2019 NATSICC Elder Award

Modern Day ‘Samaritan’ Receives 2019 NATSICC Elder Award.

On 14 July 2019 Ms Brenda Lester was presented with a 2019 National Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council Awards (NATSICC) Elder Award at St Mark’s Cathedral in Port Pirie. The Sisters of St Joseph of the Centre West Region nominated Brenda for this award after having had the privilege of knowing her and her work in Amata for some years. Brenda Lester deserves this award for her lifelong and passionate commitment to her Aboriginal family and community in Amata on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunyjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia.

Ms Jane Lester (Brenda’s sister) and Srs Marianne Zienstra and Kenise Neill travelled to Port Pirie to present the award.  Brenda’s children Naomi, Rachel, Jessie, her son in law Dean and ‘grannies’, Clarabell, Kiki, Keeley, Jaywyn Johnny and Jayarni were very proud as they witnessed their Mother and Grandmother receive her award.

It was a lovely coincidence that the Samaritan Story was the reading on the day when Brenda received the award. Brenda is a remarkable woman who is the compassionate face of God to all and especially people who are vulnerable. Mothers and babies, the elderly, young families and supporting Aboriginal communities have been her focus over many years.

Brenda’s whole life demonstrates the lived reality of Ngapartji Ngapartji, meaning reciprocity and co-operation, and is described as ‘overflowing’ kindness in the Yankunytjatjara language and culture. Brenda’s kind, gentle and wise presence has been and is a gift for many people. Brenda has a passion for social justice and has a profound capacity to forgive even in the most tragic of circumstances.  She is resolute in showing God’s merciful love.

Many Parishioners, Fr Jimmy Pantin and Ms Mary Bartlett (Covenant Josephite) made a huge effort to welcome Brenda, her family and the Sisters to Mark’s Cathedral Parish for the presentation and celebration.  The gracious welcome, preparation of morning tea and the lovely connection parishioners made with Brenda and her family was a blessing for all present. Brenda and her sister, Jane, both said they were overwhelmed with the hospitality shown to them and the warm welcome was a positive experience for Brenda’s children and grandchildren.

Kenise Neill rsj

Perthville Foundation Day 1872

Honouring the Perthville Story – Foundation Day, 16 July 1872.

Sr Margaret Flood with pupils at Dunedoo

The most common name for a Catholic School in New South Wales (NSW) is St Joseph’s. Currently 77 (one in every eight), NSW Catholic schools bear the name of Joseph.  The first St Joseph’s Catholic School in NSW was begun on 16 July 1872 in a church at The Vale (later re-named Perthville), a village near Bathurst. On this day a community of Sisters of Saint Joseph comprising Sisters Teresa MacDonald, Joseph Dwyer, Hyacinth Quinlan and the prospective postulant, Ada Braham started the first Josephite convent and school in NSW. They were waved off in Adelaide by both Fr Julian Woods and Mary MacKillop to extend the mission to poor and isolated families.

Fr Woods arrived at the Vale later in 1872. As well as instructing the sisters on aspects of the spiritual and religious life, he gave a retreat just prior to Christmas. It was not until May 1875 that Mother Mary MacKillop made her first visit to The Vale during which she gave the sisters a retreat. She returned in August to conduct another retreat for them. Fr Woods returned in 1877 and in subsequent years. He wrote the rule for the Bathurst Diocesan Sisters of Saint Joseph following their separation from the Adelaide Congregation. The significance of Mary and Julian’s presence at The Vale cannot be overestimated, ensuring a robust formation for the sisters by both founders. The early sisters, bound together by their love of God, planted the Josephite spirit in NSW and began the Perthville story.

Sister Teaching in the 1950s

The founding and early sisters displayed a spirit of courageous generosity, fidelity and strength. They frequently faced hardship, loneliness and uncertainty, especially during the time of the separation.  Their legacy extended down the years into future generations of Sisters of Saint Joseph who opened dozens more schools and convents in rural towns and working-class suburbs across NSW, Tasmania and New Zealand with little material support. They set out to educate poor catholic children, according to the methods and standards of the day.

In response to the directives of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) to return to the founding charism of their Congregation and to make a preferential option for the poor, the Perthville Sisters revised the Rule, updated outmoded customs and initiated a deeper understanding of their vowed religious life.

Visitors to Perthville Heritage Centre

A total of 426 women joined the Perthville Congregation over 142 years until the sisters fused with the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart in 2014. These women answered and remained committed to God’s call to be Sisters of Saint Joseph whose spirit was that of poverty and hospitality, living and working in isolated Australian conditions. The sisters continually undertook new ventures that answered expressed needs.  They seized the moment, rolled up their sleeves and made things work, irrespective of difficulties, hardship or the risk of failure. They met the moment – be it teaching a class, fording a river in PNG, pastoral work in parishes, prisons and aged care facilities, ministry to refugees and youth or a thousand other challenges.

