Burning Land Will Become A Pool

In an ecological reading of Isaiah 35:1-10 Elaine Wainwright explains how paralysing hopelessness can change to active hope.

This extract from the Book of Isaiah is the work of a prophet of Israel who was preaching in the late 6th century BCE — towards the end of Israel’s exile in Babylon. The prophet bears the name “Isaiah”, as did a previous prophet in Israel in the early 8th century BCE who predicted the exile. The first 34 chapters of the Book of Isaiah in our Bibles are associated with the earlier Isaiah.

Continue reading the article below:

Tui Motu Issue 244, December 2019 (PDF)


Image: Sand mountain with water. Used with permission.

Challenges to include Aboriginal Culture in our Liturgy

During 2019, the Prayer and Spirituality Program at St Joseph’s By the Sea, Williamstown, focussed on the Plenary Council question “What is God asking of us in Australia at this time?”

In October, the topic was: “How can we joyfully receive the contributions of our indigenous sisters and brothers?” The presenter was Sherry Balcombe from the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Victoria. The following is the response of a participant in the program, Sue-Ann Hess:

The Church herself in Australia will not be the church Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others. Pope John Paul II, 1986
Sherry Balcombe – Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, Victoria

This quote, made by Pope John Paul II at Uluru in 1986, was the focus of our conversation with the current Coordinator of Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Victoria, Sherry Balcombe, this past Thursday.

Hosted by the Josephite Sisters at the beautiful St Joseph’s by the Sea in Williamstown, the day offered two opportunities to sit with Sherry, to listen to her sharing her experiences, and to ask questions about aboriginal spirituality and in particular, what it means to be aboriginal Catholics.

For those us who don’t come from an aboriginal heritage, it was important to understand that within aboriginal culture, there is no separation between spirituality, culture, and identity. Spirituality is something that resides within each person; it is a connection to creation, to kinship and family, and to the Creator Spirit. It has been at the heart of aboriginal communities for thousands of years even through the most painful experiences of injustice. As Sherry explained, there is a great gift, and a great calling that has been given to the aboriginal people, to be a part of the oldest living culture on earth, and to share the beauty of that culture with other peoples.

As we reflected on the full speech given by the pope more than 30 years ago. It was clear that he was encouraging aboriginal people to express their catholic faith in culturally specific and unique ways. He says:

You do not have to be people divided into two parts, as though an Aboriginal had to borrow the faith and life of Christianity, like a hat or a pair of shoes, from someone else who owns them. Jesus calls you to accept his words and his values into your own culture. Pope John Paul II, 1986

Sherry took the time to explain to us how aboriginal signs and symbols can be incorporated into catholic sacraments, such as baptisms or the mass. Elements of aboriginal culture, such as message sticks, coolamons, emu oil, possum-skin cloaks, and clapping sticks can be powerful ways to express the meaning of the sacrament. We also saw examples of beautiful prayers written by aboriginal authors.

Do not think that your gifts are worth so little that you should no longer bother to maintain them. Share them with each other and teach them to your children. Your songs, your stories, your paintings, your dances, your languages, must never be lost. Pope John Paul II, 1986

Despite our shared agreement that our aboriginal brothers and sisters have suffered greatly at the hands of the settler peoples, our conversation had a hopeful tone, as we shared anecdotes about the reinvigoration of aboriginal culture in today’s young people. Using examples like the Tanderrum event at Federation Square recently, and the work of the Opening the Doors Foundation in our Catholic schools, we could see ways in which aboriginal culture is being re-nurtured and strengthened once more. Through Sherry’s sharing and teaching, we were encouraged to reflect on our part in joyfully receiving the contribution of the aboriginal culture.

Sue-Ann Hess
Prayer and Spirituality Program Participant

International Day of People with Disability

“US” and “THEM.”

One of the ways in which we too often fail to respect the dignity of people and of whole groups of people is to talk about “them”. We make “them” into an object of discussion or a problem to be solved. Often, we reduce “them” to a characteristic, which distinguishes “them” from “us”. Although we may have the best of intentions in having special days for people with disabilities the decision may contribute to a belief that somehow “they” are different from “us”. We gain superiority because “they” are disabled and somehow “we” are not. Sometimes we may even emphasise that it is our Christian duty to care for “them.”

Such “othering” denies the unity of the human family. We are all children of the one God, all equally created in the image and likeness of God. Do we need to ask ourselves if we are contributing to an “us” and “them” mentality because of classifiers that tend to put people into people who walk, talk, hear and speak, like “us?”. Have we missed something? We are all limited, only God is without limits.

The Office for Catholic Social Justice recently released a document “Us” not “Them” Disability and Theology and Social Teaching by Justin Glyn SJ. I found the booklet raised many of the issues that the Emmanuel Centre in Perth has wrestled with over many years.

I found myself thinking about the name of Emmanuel Centre, a Self-Help Centre and leaving off the last four words “for people with disabilities”. I asked myself would anyone notice? What if we changed our name to Emmanuel Centre for people with different abilities?

1981, the year Emmanuel Centre started, was designated as the International Year of Disabled Persons.

