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 www.pollardgallery.com

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: http://academic.udayton.edu/race/01race/race08.htm

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

[1] https://www.qttransformation.com/supporting-happiness-and-harmony/
[2] https://www.harmony.gov.au/about/
Image within article: People Happy obtained on Pixabay. Used with permission.
Thumbnail image: Sun Happy Sunshine obtained on Pixabay. Used with permission.