own and that is high praise considering all the rivers he had travelled in his lifetime.

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World Health Day 2019

World Health Day 2019 – how universal is our health coverage?

How will we build inclusive relationships in the richness of our increasing diversity?  26th General Chapter

World Health Day 2019 falls on Sunday April 7.  The Slogan, Universal Health coverage everyone, everywhere, tends, in the popular imagination, to focus our attention on developing countries that have no health insurance, inadequate vaccination programmes and underdeveloped health systems and facilities.

In contrast Australia has one of the best health systems in the world with universal free health coverage, the option of private insurance, a sophisticated and integrated two tier hospital system, access to scheduled and effective vaccination, world renowned research institutions and an integrated and timely emergency system.   ‘The richness of our increasing diversity’ is evident in a visit to any hospital or health service, yet even a superficial look beneath the surface challenges us to greater inclusivity.

The report on Australia’s health 2018 tells us that compared with 35-member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australia scores in the middle or highest range for most health indicators.  Conversely Australia ranked in the worst third of OECD countries for obesity, and our alcohol consumption is slightly above the OECD average.

Not surprisingly obesity and alcohol consumption as well as other risk factors are highest in people who suffer socioeconomic disadvantage – Australia’s Health 2018 (AIHW).

The 40% of Australians in the lower two socioeconomic quintiles – ten million people – are more prone to behavioural risk factors such as physical inactivity; alcohol consumption and smoking, and the biomedical risks of high cholesterol; high blood pressure and obesity.[1]

A global level socioeconomic position is largely influenced by economic, political, cultural and environmental determinants, educational attainment, income and occupation.  The relationship is two-way—poor health can be both a product of, and contribute to, lower socioeconomic position.  In the microcosm that is Australia the same applies, with identifiable groups tending to fall through the gaps in the health system.  These include those unable or unwilling to access available services because of:

  • Distance – those in rural and remote areas including some indigenous populations
  • The homeless and unemployed; those with mental illness or disability
  • Fear and shame- some cultural norms or personal fears keep people from seeking help
  • Inability to use technology
  • Inadequate education
  • The complexity of the health system and bureaucracy
  • Lack of awareness of what is available because of language barriers, an inability to read or comprehend information
  • Lack of access to information
  • No access to transport
  • Lack of recognition of rights and needs, e.g., asylum seekers and refugees.

So, what is the challenge to us, Sisters, associates, friends and colleagues alike from the 26th General Chapter?  Recently on Facebook Annie Bond rsj posted a quote from Christianity Today.  It read: ‘helping one person may not change the world but it could change the world for one person.’

It is within the scope of many of us to do something for at least one person.   In Ephesians 4; 11 St Paul identified the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers as necessary to equip God’s people for works of service.  In Australia today could we add friends, neighbours, interpreters, readers, drivers, healers, pray-ers and advocates who can help make our health system ‘Universal for everyone, everywhere’ in Australia?

Antoinette Baldwin rsj

Official World Health Day website


Strawberry juice beside fruits on top of table by Element5 Digital obtained on Unsplash.
Person-using-black-blood-pressure-monitor obtained on Pexels. Used with permission.

Why Did Fr Julian Woods Found the Josephites?

Fr Julian Tenison Woods and Mary MacKillop.

In the year 1866 Father Julian Woods, aided by Mary MacKillop, founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Penola, South Australia, for the Catholic Education of children from poor families. [1] But why did this busy priest working in one of the largest mission areas in the colony take this step?

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A Reflection on Life Vows

Celebration of Dianne Colborne’s Final Commitment

As part of Dianne Colborne’s Final Commitment celebrations, Sr Emilie Cattalini gave a talk on her Reflection on Life Vows.

This is what a monk once wrote in his journal: “Dance in the sun, you tepid idiot. Wake up and dance in the clarity of perfect contradictions, you fool. It is life that makes you dance. Have you forgotten?”

We have all seen those truly awe-inspiring super-slow-motion images of a flower in its first moments of pushing through the earth and into the sunlight. There is so much movement you would swear the plant is dancing. So much movement, so much life! Whole eco-systems all over our planet.

We are meant to be breathless with awe at the beauty and amazing inter-dependence and intricacies of creation! To treat everything with respect and protect its place on this small, fragile, magnificent planet of ours.

And in that sentence, we have one of the perfect contradictions that the monk wrote about in his journal. Who can forget that image of the blue planet sent back to us from space! Deep in our psyche has been stamped the realisation, as never before, that – for all its magnificence- we live on but a tiny, fragile, round, rotating speck afloat in this vast, vast expanding universe!

But what a planet it is! Just enough oxygen in its atmosphere for us to breathe; just enough sunlight for life to thrive; just enough gravity to keep us all grounded! What an amazing work of art! What choreography! What a Dance!

It is a world where even the tiniest sub-atomic particle cannot exist except if its relationship to other particles and energies remains intact. Nature knows the steps of the Dance!

“I said to the almond Tree, ‘Sister, speak to me of God’, and the almond tree blossomed.”

Sr Kathleen Dawe and Sr Dianne Colborne

But what of us? This immense humanity that has been called “the human layer of the earth”! For us the Dance is no different. We exist, live, move, have our being only in relationships. No one thrives without relationship. That is the whole message of Jesus. In spite of all our contradictions and dancing out of step, as the poet tells us, “nature is never spent, for the Holy Spirit o’er the bent world broods with warm breast, and ah! bright wings.”

What has all this got to do with Dianne and the choice she has made to live for the rest of her life as a Religious with the vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience? What have these Gospel values to do with nurturing and maintaining a wholesome human eco-system? With people fully human, fully alive? With a magnificent choreography of humanity as dreamed by our Creator?

Well, we can move from awe and wonder and interdependence and the joy of all tumbling out of the Womb of God as sisters and brothers; from the sharing and the knowing that ‘with my basket and your basket together’, there is enough for everyone – to, I want to keep my own basket! I may even get jealous of what you have in your basket and plan to take it from you! And it’s not only possession of things. It overflows to status, recognition, praise, fame, an appetite for celebrity, for glamour. Or, it can turn inwards and become a sense of worthlessness, of ‘not good enough’ of helplessness and depression. What’s the answer? How do we, as individuals and as nations, stay with the steps of the Dance?

Continue reading Emilie’s speech below:

Reflection on Life Vows Speech (PDF)

Emilie Cattalini rsj

Find out more on the different Josephite ways of Commitment here


Photos used with permission.

Year of Indigenous Languages: Aboriginal and German

The United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. To celebrate, for each month this year, you’re invited to view greetings for different languages.

For April, we feature the languages Aboriginal (Yankunyjatjara) and German:

Aboriginal (Yankunyjatjara)

Nganampa Mama-God Ilkari munu nganampa Mantanguru palyanguru nganananya blessamilila munulanya Godaku pilunpa ungama May our God of Heaven and of our beautiful Earth bless us and bring us God’s peace


Gott schütze dich – God bless you

To find out more on the International Year of Indigenous Languages, visit their website below:

The International Year of Indigenous Languages


Image Uluru Ayers Rock Australia obtained from Pixabay. Used with permission.

St Mary MacKillop School Wallaroo

You’re invited to read a speech by Helen Duke rsj delivered at St Mary MacKillop School, Wallaroo, South Australia – Australia’s longest continuing Josephite School 1869-2019.

Bishop Greg O’Kelly with Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods

Good afternoon and thank you for this opportunity to say a few words on this special occasion, your sesquicentenary. Wallaroo was very familiar to Mary MacKillop, her footprints would be all over this town that she visited often, trudging up from the wharf and later from the railway station to visit her Sisters and their students.

From about 1865 until the arrival of the first resident Parish Priest, Father William Kennedy in 1867, a small Catholic School operated in this town. Father Kennedy immediately closed this school and refused to reopen it until he had the newly formed Sisters of Saint Joseph in his parish.

Father Julian Woods and Mary MacKillop established the Sisters of Saint Joseph for the catholic education of children from poor families in response to Bishop Geoghegan’s strong request that every parish have a catholic school. He wrote:

Pastors! Parents! Catholics! … What can we do? … Remember that the work [of Catholic education] is God’s … and that it will bear delay no longer. Let us begin for God’s sake. Wherever there is a Pastor and a Flock we implore you to make a commencement of a Catholic school. Let each do what he can. Bishop Geoghegan 1860
Initially, Mary and Fr Julian worked together to establish the “Sisters of St Joseph for the Catholic Education of children from poor families” [1] but they soon realised that poor families had many other needs besides education for their children. Therefore, in the Sisters’ new Rule of Life Fr Julian wrote:
Their duty is to do all the good they can and never to see an evil (need) without seeing how they might remedy it, and thus to take a most lively interest in every external work of charity in the gaols, poor houses and hospitals, so as to leave nothing untried, no matter how difficult, provided it might advance the glory of God, the good of souls and the prevention of sin in the world. This is their mission… and the religious must do any good they can and make their charity all-embracing. [2]Fr Julian Tenison Woods 1867
Even though the Sisters were involved in so much charitable work, teaching was always their main work. Mary wrote:
The Sisters have to teach the children of the poor. These poor are for the most part emigrants from the British Isles, or other parts of Europe, or the children of such who have settled in scattered bands all over the colonies. [3]Mary MacKillop 1873
South Australian Sisters of Saint Joseph

So it was that in 1869, Sisters Catherine O’Brien, aged 23 years, and Margaret O’Loughlin, aged 18 years, set off by steamer for the Port of Wallaroo.