The story of the Perthville Josephite sisters from their foundation on 16 July 1872 until their fusion with the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart on 19 March 2014 is creatively told in the Heritage Centre at Perthville which houses items deemed to be of national significance.

Therese McGarry rsj

Eugowra 1894 (approx)
Celebration for Benedict's Golden Jubilee Perthville 1927
Sisters Helen Sullivan & Margaret Bolger visiting family in 1960s
Sr Alice Sullivan visitation in 1970s
Sr Janice Ryder's science lesson in 1970s
Sr Robyn McNamara, Papua New Guinea
Artist impression of first purpose built Convent at Perthville opened November 1872

Photos courtesy of Sr Therese McGarry. Used with permission.

Refugee Week Awareness Raising

Recently, students at Sacred Heart College, New Town (Tasmania) and Mount St Joseph, Milperra (New South Wales) celebrated Refugee Week 2019.

See below how the students celebrated…

Sacred Heart College

The student leaders at Sacred Heart College were very proud of their work in organising the school’s Refugee Week assembly. They were inspired by messages from JJAMM.

It was one of the most powerful assemblies the students and teachers ever experienced whereby the student leaders arranged students in Year 4 to draw their journey to Australia, and then they had the courage to speak about their story using their picture to refer to.

The ‘Dots’ story was also enacted.

View the story pictures and the ‘Dots’ story provided below:

Sacred Heart College Refugee Week PowerPoint (PDF)


Mount St Joseph

The Mount St Joseph community showed their support for Refugee Week by creating a large banner for the students to place their hand print and name to rally against government policy that enforces the detention of people seeking asylum. Throughout the week videos of refugee people telling their stories were played on the school noticeboard.

The next task for the students is to sign a petition to take to their local Member of Parliament and bring the banner they created. The celebration was a great success!

You’re invited to view photos of the celebration below:


PowerPoint presentation (PDF) provided by Sacred Heart College, New Town. Used with permission.
Photos provided by Mount St Joseph, Milperra. Used with permission.

Commemorating World Environment Day

Recently, students at St Joseph’s Catholic High School, Albion Park (New South Wales), St Mary MacKillop College, Swan Hill (Victoria) and Mary MacKillop College, Nundah (Queensland) commemorated World Environment Day 2019.

You’re invited to view the initiatives the students completed below…

St Joseph’s Catholic High School, Albion Park

The St Joseph’s community participated in a bake-off on World Environment Day to raise awareness of environmental issues currently facing our young people. Students and teachers baked cakes, slices and cupcakes, many of which had an “enviro” theme. Some staff even considered how sustainable their baking products were, trying to use Fair Trade and environmentally friendly products where possible.

Students were also able to enter the Waste-Free Lunchbox competition, limiting their consumption of single use plastic and trying to contribute to the environment in a more positive way.

Local groups donated prizes for the Waste-Free Lunchbox competition, and all money raised from the bake-off went back to our War on Waste group here at school to put towards environmental initiatives around the school.

View photos from the day in the gallery below:


St Mary MacKillop College, Swan Hill

On Wednesday, 5 June 2019, staff and students joined together to raise awareness of the need to care for creation. A whole school clean up occurred at the end of lunch. The environment committee also sold green ribbons to raise funds for the ‘Friends of the Earth’ – a social and environmental justice organisation. Around $100 was raised.

View photos from the day in the gallery below:


Mary MacKillop College, Nundah

For World Environment Day, College Captains Grace and Aoife rallied the school community to stage a protest hoping to draw attention to our climate crisis

You are invited to view their protest video below:


Photos provided by St Joseph’s Catholic High School and St Mary MacKillop College. Video provided by Mary MacKillop College. Used with permission.

A Communion of Companions

Mary and the men on the founding Monogram: A communion of companions.

In May this year, Sr Marie Foale wrote on the founding Josephite Rule written by Fr Julian Tenison Woods in October 1867 (First steps towards the Foundation of the Order). This Rule, lived by Mother Mary and her early companions, was signed by Bishop Shiel and approved for use in his Diocese of Adelaide on 17 December, 1868.

The following segment from Chapter Three of the Rule not only instructs sisters on the distinctive monogram to be worn on their habit, but it also holds the key to a spirituality of ‘companionship’ that Julian was keen to promote with Mary amongst the early sisters.

