Refugee Week 2019

In 2019, Refugee Week will be held from Sunday 16 June to Saturday 22 June.

Here I sit, staring at a blank page, wondering what to write? It’s Refugee Week.

I visualise delightfully coloured cultural clothing of the migrant populations that have graced, our ‘bounteous plains,’ in the past. Being realistic, the WWII immigrants had many challenges after they arrived on our shores. Their blessing: they were not ‘unlawful maritime arrivals.’[1] They could come to Australia as a family!

Not so, ‘for those who’ve come across the seas’ in leaky old boats, seeking asylum!

I work with asylum seekers and refugees. They grace my life.

So many stories to tell. I quiver in shame.

Tonight, I met with a man who came to Australia 10 years ago. His application for his wife (technically ‘Partner’) and children’s visa was lodged with the Department in 2013. Six years ago! What could I say or do but acknowledge his pain, whilst recognising the graced accident of my birth in Australia.

A couple of weeks ago, I had frequent visits from a gentle man (let’s call him Ali), visiting from Sydney. Sr Pat Sealey rsj, our now retired Migration Agent, had completed the documentation for his Partner visa application. He has four children. Last year, Ali visited his family in a country other than the country from which he sought asylum. He has a fifth offspring now. She is almost four months old.

It’s time to practise some Ignatian contemplation. Ali had his phone (not the latest and greatest model) sitting on the edge of my desk. There I sat gazing at the proud and loving father gooing and gaahing into the phone to attract the attention of the baby. The baby in downtown Quetta, the father and his mobile in Adelaide. I could not help but wonder how successful the ‘bonding’ attempt will be, in the long term?

Me, the aging white woman, with bare arms and no scarf, met Ali’s nine-year-old daughter and his wife. Again, I whimpered an apology to mother and child. It’s my Country preventing the family living together. Their husband and father is a recognised ‘refugee.’

Why had Ali taken time off to travel to Adelaide, over and above, calling at the office in the hope of ‘good news’ about the family’s visa. He came to bury his mate, a man with whom he travelled to Australia, who had died of natural causes. Faithful to the friendship, he organised the burial, within their religious tradition, travelled three and a half hours from Adelaide, to retrieve the man’s effects and return them to family, overseas. Ali now intends to financially support his friend’s family, as well as his own.

Denise MacKay rsj

Visit the' Refugee Week' website

[1] Migration Act 1958 (Cth) s 5AA.
Logo obtained from the Refugee Week website. Used with permission.

Trinity Sunday 2019

Trinity is all about relationship.

‘Omran Angels are Here’ by Judith Mehr

I would like to share my thoughts with you about this beautiful icon which hangs in the foyer of our aged care facility in Melbourne. Modelled on the Andrei Rublev 15th Century Russian icon ‘The Trinity’, this icon by Judith Mehr in 2016, invites us not only to come to the table, sit awhile and listen to the conversation, but also to reach out to comfort Omran, the young Syrian refugee. We are lured into this deep centre of persons with compassion and reassuring gentleness to this bloodied, tiny child.  He sits, embraced in the warmth of the three persons we call the one God.   Each one of us is invited to sit within this divine circle to join in the flow of mutual friendship and love.

Where would you put yourself in this picture?

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury reminds us that the place ‘where God happens’  is ‘between each other’. [1] Where is that daily place where God happens for us in our neighbourhoods, with refugees, in church or where humanity is celebrated or diminished?

I feel grateful to the late Fr Denis Edwards who presented lectures to delegates at the 2013 General Chapter. From my notes I read again of how he spoke of Richard of St Victor of the 12th Century who referred to the Trinity as Father as Lover, the Son as the Beloved and the Holy Spirit as the love between them. He went on to explore the giving nature of God’s own self, the movement of mutual love and the experience of friendship as ways of understanding God.  God is always Trinity, beings giving and receiving; always Communion – always in motion.

If God is a relationship of persons, God is necessarily in need of the other; in other words, God is the opposite of self –sufficiency.  Moreover, God presents God’s self as unfinished, free and voluntarily vulnerable to the other. [2]

Richard Rohr, in his recent online reflections on the Trinity writes:

Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three – a circle dance of love.  God is absolute friendship.  God is not just the dancer; God is the dance itself. [3]

‘God moves towards us so that we may move toward each other and thereby toward God. The way God comes to us is also our way to God and to each other: through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is our faith, confessed in creed and celebrated in the sacraments.’ [4]

What does this faith feel like when we live it?

As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…I in them and you in me, that they may be completely one.John 17: 21-23I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.John 15:11

Kerrie Cusack rsj

[1] Rohan Williams: Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another, New Seeds, Boston. 2005
[2] Simon Pedro Arnold OSB: LCWR Assembly 2018
[3] Richard Rohr: Daily Meditation, Trinity 5 May 2019
[4] Richard Rohr: Meditation, Practical Participation 13 May 2019

Painting entitled:“Omran Angels are Here’’  by Judith Mehr. Donated by Br Mark O’Connor on behalf of the O’Connor family in April 2017, provided by Kerrie Cusack rsj. Used with permission.


The feast of Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ. You’re invited to reflect on Pentecost, using the reflection provided below…


Spirit of God, come weave your dreams
In marrow, joints and in between
And sew them in our hearts.

Come, fathermother of the poor,
Our endless, overflowing store,
The source of all love’s arts.

You are our comfort unsurpassed,
Contentment, as when home at last,
Refreshment when we thirst.

When we’re burdened, you are rest,
Keen to give at our request
An energetic burst.

Share with us Christ’s consciousness
In whatever wilderness,
Send us, aim us true.

When we’re dull and unaware,
When we miss the mark, be there,
Guide our way anew.

In our souls’ most hidden reach,
There you breathe and there you teach,
Dark but flaming night.

In the garb of everyday
There you weave your gentle way:
Jesus’ mind and sight.

Bound by racing time and space
Human mind cannot keep pace;
In loving awe we bow.

Absolute, you are beyond us
Yet, within, the fire that bonds us;
Silent, you surround.

Susan Connelly rsj

Photo of stained glass window taken at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Hamilton VIC. Used with permission.

A Day in the Life: Pastoral Care Ministry

It is over twelve months since I left North Sydney, New South Wales and started my ministry in the St Mary of the Cross MacKillop – Northern Light Parish in South Australia.

The parish spans from Nuriootpa to Port Wakefield. I live at Hamley Bridge which is very central and anything from thirty to forty kilometres from home. We have eight Mass centres and have Mass twice a month and Liturgy of the Word with communion on the other Sundays. The lay people lead these sessions.

I do visiting in the different towns. On a Tuesday I go to the Hospital – Nursing Home here at Hamley. Here I participate in the activities: craft, cooking, sing-alongs, scrapbooking and card making. The cards are a great hit with the residents. We see the delight on their faces as they achieve something they can share with the nurses as they go back to their rooms. The best of these days is the interaction and laughs they receive from each other. Shrove Tuesday was a pancake making afternoon. “They were the best pancakes we have had.” some of them said.

We have a Mass once a month and it is Ecumenical. I have had the privilege of leading these when Father Mark is away.

When I first went there they asked what to call me and I said  “Maria is fine.” However someone said that Sr Maria sounds much nicer, so that is what I am.

I have been to a funeral of a resident with the staff. I was also invited on a bus trip to Tanunda to hear and see the pipe organ they have restored.

I also join the Kapunda ladies for a lunch each month when they get together. They are a great group. I have also been invited to talk on Mary MacKillop at a family gathering. It is a great parish and I am very lucky to be part of it.

Maria Hennekam rsj

Carrying on the Legacy

Carrying on the legacy of Australia’s first Saint.

Sister Kathy shares her story with Mary MacKillop Today about working with some of the most vulnerable and remote communities in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Saint Mary MacKillop believed in the power of education to lift communities out of poverty.

At Mary MacKillop Today, we are inspired by Australia’s first Saint to empower vulnerable people to realise their dignity through education, health and sustainable livelihoods. We work with communities in Australia and overseas, in Timor-Leste, Peru, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

A dedicated member of our team, Sister Kathy, has an inspiring story to tell.  She has spent twenty years living in Papua New Guinea and, more recently, two years in Timor-Leste.

Sister Kathy shared how she made the move between the two developing countries:

The ministry in Timor-Leste needed a Sister to live in the country and be part of the team.  I was asked to go as a mentor for a team of Timorese men and women who were working to improve education through upskilling the local Timorese teachers, enabling parents to ensure their children get to school. The people in Timor-Leste are very materially poor and families live in extremely run-down homes. When I first got there, I remember thinking, I don’t know how they have survived like this.

Sister Kathy is an incredibly resilient person. She wasn’t deterred by the shocking living conditions – she was motivated to get to work and overcome challenges.

One of the hardest things was learning the local language. It wasn’t easy at my age but I was desperate to speak with the locals, so I could build relationships (and understand what is going on at Mass!).

It wasn’t long before Sister Kathy gained the confidence and the local know-how to connect with communities. One of our favourite things to hear her talk about is her outings with our Mobile Learning Centre – a colourful bus that travels to some of the most remote areas of Timor-Leste visiting schools, orphanages and disability centres. It’s filled with creative tools such as puppets and musical instruments to teach kids literacy and numeracy through fun workshops.

As the bus would pull up, people in the village would come running out to greet us. And I’m not just talking children – the parents were just as excited! Some of these communities were so isolated, we were their first visitors.

It is a slow process, taking many visits to the community but at the end of the process the children from this group are ready for “big school” and some dedicated community members have been trained how to continue this “ready for school work”, while the Mobile Learning Centre moves to begin again in another remote community.

Continue reading the article below:

Carrying on the Legacy of Australia's first Saint

Article and photo provided by Mary MacKillop Today. Used with permission.

A New Rule for a New Time

Father Julian Woods: A New Rule for a New Time.

Today, as I reflected on a recent message I received from Sr Monica, I found myself looking back over the past 160 years to Julian Woods as a young priest in charge of one of the most isolated parishes in South Australia. His bishop had commanded all his priests to raise the powers of love by establishing schools for the local catholic children. For Julian this seemed impossible, that is, until he came to the extraordinary decision to found a new religious order of women like one he had seen in France.

Fr Julian Tenison Woods

He trusted absolutely in God’s Providence and the story of his order’s beginnings is remarkable indeed.  Within a short time, his bishop approved his plans and moved him to Adelaide as Director of Catholic Education for the diocese. He needed his Sisters, but he felt that they could not come without a formal structure. The outcome was his Rules of the Institute of St Joseph for the Catholic Education of Poor Children.[1]

There is much of value in this document, written as it is in the language and theology of the nineteenth century and, even though it bears signs of having been written in haste, Julian’s message is the same. A Sister of St Joseph is called to act whenever she sees an evil—to raise the powers of love in every needy situation she encounters.

Julian began by stating that the Sisters’ principal mission was the education of children whose parents [were] in humble circumstances, but that they must also reach out to orphans and destitute persons. How? By being poor and humble and considering [themselves] the least among all religious orders; giving themselves wholly to God; living in houses which were absolutely without revenue and [deriving] their support from either the Schools, the Institutions over which [they had] charge, or from alms. These houses were to be very poor with fittings such as poor people used.  Likewise, their habits were to be made of the cheapest brown material available.[2]

They were to take four vows, poverty, chastity and obedience and one to do all in their power to promote the love of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the hearts of little children. Those sisters engaged in teaching were to:

take every pains [sic], leaving nothing untried as a matter of justice to the parents, that the children [might] progress in worldly learning. … No matter, therefore, how tiresome, or how tedious it [might be], or how difficult, they [were to] patiently use every effort to make the children learn and see that they [understood] what they [learnt].[3]

In community the Sisters were to make a constant effort to

lighten each other’s burdens, especially those of the old and feeble, striving to make each one’s infirmities their own by their sympathy and kindness.[4]

One of his strongest concluding statements read that Sisters must

do all the good they can, and never see an evil without trying how they may 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 may advance the glory of God, the good of souls, and the prevention of sin In the world. This is their mission, for though the Institute has its peculiar [particular] duties, yet the religious must do any good that they can and make their charity all-embracing. Let them, therefore, like our Blessed Lord, reject no one.[5]

Much more lies hidden among fine detail regarding the Sisters’ way of life and their ministries. Mary MacKillop herself commented that their Rule contained many treasures, which were very dear to the Sisters[6] but that there were some sections which, to use her words,

are rather obscure and do not clearly convey the real sense in which that portion of the Rule is understood.[7]

Others dealt with minute household employments which did not suit all places,[8] while the most problematic section was that relating to its governance for it did not clearly convey the ideas of the Founder or the wishes of the Sisterhood.[9]

Roman authorities gave the Institute a formal constitution, but Mary did not allow the treasures from Julian’s Rule to be lost. She enshrined them in her Rules for the General Guidance of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, which was first published in 1883, and her Book of Instructions which appeared in 1906.

While both the world and the Congregation have changed markedly since 1867 we Sisters of St Joseph still strive to raise the powers of love by reaching out to people in need as Julian instructed us to do so long ago.

Sr Marie Foale

[1]     Julian E.T. Woods, “Rules of the Institute of St Joseph for the Catholic Education of Poor Children,” Article 1, December 1867, in Resource Material from the Archives of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Issue No. 3, Sesquicentenary Edition, December 2016, p. 1
[2]     Julian, Rules, Articles 1-3.
[3]     Julian, Rules, Article 6.
[4]     Julian, Rules, Article 13.
[5]     As above, Article 13.
[6]     Mary MacKillop, “Mother Mary’s Observations on the Original Rule”, Rome, 18 May1873, in Resource Material from the Archives of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Issue No. 3, Sesquicentenary Edition, December 2016, pp.40-42
[7]     Mother Mary’s Observations, p. 40, Article four
[8]     As above, page 40, Articles five & six.
[9]     As above, page 41, Article ten.

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Five

This month’s contribution is a tribute to the friendship between Father Julian Tenison Woods and Adam Lindsay Gordon, Australian poet, jockey, police officer and politician. Gordon died, at the age of 36, on 24 June 1870 in Melbourne.

Father Julian Tenison Woods met Adam Lindsay Gordon in 1857 on one of his first trips out from Penola riding from station to station across his huge, scattered parish. At that time Gordon was a horse-breaker on a station near Guichen Bay. The two shared a love of poetry and the classics and often rode together reciting to each other. They seemed to find in each other a kindred spirit based on literary enjoyment and entertainment. Woods lent Gordon books from his collection.

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Year of Indigenous Languages: French and Swahili

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 June, we feature the languages French and Swahili:


Traditional New Year’s Day Blessing:
Seigneur, nous te remercions pour l’année écoulée et nous t’offrons la nouvelle année. Je te rends grâce pour mes enfants et petits-enfants. Garde-les dans ton amour et révèle-leur ton visage de joie et de miséricorde. Que le Père, le Fils et l’Esprit vous bénissent maintenant et à jamais. – Lord we thank you for the year past, and we offer you the new year. I thank you for my children and grandchildren. Keep them in Your love and show them your face of joy and mercy. May the Father , the son and the Spirit bless you now and forever. Amen.

Swahili (Kiswahili)

Habari za siku nyingi? – What is the news of many days?

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

The International Year of Indigenous Languages

Image Elephant Herd Tanzania obtained from Max Pixel. Used with permission.