Media Release: CERA

Catholic Emergency Relief Australia (CERA) has opened an initial grant application round to support those continuing the long process of recovery from the summer’s catastrophic bushfire season.

CERA chair Susan Pascoe said while the country “is largely – and understandably – focused on the COVID-19 pandemic”, challenges like social isolation and financial hardship are exacerbating some problems the bushfires caused…

You’re invited to continue reading the Media Release, view the grant application form and visit the CERA website below:

Media Release: Grant Applications Opened for Ongoing Bushfire Recovery (PDF)

CERA Disaster Fund Grant Application Form

CERA Website

National Volunteers Week 2020

Volunteering at Mary MacKillop Place, Mount Street, North Sydney.

Mary MacKillop Place, Mount St, North Sydney

Arriving at the Business Centre of North Sydney the scene is one of a busy working environment. Cars, buses and people going many ways to engage in their daily duties to serve the community. A short walk up the hill of Mount Street we arrive at Mary MacKillop Place.

We have come upon a quiet place in a busy environment. The Museum offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the life and work of Australia’s first Saint, Mary MacKillop and Father Julian Tenison Woods, who along with Mary co-founded the religious order of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The story of Mary’s work in founding a religious order in Australia outlines the many qualities that give people hope in today’s world. Mary showed great faith, courage, perseverance, loyalty and dedication to a worthy cause as she encountered many obstacles and even rejection of her vision for the future.

Mary MacKillop Chapel

A visit to the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel is an experience of calm and peace. Many visitors come each day to this sacred place of prayer and pilgrimage –some as tourists from overseas, others to ask for help through Mary’s intercession for the needs in their lives. The tomb of Saint Mary MacKillop is present in the chapel and patrons can kneel and pray in the peace of God’s presence.

As a volunteer in both the Museum and the Chapel, I enjoy sharing the story of how Mary achieved her vision with the help of Julian and letting others know that it was Mary’s trust in God that kept her strong. There are over 100 volunteers at Mary MacKillop Place, and we work in many different areas of the complex. As well as being tour guides in the Museum, others volunteer in the Café and Gift Shop assisting with the preparation of food and coffee and serving tables. Some volunteers help in the Chapel where they provide a ministry of listening for people who wish to share their stories or who are seeking prayers through the intercession of Mary MacKillop. Volunteers also assist in administrative tasks, IT, marking and sorting stock for the Café and many other miscellaneous tasks.

Mary MacKillop Place Gift Shop & Cafe

I became a volunteer because I wanted others to be aware of the great work of our first Australian Saint and to let people know how the virtues of Mary MacKillop can help us find peace in living our lives. With a large group of volunteers, we have the opportunity to form friendships and exchange information which helps us fulfill our roles. Mary MacKillop Place is certainly a place of peace and tranquility and along with all the other volunteers it is my privilege to be able to contribute to keeping the legacy of Mary MacKillop and the Sisters alive in today’s world. Unfortunately during this Coronavirus Pandemic we are unable to perform our usual duties, but are grateful to be kept connected through regular inspirational messages being sent to all the volunteers.

Beverley Badcock

In the Steps of Borrowed Shoes

For International Day of Families this year, our author focused on how at a time of great exclusion, the Sisters made an indigenous girl captain of the school debating team, and in their borrowed shoes, they won.

This is a memory, not a history. For over half a century I thought this story belonged to the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Brisbane. Three days ago, when I tried to Google to find more information about the school, I began to wonder if it was staffed by another order. I was only ten, or younger.

But I write fiction as well as history. Sometimes it is easier to explain the truth in a novel, when you don’t have enough facts to say, ‘it happened just like this.’ Since I was that small child, the Sisters of Saint Joseph have been my guide and inspiration. Today I realised that even if my memory is faulty, this story still belongs to the Sisters of Saint Joseph, whichever genre it might be catalogued in.

One definite memory:  Mum drinking tea in a staff room with the Sisters in brown habits, the tea in thick blue cups, strong enough to melt the spoon. Suddenly one of the Sisters glanced out the window. She raced outside to the bare playground and grabbed the two boys fighting by their collars, then held them apart. No belting, just a lecture. By the end they looked ashamed.

Sorry, Sister,’ they said as they shook hands.

Most Saturday afternoons our family took afternoon tea at Stuartholme, a school on the foothills where Dad taught debating. I loved the silent cloisters, the tree filled gardens, the vast floor to ceiling books where I learned the riches of history. The tea was served in thin china teacups. The quiet conversation was not interrupted by kids yelling outside.

Mum taught debating at the other school. In the other schools where Mum and Dad taught debating, the parents paid for it as an ‘extra’, like music or Art of Speech. At that school the Sisters had somehow found enough money for everyone to learn. Debating – finding the right words and best arguments to support your beliefs – might be a route to whatever life the students dreamed of, from an apprentice to university or prime minister.

