Julian Tenison Woods on Transcendent Evolution by Supernatural Selection

Statue Mary the Mother of God – part of the monument at Father Julian Tenison Woods grave at Waverley Cemetery, NSW.

Father Julian Tenison Woods’ deep spiritual devotion to Mary and his profound connection to God through the natural world, were not mere facets of his life; they were sources of his vitality and inspiration.

Nature (or ‘Mother Nature’), like Mary the Mother of God, is a (‘sacramental’) sign of God’s grace which allows God’s presence to flow into us. Fr Julian found solace and revelation in both Mary’s maternal embrace and the nurturing beauty of nature. His life’s work in the natural sciences was more than an academic pursuit; it was a testament to the belief that all of creation offers glimpses of the infinite beauty of its Creator. Fr Julian’s reverence for Mary and for nature’s Creator breathed life into his very being, his ‘soul’, allowing him to provide his spiritual children insight into the interconnectedness of faith, science, and the world around us.

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A Letter from Father Julian Tenison Woods

Woods the Musician by Lon Schrek.

To mark the birth of Father Julian Tenison Woods on 15 November 1832, Sr Carmel Jones imagines a letter written by Fr Julian on his birthday…

As I sit here today on my birthday, pen in hand, I am drawn to reflect back on my life and thank God for the many graces with which I have been blessed.

I am certainly grateful for my parents, James and Henrietta, who gave me the gift of life, and for the many and varied experiences that came with growing up with my family in England. I was blessed to be able to follow my deep desire for priesthood which led me from London to France and then to Australia. I am also grateful for the way my life was so enriched by my love of science and the environment.

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Father Julian: Man of Many Virtues

Julian Tenison Woods and Mary MacKillop mural located at Mary MacKillop Memorial School, Penola SA.

“Jesus wept!” This simple verse speaks volumes of the inner life of Christ. The effects on those around were not lost – “See how he loved [Lazarus],” they said (John 11:35). Soon after the death of Father Julian Tenison Woods on 7 October 1889, Mary MacKillop, on behalf of Mother Bernard, Mother General, wrote to the sisters, referring to ‘the gentle spirit of our Father Founder’:

… try to honour his memory by imitating his virtues. Mary MacKillop, Letter to the Sisters, 28.10.1889

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Celebrating the Life of Julian Tenison Woods

On 7 October, the Sisters of Saint Joseph celebrate the life of Julian Tenison Woods, our Father Founder.  Mary MacKillop wrote to the Sisters on the occasion of his death:

I ask you, my dearest Sisters, one and all – those who knew him personally and those who have only heard of him – to remember that he dearly loved the Institute and that he wished to see the Sisters humble and full of charity towards each other.
Mary MacKillop to the Sisters, 28.10.1889

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Julian Tenison Woods – A Reflection

Each year as the anniversary of the death of Julian Tenison Woods approaches (7 October), time can profitably be spent reflecting on various aspects of his life and spirituality, particularly in regard to how this can be relevant today.

In the lead up to the coming referendum in Australia, some of Julian’s writing on Aboriginal Australians seems particularly relevant. Below are some excerpts from his writing, presented with an invitation to spend time relating his thoughts to the upcoming referendum question.

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A Visit with Father Julian Tenison Woods

With Fr Julian Tenison Woods’ anniversary of death on 7 October, I am drawn to reflect on a visit I made to his grave at Waverley Cemetery [1] earlier this year.

Perhaps it was because the weather was so good that day that I followed a sudden impulse to travel across Sydney by train and bus with only my phone as a guide. When I entered the gates of the cemetery, I was amazed to see so many headstones spread out across the hillside below me. The further I walked the more I felt enfolded by so many stories from the past.

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The Wonders of Nature in Australia

Blue Lake Mt Gambier SA, Michele Lunam, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Father Julian Tenison Woods experienced financial insecurity at first-hand. To supplement his meagre income he submitted articles, letters and essays to Australian newspapers. His topics were based on his travels and observations.

The Wonders of Nature in Australia is a series of 10 such letters published in the Saturday editions of Sydney Mail and the New South Wales Advertiser during 1879. As a skilled raconteur and journalist, Fr Julian wrote with the intention of providing his dear readers with accurate descriptions supported by instructive and interesting explanations.

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The Traveller

Julian Tenison Woods Riding by Night, Oil on Clay, Marea Cox, Josephite Mission and History Centre Tenison Collection. Photograph: Daniel de la Motte.

Daniel de la Motte shares a narrative meditation inspired by Father Julian Tenison Woods, adapted from a formational prayer he wrote for the students of the Tenison House of MacKillop Catholic College, Mornington, Tasmania.

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