Working Together to Manage Change and Transition

Australian families and communities have experienced significant change and loss following the drought, fires and floods that have defined 2020.

As the pandemic situation changes shape daily and we are required to adapt and change so rapidly, it is normal and natural for children, young people and adults to respond in unique and varied ways.

It is not surprising then, that some children, young people and adults may be finding it difficult to transition to home-based schooling and work, limited socialisation, and an upheaval of routine. Sometimes it is not until we move from the ‘doing’ to the ‘being’, that we recognise the impact of the change for ourselves and for others.

The impact of the uncertainty, change and loss can be felt in the present, and in the weeks, months and even years following, as individuals, families and communities make sense of what has happened, adjust to the changes, and recover and move forward toward a different future.

In the Seasons for Growth program run by Good Grief we use the metaphor of the ‘seasons’ to help children and young people understand the abstract experiences of change and loss.  The metaphor helps children and young people to understand the ‘ups and downs’ of life, that change will come and go (just like the seasons) and that no season lasts forever, not even winter.  The Seasons for Growth helps children and young people to recognise and adapt to stressful events as well as the ongoing challenges they may bring.  Good Grief supports local communities by training educators and health professionals to deliver Seasons for Growth in their local communities.

Children and young people rely on trusted adults to help manage transitions and so we have prepared an easy-to-read factsheet to support parents, carers and professionals:

Self-Care & Wellbeing: During Times of Uncertainty (PDF)

Please take a look at our Facebook page and the website for additional resources and email with any questions or suggestions if we can support you further.

Fiona McCallum
General Manager, Good Grief

Photo: Mother-and-son by cottonbro obtained from Pexels. Used with permission.

History of the Whanganui Sisters of Saint Joseph

A brief history of the Whanganui Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph

Whanganui Awa (River)

Whanganui, Aotearoa New Zealand, is defined by its mighty Awa (river) which flows from the Central Mountains to the Tasman Sea. Along its length, Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi (Whanganui people) have lived for 40 generations, and the river is an integral part of their lives.

The first Europeans arrived from England, Scotland and Ireland in the 1840s. Land purchases were negotiated with Whanganui Māori, and finalised in 1848. A military garrison was positioned in the town from 1846 until 1870 due to disturbances from the New Zealand Land Wars.

French Marist missionaries founded mission stations up and down the Awa, and also ministered to the newly arrived. The first Catholic church was built in 1857; the first Catholic school opened in 1866.

When Sisters Hyacinth Quinlan, Clare Rubie, Joseph Kinsella, and Teresa Schmidt arrived at the river wharf in the early hours of 24 April 1880, they were welcomed by the parish priest, Rev Dean Kirk, who with Bishop Redwood had invited them. They came from Perthville NSW, four years after the Diocesan Congregation had been formed. Their knowledge of the country and the Māori people was minimal. They were young, had come from a time of upheaval and estrangement in the Congregation, and were facing great expectations. Boarders for the school were ready and three women to join their community.

Sacred Heart Convent

In 1883, the Sisters were asked by Bishop Redwood to help start a school at Hiruhārama (Jerusalem) where the original Marist mission had lapsed during the troubled times on the river.  Sr Teresa Schmidt and Sr Aloysius Malone were to accompany a French woman, Suzanne Aubert, a nurse fluent in Te Reo (Māori language). The women travelled upriver in waka (canoes), staying in Māori settlements. They returned to Whanganui two years later. Suzanne Aubert went on to begin the first NZ Congregation – the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion.

In 1885 a foundation was made in Hāwera, Taranaki, and in the following 25 years, seven convents and schools were begun. Land was sought for the growing Congregation and in 1912 Sacred Heart, a large three-story building, was opened on St John’s Hill in Whanganui. A Chapel which still stands was opened in 1918. Further foundations were made, mainly in the central and lower North Island.

The Sisters formalised their connections with the four Diocesan Congregations in Australia, with the Federation of the Australia-New Zealand Sisters of St Joseph in 1967. By the new millennia, each Congregation was going through its own processes of discernment. For the Whanganui Sisters there was much soul-searching until the decision in 2012 to request Fusion with the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.  Fusion was granted in February 2013 and celebrated in Whanganui on 24 August 2013.

The journey of the Whanganui Sisters of Saint Joseph has had its ebbs and flows. Numbers have fallen, ministries changed, buildings demolished.  But just as the mighty Whanganui Awa flows onward, so also the charism continues to flow through all those who live the spirit of Saint Joseph.

Anne Burke rsj

So Small a Beginning: Part 1

Sr Marie Foale speaks about the beginnings of the Institute of St Joseph for the Catholic education of poor children.

She believes that as a young Josephite growing up, she had a sense that one day Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods had made a spontaneous decision to found an order.

