Peru Foundation Day

Monday April 1 this year will be the 38th birthday of the Peru Foundation.

This date marks the actual arrival on Peruvian soil of the first Josephite sisters committed to staying and planting an off shoot of the Congregation there. In the following paragraphs I hope to describe this important day as they lived it.

At Sydney Airport on Monday 30 March, Sisters Dorothy Therese Stevenson, Ursula Hoile, Edith Prince and Elaine Walker gathered for the goodbyes. Sr Elizabeth later recalled ‘an aura of an exciting adventure’. [1] They came fresh from a beautiful Mass of Missioning on March 25 which left Dorothy observing:

‘I believe we must be the most prayed over and for community that ever took to the back blocks or anywhere else in the history of the Congregation. Surely we must survive out there’. [2]

Edith, Ursula, Dorothy and Elaine at Sydney Airport before their departure 30 March 1981

The inevitable moment for final farewells arrived and they boarded their Pan Am flight at about 3 pm, leaving behind their known world and heading towards one as yet unknown. In Los Angeles twenty hours later, two Columbans they knew from Turramurra met them and welcomed them to their central house for a two- night stopover, a break which must have done wonders for their first experience of jetlag.

It was noon on Wednesday April 1 when they boarded the Varig flight for Lima. All went well until there was a hitch – the lights of Lima had come into view, but the plane kept circling. Three stewards appeared on their knees beside the sisters’ seats. Aided by a torch and a table knife, they peeled back the carpet and released the backup system to let down the wheel carriage. The plane landed safely at 11.45 pm and the passengers disembarked. How did the Josephites feel?

‘As I set foot on the tarmac . .  a tremendous feeling of joy, peace and uncertainty overwhelmed me’ . [3]
‘I was filled with excitement and joy as we stepped from the plane in Lima in the middle of the night . . Like being part of a birthing and the wonder, thrill and pain were all mixed up together’ . [4]

At the Immigration desk they found that they were met with total incomprehension. ‘The officers weren’t sure what to do with them. Obviously, something was missing. They were ‘escorted like some illegal immigrants into an office of the Minister of the Interior’ [5] where they sat helpless while forms were made out in duplicate recording name, nationality and address. Dorothy watching in horror as they wrote that she was an ‘Australian’, as she was from New Zealand. The only address they knew was a box number, which amused all present.

Armed with the top copy but bereft of passports, they emerged to claim their luggage and face Customs. Here the officer rolled his eyes at their ten pieces of luggage and held up two fingers to indicate that he would open two, so they chose two they knew would close again.  At this point an Australian Columban appeared and brought them outside to the welcoming party – four Columban sisters and six or seven priests, including Peter Doyle whom they already knew and Leo Grant their future Parish Priest.

The Josephites went in pairs to the sisters’ two communities, one in Condevilla and the other in Cueva. They had arrived but not much of Lima was visible. How did that feel?

‘Darkness prepared me gently for the reality I was to experience next morning’. [6]
‘That night I stood at my window and looked out at the lights . . and absorbed, in God’s presence, the realisation that this is my city. They are my people out there’. [7]
‘Thursday morning, I was woken by chooks – women and children calling – when I looked out my window we really were in Lima. My first reaction was to go down and walk amongst the people. I am grateful to be here’.  [8]


April 5, 1981:
‘We go from one new experience to another and we’re all looking for some feeling of belonging. Well, if not looking for it, missing it very much.’ [9]

October 1, 1981:
‘We have been in Peru six months tonight at midnight. We have some basic language, we have set up house, and the Lord is now leading us gently into the kind of service we may be part of in this Church. That’s a lot of blessings and it’s the feast of the patron of the Missions’. [10]

Angela Carroll rsj

[1] Sr Elizabeth Murphy’s message to the Peruvian community for the 25th Foundation Day 2006
[2] Dorothy’s Letter March 29 1981
[3] Lima Diary April 1981
[4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9] ibid
[10] Lima Diary October 1981. October 1 is the Feast Day of St Therese of Lisieux

Photos provided by Angela Carroll rsj. Used with permission.

How Open Are My Eyes?

Week of Solidarity for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

From 21 to 27 March is a week of solidarity for the elimination of Racial Discrimination. In Australia this usually begins with Harmony Day, the positive spin on this week, where there is an opportunity for all Australians to celebrate the rich gifts of the diverse cultures that abide in this multicultural country.

