Palm Sunday

A reflection for Palm Sunday…

Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, and commemorates the triumphant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem.

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Palm Sunday Reflection

Kindly provided by Briege Buckley rsj


Thumbnail image: Palm image by Valentin Salja obtained on Unsplash. Used with permission.

Walking in Two Worlds: Ancient Cultures and New Settlers

New Zealanders expressed both grief and unity at the time of the Christchurch tragedy; they showed the world that humanity can rise after terrible events

They honoured the dead, fostered unity and demonstrated the truth of the inclusive ‘us’. Their Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, embraced the whole of the nation’s heritage and culture: of those that have come in recent times and of the ancient culture of the Māori people.

We, in Australia, watched New Zealanders drawn intuitively, and possibly at an unconscious level, to the ancient centre of themselves. As the people of Christchurch expressed the intangible ‘us’, the power of the Haka reverberated around the world. Though Australians may not understand the gesture well, many are drawn to envy New Zealand’s link with ancient culture. In the overwhelming grief and pain of the tragedy, we see the Haka expressing pride, strength and unity.

Australia’s ‘new settlers’, those who have arrived in the past 240 years from the European Union (EU), Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, Africa and the Pacific, are gradually discovering the 60,000 years of culture in this country.

Systematic research has, for some years, charted Australian attitudes to the First Nations of this land. Results are published as ‘The Reconciliation Barometer’. The most recent posting indicates that 90% of Australians now believe that our relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is important, and 79% agree that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are relevant to Australia’s national identity. The Reconciliation Barometer is read every two years and the recognition of Australia’s Indigenous culture continues to rise. Gradually, though belatedly, many Australians are acknowledging it.

Josephite Sister Kenise Neil wrote, “[Father] Julian Tenison Woods’ description of his downward descent into the Naracoorte Caves could be a metaphor for our life journey into our indigenous selves”:

  …the entrance …a hole, on top of the hill …(leading) to a small sloping path under a shelf of rock. …one gets a glimpse of the magnificence enshrined below …the eye is bewildered by a profusion of ornaments and decorations of nature’s own devising. It is like an immense Gothic Cathedral.Fr Julian Tenison Woods

Christians in Australia are searching for spirituality embedded in our country. Pope John Paul II addressed a gathering of First Peoples in Alice Springs many years ago:

The Church in Australia will not be fully the Church Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received. Pope John Paul II

In May 2017 representatives from all Aboriginal Nations across Australia and the Torres Strait Islands met in Uluru and issued, with the overwhelming support of this historic gathering, a powerful ‘Statement from the Heart’. They invited all Australians to claim the heritage of the land. Given that Australia was settled without Treaty, there are two sentences that I find most poignant. ‘When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country’. The entire Statement was summarily dismissed by political leaders of the time, but will eventually be seen as a defining moment in the history of Australia.

I cannot help comparing Australia and New Zealand.

I recall the words of the poet David Whyte:

To remember the other world in this world is to live in your true inheritance. David Whyte

Joan Healy rsj


Right image: Mine Bay Māori rock carving of Ngātoroirangi on Lake Taupō, New Zealand. Used with permission.
Left image: Outback Ayers Rock Uluru Landscape Australia obtained from Max Pixel. Used with permission.

It Seemed That All Was Lost

Have you ever experienced a loss that seemed like a disaster, yet, in time, proved to be a blessing?

To Jesus’ friends and followers, his death and burial in a cave were the absolute opposite of what they had fondly expected. In those moments, it seemed that everything that he had promised had been a giant hoax. Their hopes were dashed.

Through the gifts of hindsight and our faith, we know differently, and in this month of April, we reflect on the events of the first Holy Week, through a different lens from theirs. Unlike those who stood by, shocked and disheartened as they witnessed Jesus’ burial in a borrowed tomb, we know, and will celebrate again at Easter, that he rose again ‘on the third day’, and that his memory lives on in the lives of his present-day followers.

After a lifetime committed to following Jesus, and ever-mindful of the Cross in her life, Mary MacKillop’s burial bore a striking resemblance to that of Jesus. Her tombstone was also provided by a friend, Joanna Barr-Smith. Mary, of course, did not physically rise from the tomb, but her memory too lives on today. Mary’s spirit has captured the hearts of countless people who continue to be inspired by her story of love, courage, compassion, forgiveness and trust in our God who never stopped providing for her.

This month, we are invited to spend some time reflecting on the scene of Jesus’ burial, and to stand in solidarity with those who have lost hope.

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A Day in the Life: Aboriginal Ministry

This month you’re invited to read about Sr Kathryn’s Aboriginal Ministry.

The Aboriginal Catholic Ministry (ACM) tentatively began in the Diocese of Lismore at Bowraville with the arrival of Fr Bernie Ryan sm around 1990, the same time that three aboriginal children in Bowraville were murdered, a case that is still unresolved.

Some years later (1995) the ACM was formalised as an Inter Provincial project consisting of a team of Marist Fathers, a Mercy Sister and a Christian Brother based in the Southern part of the Diocese.

Fr Richard Foley with Tamara Paden and Anthony Reid on their wedding day

In 2001 I was appointed to this team. For six months during my discernment time, I was exploring where there was a need. Aunty Ponnie (Yvonne del Signore) a Bundjalung Catholic elder invited me to Ballina to meet the local community. It was Aunty Ponnie who suggested that I come and be with the Catholic mob in the Ballina area and surrounds as they really didn’t have anyone ministering to them in the Northern part of the Diocese. Since that time I have been doing a dual ministry of Aboriginal and Parish Pastoral Associate in St Francis Xavier Parish, Ballina.

During this time Aunty Ponnie has been mentor and friend guiding me in the cultural ways of the Bundjalung people. Aunty Ponnie was the conduit for me and the local community. Sad to say Aunty Ponnie died last year.

Ministry is blessed with chaos and drama. I try to bring some order and calm to situations as they arise e.g. being with the families and individuals in their vulnerability and fragility particularly in times of grief and tragedies. On the other hand there are wonderful times of ‘get togethers’ for special occasions such as NAIDOC Week and other family celebrations. Just recently the parish celebrated its first Aboriginal Catholic wedding, a joyous and treasured memory for all concerned.

There was change to the ACM two years ago when the Marist Fathers withdrew from the Diocese leaving a big hole in the ministry. Prior to their departure Aboriginal Masses were held once a month in each region. Baptisms and Funerals were included in the ministry. With that departure the ACM is left with only myself in the Northern part of the Diocese and Br Steve Morelli cfc in the Southern part of the Diocese. Part of Steve’s ministry is working in linguistics and enabling Aboriginal languages to be accessible.

Preparation for Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion are done through the St Francis Xavier Parish. The personal approach that I use is another means of contact with the families and a way of knowing that the children are prepared to celebrate the particular Sacrament.

Sr Kathryn Sweeney & Graham Marlowe

My ministry is one of privilege and trust as I develop and continue to build meaningful relationships within the community. The Aboriginal people feel free to drop into the parish office when in need or to get help. My pastoral role in the parish has allowed this connection to evolve.

Over the years I have witnessed a real growth within the Aboriginal community; there are more students completing Year 12 and accessing tertiary education than in earlier years. The employment level within the area has greatly improved.

It is with gratitude and joy that I continue this ministry with the Aboriginal Community in the northern part of the Diocese of Lismore.

Kathryn Sweeney rsj

Images provided by Sr Kathryn Sweeney. Used with permission.

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Three

On 21 May 1887, the Sydney Morning Herald [i] published an article by Fr Julian Tenison Woods on his trip to the Victoria River.

This river (named for Queen Victoria) runs from the northern edge of the Tanami Desert to the coast near the Western Australian-Northern Territory border.

Father Julian obviously enjoyed his trip in 1886 and gives his readers historical and geological background about the river and careful descriptions of all he saw along the way. He describes the river as strangely impressing him, having a beauty of its own and that is high praise considering all the rivers he had travelled in his lifetime.

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World Health Day 2019

World Health Day 2019 – how universal is our health coverage?

How will we build inclusive relationships in the richness of our increasing diversity?  26th General Chapter

World Health Day 2019 falls on Sunday April 7.  The Slogan, Universal Health coverage everyone, everywhere, tends, in the popular imagination, to focus our attention on developing countries that have no health insurance, inadequate vaccination programmes and underdeveloped health systems and facilities.

In contrast Australia has one of the best health systems in the world with universal free health coverage, the option of private insurance, a sophisticated and integrated two tier hospital system, access to scheduled and effective vaccination, world renowned research institutions and an integrated and timely emergency system.   ‘The richness of our increasing diversity’ is evident in a visit to any hospital or health service, yet even a superficial look beneath the surface challenges us to greater inclusivity.

The report on Australia’s health 2018 tells us that compared with 35-member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australia scores in the middle or highest range for most health indicators.  Conversely Australia ranked in the worst third of OECD countries for obesity, and our alcohol consumption is slightly above the OECD average.

Not surprisingly obesity and alcohol consumption as well as other risk factors are highest in people who suffer socioeconomic disadvantage – Australia’s Health 2018 (AIHW).

The 40% of Australians in the lower two socioeconomic quintiles – ten million people – are more prone to behavioural risk factors such as physical inactivity; alcohol consumption and smoking, and the biomedical risks of high cholesterol; high blood pressure and obesity.[1]

A global level socioeconomic position is largely influenced by economic, political, cultural and environmental determinants, educational attainment, income and occupation.  The relationship is two-way—poor health can be both a product of, and contribute to, lower socioeconomic position.  In the microcosm that is Australia the same applies, with identifiable groups tending to fall through the gaps in the health system.  These include those unable or unwilling to access available services because of:

  • Distance – those in rural and remote areas including some indigenous populations
  • The homeless and unemployed; those with mental illness or disability
  • Fear and shame- some cultural norms or personal fears keep people from seeking help
  • Inability to use technology
  • Inadequate education
  • The complexity of the health system and bureaucracy
  • Lack of awareness of what is available because of language barriers, an inability to read or comprehend information
  • Lack of access to information
  • No access to transport
  • Lack of recognition of rights and needs, e.g., asylum seekers and refugees.

So, what is the challenge to us, Sisters, associates, friends and colleagues alike from the 26th General Chapter?  Recently on Facebook Annie Bond rsj posted a quote from Christianity Today.  It read: ‘helping one person may not change the world but it could change the world for one person.’

It is within the scope of many of us to do something for at least one person.   In Ephesians 4; 11 St Paul identified the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers as necessary to equip God’s people for works of service.  In Australia today could we add friends, neighbours, interpreters, readers, drivers, healers, pray-ers and advocates who can help make our health system ‘Universal for everyone, everywhere’ in Australia?

Antoinette Baldwin rsj

Official World Health Day website


Strawberry juice beside fruits on top of table by Element5 Digital obtained on Unsplash.
Person-using-black-blood-pressure-monitor obtained on Pexels. Used with permission.

Why Did Fr Julian Woods Found the Josephites?

Fr Julian Tenison Woods and Mary MacKillop.

In the year 1866 Father Julian Woods, aided by Mary MacKillop, founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Penola, South Australia, for the Catholic Education of children from poor families. [1] But why did this busy priest working in one of the largest mission areas in the colony take this step?

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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.