Few girls debated in early 1960’s, but it seemed no one had thought to make rules to say they weren’t allowed to. There were no rules excluding indigenous students either, just lots of excuses to kick them out. But those Sisters made an indigenous girl Captain of their school debating team. They borrowed shoes for the team too.

Mum came home laughing after that first debate. The team had been nervous, barely articulate. But something had been wrong with the other team. The ‘impossible’ team had won.

That win gave them confidence. They deserved their win in the next debate, and the next. By the end of that year, they won the championship.

I am only one of those who has tried to follow in the footsteps of those borrowed shoes.

Jackie French

Photo: People Forming Round by Shoes by Ingo Joseph obtained from Pexels. Used with permission.
Photo: People Looking at Laptop Computer by Fox from Pexels. Used with permission.

Laudato Si’ Webinar: Part Two

In May 2015 Pope Francis launched his encyclical with the subtitle “On Care for our Common Home” and the title “Laudato Si’” which are the opening words for a hymn composed by St Francis of Assisi in the 1200s.

For our time, this document is both relevant and important, since it highlights the priority that respect for the environment should have in Catholic life, and integrates the notion with what is central to our understanding of humanity’s relationship with God.

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Help floods in after Sister’s sailors SOS

An overwhelming response to seafarers’ appeal is sweet.

The chocolate lambs are a traditional fundraiser for Easter and served moreover as a wonderful donation to the seafarers. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Donations from across the country and gratitude from around the world have been flooding in for the tireless work being done by a Sydney religious sister supporting the seafarers visiting our shores.

Known as the “angel of the waterfront”, Sister Mary Leahy has spent the past 20 years helping those who earn a living on the seas and said she has never seen conditions so desperate.

Trapped on what has been described as “floating prisons”, many of the world’s 1.6 million seafarers already at sea for up to nine months have no real sign of when they will be able to return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The quietly spoken Josephite sister issued an urgent appeal for personal hygiene products including shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, deodorant and razors, as well as knitted beanies and chocolates to put together care packages for the sailors, and admits to being overwhelmed by the huge response.

However, it’s the messages of gratitude from the exhausted seafarers globally that has made her even more committed to providing not only practical but spiritual support at this time of great need…

You’re invited to continue reading on The Catholic Weekly website below:

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Debbie Cramsie
The Catholic Weekly

So Small a Beginning: Part 2

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

Paul Gardiner sj writes about Mary MacKillop’s experiences of being away from her family, friends and Sisters of Saint Joseph while on her overseas journey.

The physical elements in this poor health would have been reinforced by worries about her mission, the mixed success of her begging, the unpleasantness of cold refusals, uncertainty about Roman approval of the Institute, separation from those she loved, and concern about what was happening in Australia. Anxiety about travel arrangements, changing trains, long waits, the tedium of the travel itself, uncertainty about accommodation are things even a person in good health can find something of an ordeal.

Kindness and generosity touched Mary in a way she never forgot. She took care to keep in touch by letter with the various priests who had helped her during the ‘sweet string of Providential events’ in Scotland. On the other hand, she was sensitive to the coldness of some she approached for assistance. She did not take it as a personal affront but could not help reflecting that it was the rich, not the poor who refused her: ‘No welcome for the beggar from the rich ones from Edinburgh.’ She was more concerned about their deafness to the teachings of their religion than about being rejected. But it would be wrong to say that people with money never helped her. The McDougalls, Mrs Vaughan, Lady Gordon, and a number of people she met through them, became not only friends but also good benefactors.

Extract from ‘Mary MacKillop: An Extraordinary Australian’ by Paul Gardiner sj (1993) p. 144. E J Dwyer Pty Ltd Australia.

No words can tell how my heart bounds at the thought of getting home.Mary MacKillop 1874
Young Mary MacKillop

While Mary’s concerns did not revolve around social distancing or imposed isolation, she keenly felt the separation from the Australian scene and those she supported and loved.

Mary was only thirty-one when she undertook this enormous challenge and was recognised as the woman in the black dress. This journey was a major ordeal for Mary to cope with alone. The scenario Gardiner has painted for us is one of a strong and heroic woman in isolation.

  • The list of challenges Mary faced alone is a lengthy one.  During this time of social distancing, is there something in Mary’s story that rings true for you as a comfort?
  • Mary understood what poor health was like. In times of worry, anxiety and illness how did Mary seek support? What gives you strength?
  • Many of us cannot physically be with our loved ones. We are fortunate to have many forms of social media to assist us to make contact. Is there a person who comes to mind when you reflect on someone needy or with few friends?

Let us reflect on Mary MacKillop’s outstanding courage and heroism as we pray that we may model the tenacity and faithfulness that Mary lived so strongly.

Michele Shipperley rsj


Photo of Vatican titled ‘Architecture City Travel’ by Paula11767 obtained from Pixabay. Used with permission.

A Day in the Life: St Anthony’s Family Care Worker

Times of change at St Anthony’s Family Care

When I first stepped foot into St Anthony’s Family Care in Croydon, NSW almost 25 years ago, I could have never imagined how the organisation would change my entire life.

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