Racial Discrimination is defined as:

To treat differently a person or group of people based on their racial origins. Power is a necessary precondition, for it depends on the ability to give or withhold social benefits, facilities, services, opportunities etc., from someone who should be entitled to them, and are denied on the basis of race, colour or national origin.The Ideology of Racism [1]

Australians have a history of racial discrimination. This has been displayed in the initial treatment of Aboriginal owners of this land- massacres, taking their land, taking their children, denigrating their way of  life,  making them live under laws that no others encountered (e.g. getting permission for marriage, mobility, exclusion from certain areas, enforced presence on the missions), and more recently disproportionate incarceration rates, deaths in custody, withholding social service money if they do not meet set requirements. This history of racial discrimination has also been displayed in discrimination against the Irish Catholics in early colonial times, the Chinese during the gold rushes, the Asians during the white Australian policy era, the Japanese, Germans and Italians during the war, harassment of Indian students, treatment of the boat people and more recently Asylum seekers in detention centres.

So we see that Racial Discrimination is in our historical genes. Added to this mix are two Australian traits: the tall poppy syndrome and the standing up for the underdog. One makes sure that we try to pull down anyone who appears to be making it financially or socially, (getting above themselves). The other sees Australians standing up for, and standing behind those who are down or suffering injustice e.g. hay trains to drought suffering farmers. These two traits can work with or against racial discrimination, and with or against each other. .

Some of us are born part of the power group as we were born within  the “right/dominant” race, colour and national origin. This means that even though we may think that we interact with integrity, we automatically come from a position of power and we need to be conscious of this. We are at home in our society-media, shops, housing market, job search, general living. Imagine how it feels to be outside this group and to miss out on jobs (because of our colour); be viewed suspiciously in shops, at airports; not be able to rent a house even though we have the means, to watch media each night with very seldom seeing your race/culture as part of the norm. Some people have to live with this every day. The underpinning attitudes and beliefs that make this discrimination possible have been built up over many years and the fears from this are tidied up and revamped by our politicians to justify many unjust policies e.g. continuous detention of refugees.

This is the week when we consciously look at our own actions in regards to racial discrimination, our own attitudes, and then that of our country, our world. Are we discriminating against others on the basis of race and if so what can we do about it? How can we be compassionate to the victims of this discrimination, to those enabling this discrimination? How can we raise the powers of love upwards to the next stage of consciousness-consciousness that will lead to action?

Perhaps if, for one week, I lived in the shoes of someone suffering daily racial discrimination, my eyes would be opened.

Nola Goodwin rsj


[1] Defining Race Racism and and Racial Discrimination by The Ideology of Racism:

Image Sources:
Eyes painting on a sea container done by Wadeye Secondary Students and visiting artist. Provided by Nola Goodwin rsj. Used with permission.
Hands photograph taken at Wadeye. Provided by Nola Goodwin rsj. Used with permission.

Happiness and Harmony

Provided below is a reflection on the International Day of Happiness (20 March) and Harmony Day (21 March)…

Why is 20 March named as the ‘international day of happiness’? There must be something in our society that has called for it. In fact, it was founded on 28 June 2012 when the UN General Assembly adopted the UN resolution 66/281:

recognising the pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human right and goal, and universal aspiration in the lives of all human beings [1]

It is surprising that we needed to be reminded of the importance of being happy, or to know that there are people who live life lacking this emotional state!

When asked what ‘happiness’ means, some people connect this state of feeling with relationships, others with personal success. In 1899 Mary MacKillop asked people to ‘find happiness in making others happy’.

So, what really makes for happiness? When I compare people’s responses and the comment of Mary MacKillop with my own experience, I conclude that real happiness is joy shared with those around us. Attaining success might bring personal happiness, but it needs to be known by an external entity to be complete. For example, I worked hard in my studies in order to advance in my career and attain security.  When I reached the goal, I felt a sense of success and I was happy. But this feeling could not be retained within myself forever. I needed the feeling to be known and to pass it on to another being, either human or in nature.

Another thing – I have had a tendency throughout my ministry and life journey to set myself over-difficult goals or expectations, and I missed out on happiness in attaining them. What was needed was love – love for what I was doing, and love for the people involved in that journey.  I find it is not hard to work on eliciting a smile from others.  This is happiness!

There is an obvious connection between ‘Happiness Day’ and ‘Harmony Day’. When we bring happiness, we bring harmony.  The celebration of Harmony Day on 21 March began in 1999, just before we entered the 21st century. This same day is also the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

For us Australians, this day is about:

inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, and united by a set of core Australian values [2]

Our world now is in great need of harmony between humans and with the rest of the creation. To become more inclusive is to respect others and the natural world. When we understand and respect the needs of others, and when we can share what we have, all can be in harmony.