The professed sisters shall wear upon their hearts a large monogram of the Blessed Virgin [‘A’ without the crossbar + ‘M’, for ‘Ave Maria’] between three letters ‘J’ in honour of Jesus, Joseph and John the Baptist, thus, typifying the Holy Family.

The inclusion of John the Baptist in the Holy [extended] Family is probably stranger for us today than it would have been in the culture of Catholic Western Europe where there was a well-established tradition of devotion to John. Art by Leonardo da Vinci [1452-1519] and Bartolomé Murillo [1618-1682] and others depict Jesus and John as companionable children growing up together. The tender vein of that art possibly helped Julian intuit the significance ‘companionship’ could be amongst young colonial women in a brand-new venture within Religious Life in a new world.

The Rule shows the influence of various aspects of European spirituality that had inspired Julian in his personal journey. His devotion to the Holy Family draws on what he experienced amongst the Passionists in England [from 1850] and the Marist Fathers in France [in 1853]. Both honoured the Holy Family, as did the Josephites of Le Puy in France, whose homely lives amongst ordinary people impressed him so much when he encountered them. Then when concluding his training for the priesthood amongst the Jesuits in Sevenhill, SA, [across 1856-7], Julian would have become aware of the importance St Ignatius placed on ‘companionship’ with Jesus…

Continue reading the article here:

Mary and the men on the founding Monogram: A communion of companions (PDF)

Virginia Bourke rsj

Year of Indigenous Languages: Portugese and Vietnamese

Portugese Village by LEMUR.

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 July, we feature the languages Portugese and Vietnamese.

Click here to continue reading

International Year of Indigenous Languages

A Day in the Life: Education Ministry

Head of Mission Caritas Australia.

Jo Brady rsj

My ministry as Head of Mission Caritas Australia is quite different to any of my other ministries and yet incorporates so many aspects of my former roles. Caritas Australia is the international and development aid agency of the Catholic church in Australia. The vision of Caritas “to end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity” complements our Josephite charism.

As an educator with many years’ experience in secondary and tertiary education and having spent time in East Timor setting up a Secondary teachers College with the Jesuits, I draw on both my education and missionary experience at Caritas.

There is no typical day in my ministry at Caritas as the tasks are varied. As I write this I am in Melbourne preparing to go to our Melbourne office near the cathedral to work with a team on writing for Project Compassion 2020.  Most days are spent in the office at Alexandria in Sydney but there is also travel within Australia to meet with the diocesan directors, justice educators and resource teams.

As Head of Mission I have a responsibility for strengthening the Catholic identity of the agency. Staff working at Caritas are very committed to the ideals of the agency though not all are Catholic.  I therefore induct new staff into their roles through ensuring that the Catholic Social Teaching, which is the foundation of Caritas, is clearly understood. This also involves ongoing formation of staff by arranging weekly staff prayer, retreats, reflections and workshops.

During Lent I attended launches of Project Compassion in Hobart and Brisbane as well as speaking at Masses and schools around Sydney.

Launch of Project Compassion in Hobart with Archbishop Julian Porteus and Fr Sharmi

Some time is spent on the selection and interview panels for new staff. I also meet with various teams operating out of the National Office. Caritas works in 24 countries and employs many local staff. From time to time the international staff come to Sydney to join the national staff for conferences and formation.  It is always inspirational to hear of the work of Caritas Australia in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Myanmar Timor, Bangladesh and through the Pacific.

Being part of Caritas is a most worthwhile ministry as Pope Francis says that Caritas is “an essential part of the Church” and that it “institutionalizes love in the Church.” In this year of Chapter I would like to think that I can assist through “Raising the Powers of Love” at Caritas so that we meet the challenges of our mission.

Jo Brady rsj

Photos courtesy of Sr Jo Brady. Used with permission.

Magnificent Altar Piece

A stunning altar piece has been installed and blessed at the Australian Catholic University’s chapel in North Sydney.

The new triptych titled, The Mother of Divine Wisdom with St Joseph and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop at ACU’s North Sydney campus chapel. PHOTO: ACU

A stunning altar piece created in Medieval Italian Sienese style—the first of its kind produced in 400 years—has been installed and blessed at the Australian Catholic University’s chapel in North Sydney.

The artist who produced the magnificent triptych, depicting the Virgin Mary with Christ Child, St Joseph and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, was present for its blessing by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and said it was “the most beautiful day” of her life.

Chiara Perinetti Casoni, an expert in crafting recreations of Sienese art from the 14thand 15th centuries, produced the full-sized altar piece in Siena, Italy, where she lives. She was deeply moved as it was blessed in its new home—ACU’s Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel at the North Sydney campus…

Please continue reading this recent article by Catherine Sheehan from The Catholic Weekly which we felt would be of interest.