Whenever I think of Wallaroo, I have an image of a resilient community with, a resilience that has sustained all involved in this school over the past 150 years. There was certainly little else in this poor mining town on which to draw resources, or inspiration…

Continue reading Helen’s speech below:

St Mary MacKillop School Wallaroo Speech (PDF)

Helen Duke rsj

[1]  That was the title of the Rule of Life he wrote for them in 1867
[2]  Rule, Article 13
[3]  Mary MacKillop from London, 1873.

Photos provided by Helen Duke rsj. Used with permission.

Sydney Town Hall Assembly

On Thursday evening 14 March, in the lead up to the New South Wales (NSW) Election, Sisters and students from Josephite schools joined with 2000 of Sydney’s citizens and over 60 organisations in the Sydney Town Hall Assembly on Affordable Housing and Affordable and Renewable Energy in what the organisers called an incredible display of democratic power.

Assembly participants

The evening was organised by Sydney Alliance, St Vincent De Paul (SVDP) NSW, and Everybody’s Home, and was described as the largest and most diverse gathering ever seen in Sydney on secure, affordable housing, and affordable, renewable energy. The diversity and breadth of the civil society groups present was celebrated in a powerful roll call.

At the start of the evening we were welcomed by the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, before hearing moving stories from ordinary people whose lives have been severely affected by the current system of affordable housing provision, no cause rental evictions, and the effect on families of exorbitant energy costs. Speaking only for a few minutes each, their stories reflected the experience of many, mainly low-income earners, in the wider community.

Sisters and Mount St Joseph Milperra Representatives

The makers of policy had a chance to respond to what they’d heard and representatives from the major parties in the Federal and State parliaments outlined what had been done in the past and what they planned for the future. They were asked to make a commitment to aims of the evening – i.e. to take concrete steps to provide more secure, affordable housing, the removal of no cause rental evictions, and the provision of clean, affordable energy.

All the politicians said they look forward to working with Sydney Alliance, SVDP NSW and Everybody’s Home in achieving these goals, and the organising groups committed to working with whoever wins the upcoming state and federal elections to ensure that the right to a home and to clean and affordable energy can be shared by all.

Laraine Crowe rsj

Photos provided by Laraine Crowe rsj. Used with permission.

Resurrection: Is God Acting Now

Elaine Wainwright suggests that we read the resurrection story of Luke 24:1-12 as the culmination of Jesus’s life and death and as God’s continuing acting in all of creation.

At the beginning of March many of us in Australia and New Zealand were grappling with the death of Denis Edwards, outstanding eco-theologian in our region and internationally. A priest of the Adelaide Archdiocese, South Australia, Denis was captured by the question of how God acts (the title of one of his books) in an evolving universe. Having spent his life questioning how we might understand the Christian tradition in an evolving universe and amid complex eco-systems, Denis now knows the profound experience of this reality at the heart of life in a new way.

In How God Acts, Denis describes resurrection as “an unimaginable and amazing act of God in our history . . . a promise that human beings and with them the whole creation will be transfigured in Christ.” He goes on to say that resurrection “contains a claim that the final transformation of all things has already begun in Jesus and is at work in the universe.” Elsewhere, he says that “resurrection is not only the culmination of the life and death of Jesus, but also the inner meaning of creation.” He makes this very explicit when he says that “resurrection is the central expression in our history of the self-giving love of God who is present in every ancient oak tree, every ant, and every kangaroo, closer than they are to themselves, as the source of their being and the enabler of their action.” He invites us through the enduring quality of his words to encounter this “self-giving love of God” not only in ancient oak but also majestic kauri; in kangaroo and kiwi. God is appealing to us through Denis’s life and work to discover anew how God acts…

Continue reading the article below:

Tui Motu Issue 236, April 2019 (PDF)

Elaine Wainwright is a biblical scholar specialising in eco-feminist interpretation and is currently writing a Wisdom Commentary on Matthew’s Gospel.
Painting: Mary Magdalene Discovering the Empty Tomb by Herschel Pollard © Used with permission