I remember the parable of long spoons or long chopsticks. The story was told to help people understand how heaven is attainable now, by including others and sharing with others. When all of creation acts in this way, we need not go on searching for harmony and happiness, as we and the rest of creation are harmony and happiness.

Hun Do rsj

Image within article: People Happy obtained on Pixabay. Used with permission.
Thumbnail image: Sun Happy Sunshine obtained on Pixabay. Used with permission.

St Joseph’s Day Message from Sr Monica

Greetings on the feast of Saint Joseph.

May this feast day provide each one with the opportunity to live in the humble spirit of Joseph as people called to make a difference in our world.

Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods chose Saint Joseph to be the Patron of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Mary MacKillop often wrote to the sisters about the humility of Joseph – a man grounded in the reality of the everyday, always aware that it was God’s work and not his own that mattered.

On this particular feast of Joseph, we are mindful that this is a difficult time for many living with the reality of the impact of sexual abuse in our church and the wider community.  Currently many in our church community are struggling to find meaning in the events of these past weeks and in the whole reality of facing the sexual abuse crisis in our church and in our world.

In 1907 on the feast of Saint Joseph, Mary MacKillop wrote some encouraging words to the sisters when facing dark and uncertain times. She writes:

Let no obstacle deter us from proceeding with courage in the path marked out for us. It may sometimes be dark and full of windings, but a beautiful bright light shines at the end of this path and a few more windings will bring us to it. Mary MacKillop 19.3.1907

She saw this reflected in the life of Saint Joseph who struggled to understand what God was asking of him as he stepped beyond his faith tradition to welcome the pregnant Mary as his wife.  She saw it again when he had to leave the familiar and move as a refugee into the land of Egypt. No doubt in these painful moments, Joseph struggled about what to do and how to respond. For us as church this is a time of being led into some dark places, a time when we are called to sit in the darkness like Joseph and Mary MacKillop and to know the pain of what it means to stand at the cross of suffering. This feast invites each one of us, like Joseph to find trust in God’s promise that life comes through death and difficult realities.

God chose Joseph in his simplicity and humility to participate in God’s mission as the humble worker from Nazareth to safeguard the gift of the Child Jesus entrusted to him. May Saint Joseph strengthen us in our mission today to protect and safeguard the children and vulnerable persons of our communities who are entrusted to our care.

Joseph teach us to be gentle with our power and strong in our tenderness in this Holy Saturday time.

And in the words of Mary MacKillop, may this feast of Saint Joseph be a happy and holy one and may it bring each one many graces.

Sr Monica Cavanagh rsj
Congregational Leader


Image: photo of Saint Joseph and Jesus sculpture taken at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, Adelaide, South Australia.

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Two

This month we present a letter written by Father Julian Tenison Woods to the South Australian Weekly Chronicle on 7 November 1863.

Mechanics’ Institutes were a popular establishment in Britain in the 19th century, offering free lectures to ‘mechanics’ as tradesmen, or working men as they were known at that time.

In Australia, the first Mechanics Institute appeared in Hobart in 1827, followed by Sydney in 1833, Adelaide in 1838 and Melbourne in 1839. Before long, most towns had a Mechanics’ Institute comprising a hall, library and reading rooms, facilities for games and programs of educational and entertaining activities.  They were really the forerunner of public libraries and adult education in Australia and their names remain on many public buildings today.

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Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter One

Let’s begin our experience of Father Julian, Man of Words, with a letter he wrote from Penola to The Argus on 4 February 1865.

The subject of the letter is ‘The Comet’ which was visible in the Southern Hemisphere during January and February 1865. Obviously Father Julian had seen this phenomenon and called on research to situate it within an astronomical context. Living in a remote area of South Australia, from where might this research have been gleaned? Talking/corresponding with fellow scientists? Previous study? Scientific journals? No matter, the facts gathered together make for interesting reading.

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The Archer Letters – Letter Twenty-Four

The last letter in this series was dictated by Fr Julian Tenison Woods on 13 March 1889.

It reads as if maybe he knew it would probably be his last effort to his dear friend, William Archer.

The tone of the letter is one of resignation to his state of health with little hope of relief, but he remains cheerful and happy and expresses his determination to continue as such to the end.  His work of dictating notes for publication has ceased – even letter writing is trying, although he is still eager to receive letters!

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The Archer Letters – Letter Twenty-Three

This short letter, written on 22 March 1888 from Fr Julian Tenison Woods in Sydney to William Archer in Melbourne is not in his handwriting.

Anne Bulger has penned his words, although Fr Julian did attach his signature and love and blessings to Mrs Archer and Gracie.

The letter is accompanied by the first instalment of a paper on the Volcano of Taal written from his Asian travel notes.

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