Reflecting back on the establishment of Emmanuel, we have all benefited. We have come to appreciate that we are all made in the image and likeness of God and by working together, identifying and using our different abilities, we can experience a bigger picture of who God is and what each individual can contribute to the understanding of the power of God. It is important for us to recognise that we are all part of the Body of Christ. The smallest or insignificant part contributes to the better functioning of the Body. We are all on a journey home walking with each other and with Jesus. The name Emmanuel – God with us. constantly keeps in the forefront of our minds who is directing the endeavour.

When I think of the people with different abilities that have walked the journey with me over the last 38 years, I appreciate how people who have never heard a sound because of their deafness have taught me to talk with my hands. I appreciate that my body, my facial expressions are drawn from within me and I have a deeper experience of what a relationship is.

I understand how access is important. Facing a set of stairs or even the lip of a small step means you are not welcome. But you have ideas and thoughts to share regardless of your ability to walk. I have never mastered the ability to read Braille with my fingertips, but my friend has. Another friend has never spoken but the love of Jesus pours out of her heart in bucket loads.

Self Help turns the conventional approach to services on its head and requires those interacting with Emmanuel Centre to take the time and effort to understand how relationships between giver and receiver and status issues are replaced with a non-pathological mutually shared experience of what it means to “love one another”.

Self Help identifies the skills and capacities that each contributes in supportive relationships where the receiving and giving are important.

Barbara Harris
Emmanuel Centre

Visit the International Day of People with Disability website


International Day of People with Disability Logo obtained from their website.
Wheelchair image by Zoran Stupar obtained from Pixabay. Used with permission.
Thumbnail photo by RUN 4 FFWPU from Pexels. Used with permission.

Jesus is Born

Kathleen Rushton rsm explains how our usual image of the birth of Jesus is different from what we find in Luke 2:1–20.

‘Mary with the Midwives’ by Janet McKenzie*

We’ll see many Christmas cribs in homes and churches this season — Joseph, Mary and the baby in a stable with animals and with shepherds and kings visiting.

These crib sets derive more from the Protevangelium of James, a “novel” written about 200CE by an unknown Christian, than from the Gospels. And even our understanding of the gospel accounts need to be informed by a knowledge of the first-century Middle Eastern community and culture.

Community Involvement

In Luke’s Gospel there is no mention of the Bethlehem community into which Mary and Joseph arrived. Yet in that culture a woman about to give birth would have been given special care and attention by other women.

The biblical scholar Kenneth Bailey, who lived and researched in the Middle East, suggests that Luke’s Gospel gives us insight into the hospitality and care given to Mary. He points to the shepherds who “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Lk 2:20) — the “all” would have included the quality of hospitality that they received. If the family had not been sheltered and cared for adequately, the shepherds would have been outraged and said: “Come home with us! Our women will take care of you!” The honour of the village rested on hospitality…

Continue reading the article below:

Tui Motu Issue 244, December 2019


Kathleen Rushton RSM lives in Ōtautahi Christchurch where, in the sight of the Southern Alps and the hills, she continues to delight in learning and writing about Scripture.

*Painting: Mary with the Midwives by Janet McKenzie © 2009 USA www.janetmckenzie.com Collection of Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, IL USA. Used with permission.


Advent Musings

Every year as we celebrate the Season of Advent many reflections are offered for us to ponder. Here is another one.

As a child the Season usually meant an impatient wait for Christmas. If Advent was even thought about religiously it meant waiting for Jesus to be born in a stable in Bethlehem among the animals and filth of a stable.

I like Richard Rohr’s take on it:

…what we are waiting for is the welcoming of the universal, cosmic Christ… the Christ that is forever being born, (daily) in the human soul and history. Richard Rohr

As adults I think we need to think more about that and how important it is to bring that awareness into our lives so that our consciousness is forever looking for the good that our world offers to us and not the negatives that are becoming so prevalent in our society today.

It is true that we are caught up with many ‘doings’ and Christmas does creep up on us… but if we take our faith seriously and want to make a difference in this world, which is slowly losing a sense of the wonder of Creation and of the Creator God, Advent is a time for us to really appreciate and rejoice in the Everyday God.

I want to look more closely at just one person’s role at this time: Mary the Mother of Jesus the Christ. When she gave her Yes to become the Mother of Jesus she was depicted as the white, blue clad virgin praying at a prie-dieu. In reality she was about 13, more dark than white and probably dressed in black doing her house work! That courageous YES came with a conscious consent while heaven waited; and we wait as we ponder the reality of what this meant for the humble Mary who had nine months of waiting and contemplating the child she was carrying. To even begin to see Mary as a thinking, intelligent woman in her time where she could have been murdered for her condition (saved by Joseph) moves us out of the Pollyanna version that we have come to accept.

Life was hard for Mary and so are many of our lives now. Can we see Mary as a genuine person who being the Mother of God listens to us as we cry to her? Our waiting needs to reflect on how we are living our lives in preparation for ‘Christ being born daily’.