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Reflection on Mary MacKillop

Sister Margaret Mary Sexton reflects on the humility and graciousness of Mother Mary MacKillop from Grey Lynn Aotearoa New Zealand in 1925.

Mother Mary had sufficiently staffed the school at Port Charmers so she returned to Arrowtown as ‘Little Sister’ and as both sisters were engaged in the school, the ‘Little Sister’ willingly and cheerfully undertook the cooking and general housework. It was her delight to have a comfortable lunch ready when they came in from school.  But in order to have the meals up to her standard she sometimes had to ask the lady next door for advice and assistance – especially when the flounder she was cooking fell to pieces. Her distress was so great that the lady came in and gave her a lesson in ‘frying flounder’ with the result that it was beautifully cooked.  Mother was as proud of her success as if she were cooking for the Queen instead of for two humble little professed novices. Extract from Memories of Mary by those who knew her – Sisters of St. Joseph 1925-1926, p. 81

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A Day in the Life: Spiritual Director

The Art of Spiritual Direction.

Lyndall Brown rsj

Just over twenty-five years ago whilst attending the Institute of Spiritual Leadership in Chicago my supervisor’s last words to me were; ‘Lyndall there is the Art of accompanying another and that is one’s natural gift and the skills are what you learn along the way.’ I often recall the wisdom of those words. The call to the ministry of Spiritual Accompaniment began for me with a stirring deep within to journey with others in their search for authenticity and a desire to grow into the fullness of their beings. It flowed from my own search for the Mystery of Life hidden in my own journey and the thirst I had for the Sacred.

Over the years I frequently return to two images that honour this ministry for me. The image of being a Guest into the depths of another’s life highlights for me the invitation, the privilege to listen, to attend to, and to marvel at the person’s openness and trust in their exploration of their journey. The Directee is like a host to me offering a hospitable presence which is reciprocated with sensitivity, gratitude and genuine acceptance.

I often also see my Ministry of Spiritual Direction through the lens of a Mid-wife. Sometimes the journey into transformation of the other, letting go of old ways, opening to the new, patiently waiting for light to shine through confusion and pain calls me to be present with hope and an ability to wait for the emergence of new life.

The words of Thomas Merton resonate with me as I invite the one being accompanied to go deeper, to discover an inner freedom and ultimately experience the Sacred in the mystery of their own becoming.

The whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of a person’s life, to get behind the façade of conventional gestures and attitudes which one presents to the world, and to bring out one’s inner spiritual freedom, one’s inmost truth, which is what [Christians] call the likeness of Christ in one’s soul. Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, USA
The Emergence of New Life

I feel gifted in the opportunities for life that being a Spiritual Director has offered me. Once when moving from one place of Ministry to another a young mother said to me; ‘My children will be eternally grateful to you!’ On many occasions I find myself being personally challenged as I listen to the unfolding of another’s life. I come away from many encounters being inspired to live differently, and to be more attentive to life through the lens of the Sacred.

Over the years I have ministered at Retreat Centres in both Wellington and Mission Bay Auckland. I am now embarking on a ministry amongst the people of South Canterbury. It has always been my dream to minister in Spirituality in a rural area. I take with me the memory, wisdom and gifts received along the way open to receiving more gifts from those I minister among.

Lyndall Brown rsj

Julian Tenison Woods: A Life – Chapter 4th

Chapter 4th

Soon after his arrival in Hobart, Mr Woods found circumstances quite different to his expectations… Though he remained only a few months in Hobart, his amiable conduct and fervent piety made a lasting impression on many persons…Mary MacKillop

…Julian – after staying a short while in Victoria – went to Adelaide to join his brother, Mr J.D. Woods, who says ‘A few weeks rest was quite sufficient to satiate a man of energetic habits like Julian, so he accepted an engagement as sub-Editor and reporter on the “Adelaide Times”… His pen pictures were always pleasant reading, whether he compelled attention by graphic description, made one laugh by the charm of his wit and keen sense of the comic, or shed tears over the sympathetic.  But the old yearning towards the church asserted itself anew…

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Passion Sunday 2020

Ours is an age when pilgrimages, processions and trekking have made a comeback.

Ours is an age when pilgrimages, processions and trekking have made a comeback. Whether we walk for our health, to enjoy the countryside or to take a spiritual journey, people usually walk with a purpose. Many walk the Camino, tracing the ancient way of pilgrims through the centuries.  Others follow nature tracks made by Aboriginals or early Europeans. One memorable walk I’ve taken was the track around Uluru. My companions and myself found ourselves becoming completely silent and reflective as we realised that were walking on holy ground.

We know that early Christians also took pilgrimages because we have diaries and letters that describe their journeys. One such journey was taken by Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, the journey of a prisoner on his way to his execution. One hundred years before, Jesus of Nazareth returned to Jerusalem to also face his death. Once a year we remember this final journey, also waving palm branches and singing hosanna. We take this ritual procession on Passion Sunday, the day that marks the beginning of the holiest week of the church’s calendar.

Here at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva, Fiji, palm branches are in plentiful supply. On Passion Sunday we gather at the edge of the compound and, after hearing the Gospel of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem we begin our own journey through the coconut trees accompanied by unified strong and beautiful Islander voices that makes our procession triumphant and hopeful. We enter the chapel via an arch of palms and take our places to hear three powerful scripture readings: the Suffering Servant passage from Isaiah, the message to the Philippians of a Jesus who emptied himself, and yet one more Gospel – this year the story of the passion and death of Christ according to Matthew.

Each of us will hear the Word of God that we need to hear at this stage in our journey. Some of us have celebrated many Easters and wonder if this will be our last – especially those who are old and frail, or facing terminal illness. Others are full of youthful fervour and enthusiasm and feel only exhilaration and excitement as they prepare to take this final journey with Jesus towards Easter.

The tone of this liturgy is triumphant. We know the end of the story – Jesus suffers and dies and rises again to new life. After being fed by the word we will come to the table of plenty to share the bread and wine of suffering and joy. But that story hasn’t ended. Neither are we simply recreating a series of historical events that culminated in the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Now its Christ we commemorate. And the sign of Christ is us.

We are Christ’s Body who are caught up in the Paschal Mystery of dying and rising.  And we reach out to our sisters and brothers who may not know that Jesus has gone before them. The refugees that we continue to deny life, the homeless who are unable to find shelter, the lonely who are crying out for love and those caught up in addictions who can’t find a way to lasting peace. We bring these members of Christ Body with us on our journey to death, but with the hindsight of Easter hope.


Carmel Pilcher rsj

Thumbnail & Palm Sunday image obtained from Pxhere. Used with permission.
Christ’s Body is taken from the cross image obtained from Wikimedia Commons. Used with permission.

Josephite Justice Network Weekend

In March 2020, the Josephite Justice Network (JJN) gathered at St Joseph’s Spirituality and Education Centre in Kincumber South, New South Wales.

We were so blessed to be able to have our Josephite Justice Network gathering just before the COVID-19 lockdown crisis occurred. Thank you to all of you who were able to attend. We missed those of you who couldn’t be there. Weekend gatherings such as these are truly life-giving as we come together to learn, share our ministries and identify ways we can move forward, supporting each other and each other’s work.

Our major theme for the weekend was “wisdom has built herself a house.” We spent the time listening to the wisdom of group members – in awe at all that’s happening around the congregations, and reflecting together on the wisdom and possibilities up for grabs!

Sr Susan Connelly began our session revising academic theories around scapegoating. There is a real world example being lived out in the Australian Courts whereby truth-tellers, Witness K and Bernard Collaery fight for justice to have their cases dismissed. If you would like to read more about this issue and how you can support these brave men, read here.

Saturday evening saw the group gather to sew hoods to be used in the Canberra protest in support of Witness K and Bernard Collaery. It was a team building session with a purpose and an urgent message to the Attorney General to #DropTheProsecutions.

This weekend seized the opportunity for JJN members to share progress and hurdles facing us in our work. JJN participants shared many stories – of political lobbying to assist Sudanese Youth find employment; Financial counselling to release families from irresponsible lending loans in New Zealand; an update of the Sydney Alliance initiatives and the JJN membership actions; Caritas work in light of continued government aid cuts; West Papua’s freedom struggles; and First Nations projects and studies published by The Baabayn Project. A submission to the United Nations concerning the Australian Government’s human rights agenda over the past 4 years has also been prepared and edited by the JJN group.

Finally, as an alternative to our current anthem we shared, in prayer, a more inclusive and reconciliatory Anthem for all Australians. You may like to view and share this offering here.

Wisdom was shared and it is abundantly evident that our houses are blessed with the people we work with, so that we might influence changes necessary to ensure that all people can live a life of dignity. Surely there will be much to share next time we meet.

We are investigating ways we can continue to come together while adhering to our responsibilities according to COVID-19 restrictions. However, in the meantime, let us keep each other in mind and heart. Let us all rejoice in our work that gifts us the wisdom to build a house that is a kingdom for all.

Karen Oxley
Volunteers Coordinator – Josephite Justice Network

P.S. Save the Date for a FREE fun-filled night of entertainment – Josephites Got Talent! We have to have something to look forward to… right? View a promotion video for Josephites Got Talent here.

View more photos from the JJN weekend in the gallery below: