Supporting Bushfire Impacted Communities

The Sisters of Saint Joseph are in solidarity with and support communities that have been impacted by the Australian bushfires.

Good Grief is an organisation that was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph in the mid-1990s that provides evidence-based change and loss education programs to support children, young people and adults to understand their experience and attend well to their grief. In 2017, Good Grief joined MacKillop Family Services.

In response to the Australian bushfires, Good Grief explains how they are helping children recover from the trauma of bushfires…

The recent bushfires have been unprecedented in their size and scale, causing tragic loss of life and damage. The devastation of the bushfires is compounded by the impacts of one of the most severe droughts on record. With months of summer ahead of us, the physical rebuilding and psychological recovery will be a marathon not a sprint. As California-based psychotherapist Diane Ross-Glazer commented, “You’re not only grieving what you lost; you’re grieving for your country” (TIME, January 8, 2020).

The trauma, loss and grief experienced as a result will be complex and ongoing. Exposure to disaster events effect the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and adults who are both immediately impacted by events and those that have been exposed to media images and stories.

The Good Grief team have been supporting professionals from communities in regional NSW and Victoria with immediate support material and have plans to provide training in both the Stormbirds and Seasons for Growth programs in the recovery period. Our colleagues at MacKillop Family Services have first-hand experience of the impact of the fires, with children, young people and carers from MacKillop in the Clarence Valley, Batemans Bay and Bega Valley directly impacted; some families have evacuated on multiple occasions at the height of the fires and at least two families have lost their homes.

Stormbirds: Growing through Natural Disaster program was developed in 2009 in response to the devastating Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria and is embedded in the foundational principles of the evidence-based Seasons for Growth education program. Stormbirds does not focus on the disaster or the traumatic experience. The program gives children the opportunity to tell their story, process their feelings, and learn how to manage them in a healthy way. Stormbirds has supported in excess of 2000 children and young people following bushfires, cyclones, floods and earthquakes in Australia and New Zealand.

A story of one young boy following the Christchurch earthquakes:

“A young boy traumatised following the earthquakes found it difficult to return to school and panicked when others mentioned the word ‘earthquake’. His parents were relieved when Stormbirds was offered and hearing their son refer to the tremors continued to occur “It’s just the ground moving mum”. The program Companion described the impact of the program on the boy: “Just a fantastic program, the boy is so much calmer and so much happier, haven’t quite got him smiling all the time but it really has made a huge difference”.

We hope to work with local regional communities to provide them with fully funded Stormbirds programs and support.

Good Grief

You’re invited to donate to Stormbirds and view two Media Statements from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) below:

Donate to Stormbirds here

ACBC Statement on Bushfire Crisis (PDF)

CRA to Join National Response to Bushfire Crisis (PDF)

Ego to Eco: Part Two

Father Julian Tenison Woods was a Catholic priest who had made a great contribution to Australian Geology, Botany, Palaeontology and Zoology.

Today the ecology of the Earth is suffering. Pope Francis states that we are in a time where peoples of the world need to have an ‘ecological conversion.’

Although Father Julian had lived in a different time to us, he had recognised the importance of looking after the Earth.

Click here to continue reading

Diamond Jubilee Celebration 2020

Congratulations to the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart who have celebrated 60 years of Religious life!

The Diamond Jubilee celebration for the Sisters of Saint Joseph who made their first vows to God sixty years ago was joyous. The whole time of their gathering at Mary MacKillop Place, Mount Street, North Sydney, was a time of being on ‘Holy Ground’, from the arrivals and reunions on 9 January to the finality of departures on 15 January.

Twenty-four Sisters from among those who were professed in 1960, have lived to celebrate the journey of those years. Nineteen members of this closely bonded circle of Sisters were able to travel to the celebration and, throughout their time together, they kept in frequent contact with the remaining five Sisters by way of telephone and internet.

On the evening of 12 January, the vigil of their Jubilee Mass, the Jubilarians gathered around Mary MacKillop’s tomb in the darkened chapel. They prayed, spoke of their memories of the thirteen members of their profession group who have gone before them into death, lit the Paschal candle and placed candles on a Remembrance Table. The felt strongly that:‘The special people we have lost are always with us’.

Monday 13 January, the day of celebration dawned clear and blue. The circle widened to include women who had been members of this group for part of their lives, had left it to live in the gospel spirit in a different way, and had not lost contact. The circle widened further, gathering into the celebration families and friends who have supported these Jubilarians through the years.

As they had done sixty years before the Sisters were ready to renew their vows. The Jubilarians, who were together once more after having ministered in many different ways and in many distant places, filed slowly down the aisle following the cross and singing with the backing of choir, congregation, organ and flute. The theme of the Mass was one of joy, of living water, of fruitfulness, and of gratitude. Those present acknowledged the First Peoples of our nations and prayed over the terrible bushfires and the realities of pain, suffering and loss. The Presider, Bishop Patrick Power honoured the lives of the Jubilarians, and the Congregation prayed a blessing on them.

They remembered with gratitude the co-founders of their Congregation, St Mary MacKillop and Fr Julian Tenison Woods and the many Sisters who had revealed the compassionate love of God through the years and prayed for the grace to meet the challenges of the future.

At the conclusion of the Eucharist the Bishop and five Concelebrants, the Diamond Jubilarians and the guests left the Chapel to an Organ Voluntary and gathered in the Josephites’ Auditorium for a celebratory meal.

On their last evening together, the circle of Jubilarians gathered once more with the Congregational Leadership Team around the tomb of Mary MacKillop. They concluded their prayer with the song:

If I could tell the love of God, I’d sing of Christ who chose the Cross. His justice mends a broken world, his mercy turns the grave around.
If I could tell the love of God. If I could tell the love of God.
Joan Healy rsj

You are invited to read the Speech given by Sr Mary Cresp at the Diamond Jubilee Celebration on 13 January 2020:

You’re also invited to watch parts of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration Mass in the videos provided below:

Entrance Procession


Welcome and the Introductory Rites


Renewal of Vows

Golden Jubilee Celebration 2020

Congratulations to the Sisters who have celebrated 50 years of Religious life!

At the beginning of January 2020, thirteen Sisters of Saint Joseph from across Australia and New Zealand gathered at Mary MacKillop Place to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of their religious profession. The group of sisters came from three traditions—Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the former Federation Josephites of Perthville and Tasmania and the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the World. They came together as one Congregation to renew their vows as Golden Jubilarians. This was the first time in the history of the Congregation that these three traditions, although ‘diverse in culture, nation and race’, have come together as one Congregation to celebrate fifty years of religious profession.

These Sisters’ time together was enriched by several different activities. On the first day Sr Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader, facilitated a conversation with them so that their diverse journeys over the last fifty years were heard and reverenced. This enabled relationships to be strengthened amongst those gathered.

On the second day they were invited to adopt a pilgrimage stance as they boarded their transport to Gore Hill Cemetery which was the original burial place of Mary MacKillop. The pilgrims recognised that they were standing on sacred ground as they recalled the lives of some of the pioneer sisters, quietly contemplating the contribution they had made to the early history of the Congregation and reflecting on their own response in today’s world.

That evening they continued their pilgrimage by going to Waverley Cemetery. There they bathed in the spirit and thoughts of Fr Julian Tenison Woods as they contemplated his life as priest, Father Founder and scientist. Julian’s brother, Terence, is buried nearby. Standing at the grave of Terence, which looked down towards Julian’s grave, was a powerful moment and one which was enhanced by the vision of the sun setting over the cemetery as together they prayed and reflected.

The highlight of the jubilarians’ gathering was the Mass and renewal of vows on 6 January. Bishop Vincent Long was the Presider as family, friends and colleagues gathered from near and far for the celebration of the Eucharist. In an atmosphere of gratitude, thanksgiving and joyfulness they were challenged to be ‘critical yeast in critical times of our church.’ How appropriate then and reassuring it was to hear the challenge of the gospel of the following morning—‘bring me what you have’, which is the mandate from the Sisters’ recent General Chapter.

On their final day together the CLT gifted the Jubilarians with an enchanting Harbour Cruise which was accompanied by delicious culinary delights. The Jubilarians also took the opportunity to test out the three-week old trams in George St Sydney prior to catching the train back to North Sydney.

With gratitude these Sisters say ‘thank you’ to all who brought this time to fruition for them. They left Mary MacKillop Place feeling renewed and enriched by their time together celebrating the fact that they are now Golden Oldies in the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

Kerry Gardiner rsj and Lyn Raftery rsj

You’re invited to watch parts of the Golden Jubilee Celebration Mass in the videos provided below:

Entrance Procession


Welcome and the Introductory Rites


Renewal of Vows

The Feast of the Epiphany

We learn from the Gospel of Luke that the first people to visit the newborn child, Jesus, were shepherds, Jewish men, sent by angels.

They left their flocks and found the newborn child in the stable of a Bethlehem inn. They were filled with great joy and returned to their sheep, loudly praising God and announcing to all and sundry what they had seen and heard.

Traditionally, on the feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate another group of visitors. This time the story is told in the Gospel of Matthew. From the east came some wise men, astronomers, who had seen a new star rising that they interpreted as being the portent of the birth of a great king. They followed that star as it went before them and led them to Jerusalem where they began questioning the populace thus: In what great house would they find the newborn king of the Jews?

This question caused consternation and word of the strangers’ quest passed from person to person until it reached the ears of King Herod. Herod, of course, saw a rival. He summoned the wise men and gave them instructions to return to him when they found this child and he, too, would go and pay him homage. Not likely!

Learning that the prophets had foretold Bethlehem as being the place where they would find the child they were looking for, the wise men left Jerusalem. Immediately, the star reappeared and went before them to Bethlehem and to the house where they found the child. They paid homage to him and presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then these wise men, non-Jews, were warned in a dream not to return to Herod but to go home by another route.

What is the message for us in this story? The wise men followed the star and it brought them to the end of their quest. Do we each have a star that compels us to follow it to find our goal in life? Do we keep that star before us even though the journey may be hard and full of difficulties and setbacks? Nevertheless, the end of the journey brings us to the goal of all our longings.

What is the goal of all our longings? That question is for each one of us to answer. But may we, like the wise men, be lead to the place where we will find Jesus, our Emmanuel – God with us.

Bernadette O’Sullivan rsj


Image: Christmas Kings Time obtained from Pixabay. Used with permission.

New Year 2020

Congregational Leader Sr Monica Cavanagh, provides us with a message for the New Year 2020…

Greetings as we step over into the threshold of a New Year. May 2020 be filled with many moments of blessing and opportunities to celebrate the gift of life.

As we welcome the New Year, we do so with hearts filled with deep hope and trust that each day of 2020 will open the door to new pathways of love. It calls us to be generous in our response to those in need, to those burdened by the realities of hardship and to be welcoming to the newcomer and the stranger in our midst.

New Year also marks a day when Pope Francis shares a World Day of Peace message. This year he invites us to ponder and consider the theme: ‘Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion’. By engaging in each aspect of this theme, Pope Francis says:

All this gives us deeper motivation and a new way to dwell in our common home, to accept our differences, to respect and celebrate the life we have received and share and to seek living conditions and models of society that favour the continued flourishing of life and the development of the common good of the entire human family. [1] Pope Francis 1.1.2020

As we celebrate this New Year, let us commit ourselves to be instruments of peace, love and justice. Let us open ourselves to the opportunities that will be ours to make the world a more hopeful and loving place for all. May we bear witness to the all embracing love of God that continually flows freely and gratuitously in the great web of life.

Blessings as you celebrate the gift of a New Year. May the dreams you hold come to birth and may you find in each day a moment of gratitude.

Sr Monica Cavanagh
Congregational Leader


[1] Pope Francis’ Message for the celebration of the 53rd World Day of Peace. 1 January, 2020.
Image: Bird Dove of Peace obtained from Pixabay. Used with permisison.

Christmas Greetings

Greetings on this Christmas Day.

May peace and joy be yours as you celebrate with family and friends and remember the gift of that first Christmas day. Let us also pause and remember those for whom this Christmas will be difficult.

Here in Australia, we are very mindful of all those who have suffered in the recent bush fires and those in our rural communities living through one of the most devasting droughts of this era. Across our world we are mindful of all those who are left homeless through poverty; those living in refugee camps; the first nations peoples of the world seeking recognition and respect for their traditions and those working to address the many unjust circumstances that arise out of misuse of power. In such realities, we might be prompted to ask: “Where do we see the events of the Christmas story happening in our world today?”

The stable where Christ is born is to be found in the many refugee camps of the world. The shepherds represent the many women and men who work tirelessly to bring peace across our world. The innkeeper is like us when we can be so overwhelmed by the many calls on our time that we fail to hear the knock on the door of our hearts to be more compassionate and open to the needs of our world. We see the joy of Mary and Joseph as parents welcome their newborn child. Our hearts and minds are stretched by the many people who invite us to widen our tents like the wise men from the East. Each character within the story invites us to explore within ourselves what it means to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ in our world today. This Christmas, let us be attentive to those many places where the vision of the Christ Child is being born today in the generous self-giving of those whose lives are inspired by the story of the first Christmas. Let us celebrate the giftedness of each person we encounter on this Christmas day.

As we pray with those who are struggling in our world today let us be encouraged by these words of Isaiah 11:1 that:

A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1

So too on this Christmas day, we celebrate the many women and men who provide a word of hope or an action of love that bears fruit like the many fire-fighters in our country, or the groups organising Christmas packs for women in rural communities. In our world, we see and hear stories of love at the borders where women and men are seeking refugee; the encouragement given to the Indigenous communities at the Amazonian Synod; the voices of those seeking freedom from oppressive regimes and the simple acts of neighbourliness shared in so many ways. These stories are the Christmas story told once again.

Sr Monica Cavanagh rsj
Congregational Leader

A Prayer in a Time of Drought

As we celebrate this Christmas Season may we be mindful of our burning Mother Earth…

Creative and nurturing God,
we weep in the face of dry land and fire,
dying crops and animals,
traumatised families and communities.
Our land evolved in Your wisdom over eons.
Some people learned to live within its boundaries
prospering from its fruitfulness, and in humility
responded with gratitude and praise for its gifts.

Often with good intentions,
we have imposed our ideas of progress and prosperity
demanding lifestyle benefits and production
that push the land beyond its capacities.
Teach us to listen to the land with humility.
Send the Spirit of Jesus to teach us respect.
Guide us to be co-creators with your divine providence.
Fill our hearts with patience and compassion.
May we commit ourselves to face the calamity of drought,
city and rural cooperating as one in service and generosity,
planning with leaders to create a sustainable future, so that
we can again love the beauty of Your land fully alive. (Rev. Dr. Charles Rue).

Ann Morrison rsj

A Prayer in a time of Drought


Image: Dry arid yellow obtained from Pixabay. Used with permission.