The Four Candles

1st Candle: Candle of Hope – God keeps God’s promises

2nd Candle: Candle of Preparation – Reminding us to make room for Christ

3rd Candle: Candle of Joy – The cosmic Christ being born every day

4th Candle: Candle of Love – God so loved the world….

As we approach this Christmas let us continue to be mindful of those who like Mary and Joseph are refugees not finding room in our ‘inns’.

Marie McAlister rsj

Mary MacKillop Today announces new CEO

Jane Woolford announced as new CEO of Mary MacKillop Today.

Jane Woolford

Mary MacKillop Today has announced the appointment of Jane Woolford as their new CEO, commencing 28 January 2020.

Jane joins Mary Mackillop Today with a wealth of experience gained in the international and Australian not-for-profit sectors. Her career has spanned senior management roles with Caritas Australia and Save the Children Australia, as well as various roles in the media, teaching and program coordination both locally and abroad.

Mary MacKillop Today’s Chairperson, the Hon. John Watkins AM, said he was delighted to announce Jane’s appointment:

Jane is an accomplished and values-driven leader who will be an asset to the Mary Mackillop Today team. Her track record in the not-for-profit sector is impressive and commendable. Jane has demonstrated incredible dedication to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and leadership throughout her career. We look forward to her contribution to Mary MacKillop Today.
Hon. John Watkins AM

Reflecting on her appointment, Jane said she looks forward to commencing the role in 2020.

I have long admired Mary MacKillop Today’s work, standing with vulnerable and marginalised communities and transforming the lives of people both here in Australia and overseas.
Jane Woolford
I approach the role of CEO with great enthusiasm and pride. I look forward to working alongside the team to deliver even greater access to education and learning of practical life skills to those who need it most. Jane Woolford

Inspired by the spirit of Saint Mary MacKillop, Mary MacKillop Today works with local communities in Australia, Timor-Leste, Peru, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, focusing on building dignity through learning for life in the areas of education, health, financial inclusion and sustainable livelihoods to support and empower people from all walks of life, right across the world.

For further information visit www.marymackilloptoday.org.au

Media contact: Emily Hickman
Ph: (02) 8912 2777
Email: emily.hickman@marymackilloptoday.org.au

ABC’s Fierce Girls features Mary MacKillop

Mary MacKillop — the girl who became a saint

The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) has recently featured Mary MacKillop on their new podcast series called Fierce Girls.

The ABC states that “Fierce Girls is a show aimed at kids 7-11 years old (and their parents) and tells the inspiring stories of some of Australia’s most extraordinary women. Each amazing story is narrated by equally fierce and fabulous women like singer Amy Shark, the first female Governor- General Dame Quentin Bryce and Orange is the New Black actor, Yael Stone.

One week’s episode, narrated by star of Little Lunch and Home and Away actor Olivia Deeble featured Saint Mary MacKillop. The episode features the story-telling of the great work of Mary MacKillop.

You’re invited to access the podcast and resources provided by the ABC below:

‘Mary MacKillop — the girl who became a saint’ Podcast

Fierce Girls: Mary MacKillop Poster (PDF)

Fierce Girls: Mary MacKillop Colouring Page (PDF)

Brand a Paver

Brand a paver at new St Anthony’s Family Care Village with the Sisters of Saint Joseph

In affiliation with the Sisters of Saint Joseph, St Anthony’s Family Care invite members of the public to donate a commemorative paver at the new St Anthony’s Care Village in Croydon, Sydney.

In September 2019, St Anthony’s Family Care broke ground on the re-development of a large 5,500m2 site in Croydon over the next 14 months, constructing an Inclusive Early Learning Centre, three short-term residences for young people with disabilities, and an activity centre for children and young people with disabilities.

The single-storey village on Alexandra Avenue will offer state-of-the-art facilities in a beautiful environment enabling St Anthony’s to continue to service the local community for many decades to come. Construction for this is well underway and completion of Stage 1 is expected in early 2020.

The site re-development is fully funded through many years of support from donors and has not received any government funding. On completion of the re-development in October 2020, a commemorative path of pavers will be laid through the centre of the village

St Anthony’s Family Care and the Sisters of St Joseph invite the public to buy a commemorative paver as part of a fundraising effort to assist with construction costs.

Joanna Najdzion, Chief Executive Officer for St Anthony’s Family Care, said “St Anthony’s Family Care is proud to provide a new Village for children and young people, including young people living with disabilities. Purchasing a paver is a great way to be part of St Anthony’s history and to mark your support of this important project.

“The commemorative pavers can contain printed text, a hand-sketched drawing, or a company logo – we invite the public to get as creative as they like to support children and young disabled people in our community,” she said. “The number of pavers available is limited, so be sure to get in fast!” she added.

St Anthony’s Family Care has been meeting the needs of children and families in the inner west since 1952, in affiliation with the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the Josephite Ministries.

For more information, please contact:

Kathleen Norman
Communications Manager
Sisters of Saint Joseph

Kathleen.Norman@sosj.org.au | +61 2 8912 2722 | +61 438 006 566

Please see below artists’ impressions of the new St Anthony’s Family Care Village: