Julian Tenison Woods: A Life – Chapters 27th to 35th

Chapters 27th to 35th

There was great joy among the Sisters in Brisbane when, on 5th January [1872] their dear Father Founder arrived; yet they were saddened by his worn and haggard appearance.….The following day, he began a retreat for the Sisters, which occupied five days….[1]

The Holy See commissioned two prelates to enquire into the controversies that had arisen [in Adelaide.…It now became necessary for Father Woods to return to Adelaide and he left Sydney on the 8th of June … after an absence of eleven months… [2]

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Julian Tenison Woods: A Life – Chapters 24th, 25th & 26th

Chapters 24th, 25th & 26th

Father Woods wrote to Sister Mary:

Bathurst 19.8.71

Here I am arrived at Bathurst, after a very tiresome journey… The Bishop is most kind, too kind in fact, and has a fine lot of work for me to do…[i]

The correspondent of the Freeman’s Journal says:

…On Friday evening, a most instructive and entertaining lecture was delivered by Father Woods, in aid of the funds of the Reading Room and Circulating Library; and in every sense of the word, it was a brilliant success, both as regards the treatment of the subject, the attendance at the lecture and the financial results.  The Bishop briefly introduced Father Woods as a scholar of more than ordinary geographical acquirements, and a writer on Australian subjects, particularly in connexion with its early history and explorations second to none that has made this particular branch of knowledge the theme of his descriptive powers.  The eloquent eulogium thus prefacing the lecturer’s debut was fully substantiated by the delivery of the lecture itself.

[This notice was] copied into the Irish Harp in Adelaide; and the same issue of the paper, under the heading of ‘Clerical Changes’ announced that the charge of North Adelaide had been transferred from the Rev J.E. T. Woods to another priest.  Another item of news was that the Superioress of St Joseph’s Convent had been excommunicated by the Bishop!  On Father Woods’ return to Sydney, this extraordinary news awaiting him. [ii]

In the Freeman’s Journal of 14th October, there is an article referring to Father Woods’ efforts in behalf of Catholic Education.  The same paper gives a report of the ‘Instructive Lecture delivered’ by him.  It must have been hard to attend to these duties under the circumstances [iii]

The Archbishop, seeing how much his visitor was suffering in mind and body, sent him to Subiaco, forbidding him to interfere in any way with the Adelaide affairs. [iv]

[The Archbishop wrote] … there is plenty to be done in and about Sydney… My opinion is that as soon as you can begin the good work the better.  In alleviating the spiritual miseries of others, your own little troubles will pass away. [v]

The 8th December was spent as he had anticipated in Wollongong… He spent part of the day writing to the Sisters, encouraging them to patience under their trials, which it cannot be denied  were bitter, the continual topic of newspaper criticism, pulpit and conversation….

The articles, telegrams, speeches and conversations on the subject would fill a little volume. How inexpressibly painful it must have been to the tender heart of that singularly gentle and charitable man to read such things, and to know that he was powerless to aid those whom it had been his pleasing duty to assist in every possible way…[vi]

All this time no letter had come from Dr Sheil in answer to those Father Woods had written. One had been received from the Bishop of Bathurst saying that he ‘will give schools immediately to some of the Sisters of St Joseph…but come at once and we will arrange this and other matters.’[vii]

The newspapers continued the comments on the Adelaide affairs.  One informed the public that, as the Sisters had no home at present, ‘Mr Emmanuel Solomon has generously given them a comfortable residence, rent free,’ adding ‘It must be a gratifying reflection to the R. C. Bishop of Adelaide, and a source of the most exalted pride to the Catholics themselves to know that Catholic nuns are now indebted for shelter to the unsolicited benevolence of a Jew.’… These notices were so painful to one ‘who remembered the glories and joys that had been’, and affected him so much that his friends endeavoured to prevent him receiving any papers…[viii]

Dr Quinn received him most kindly at Bathurst, and arranged to take as many of the Sisters as could go to him; and he advised Father Woods – no letter having come from his own Bishop – to go to Brisbane where other Sisters could be sent, the Institute being already established there.  It should be remembered that the Bishops of Bathurst and Brisbane were brothers.   Father Woods acted on this advice… Before leaving, he wrote to Adelaide, asking the Sisters to accept the invitation, arranging about some money matters, and ending thus:

How good God is.  Depend upon it, these trials will open to us a great field.  I don’t doubt that I shall soon be back in South Australia.  I am advised to remain until imperatively ordered back.
But after all, my only trust is in God, and I know our deliverance will come from Him. [ix]


This extract is taken from:

Chapters 24th, 25th & 26th of Julian Tenison Woods: A Life has been used with the kind permission of the Trustees of the Sisters of Saint Joseph 1997 and the publishers, St Paul’s Publications.

If you would like to read the full text, including an informative Introduction, footnotes and an index, this book is available online and from some Mary MacKillop Centres.

For locations and contact details visit the Josephite Books webpage.

Carmel Jones rsj



[i] Chapter 24th, p. 155
[ii] Chapter 24th, p. 159
[iii] Chapter 24th, p. 161
[iv] Chapter 25th, p. 165
[v] Chapter 25th, p. 169
[vi] Chapter 26th, p. 175
[vii] Chapter 26th, p. 177
[viii] Chapter 26th, p. 178
[ix] Chapter 26th, p. 179

Birth of Fr Julian Tenison Woods

From Southwark, England to Southport, Tasmania.

On 15 November 1832 in Southwark, England, Henrietta St Eloy Tenison, wife of James Dominick Woods, gave birth to a son, Julian Edmund Tenison Woods.

As in any family the birth of a child is received with great joy and perhaps even wonder at what this child might do with his God given life.

In the decade of the 1830’s the world saw a rise of imperialism and colonialism. Britain saw a surge of power and world dominance. New settlements commenced in 1803 and flourished in Australia. Tasmania’s early history tells of crime, punishment, hardship and survival in some of the harshest, yet most beautiful places on earth. Between 1803 and 1853 approximately 75,000 men, women and children from British and Irish ports were transported to Van Dieman’s Land.

To these people Van Dieman’s Land was the end of the world. The British Government saw it as an ideal place for its most notorious penal colonies. Many penal sites quickly spread throughout the island. It is today difficult to imagine such scenic locations being the site of such hardship and often unjust treatment.

In 1854 Bishop Willson from Van Dieman’s Land, while visiting England, was introduced to Julian who had made several previous attempts at becoming a priest, all of which until now had failed. Bishop Willson suggested that Julian might accompany him back to Hobart Town and be ordained there.

Julian and the newly ordained Father John Fitzpatrick, originally from Tasmania, were listed as Assistant Prison Chaplains for the journey to Tasmania. On arrival in Hobart Town, 1855, Julian worked as chaplain to convicts for a few short months.

On leaving Tasmania Julian spent some time in Melbourne with his brother Edward before moving on to Adelaide where he eventually was ordained a priest. The parish of Penola in South Australia to which Julian was sent covered a huge rural district. Julian saw the needs of his parishioners and the great need of education for their children.

In 1866 Julian with Mary MacKillop founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph to fulfill his dream of education for these poor rural people. In 1874 Fr Julian returned to Tasmania where he made a huge impact preaching missions all over the island. His influence resulted in many young women joining the Sisters of Saint Joseph on the mainland. Two significant Tasmanian entrants to religious life were La Merci Mahoney who became first assistant to Mary MacKillop and Stanislaus Gaffney who became the founders of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

The influence Father Julian had on the Tasmanian Church was substantial. He wrote to Mary MacKillop in 1869 saying:

There is no diocese, however, which wants Sisters so badly as that of Tasmania. I am to see the Bishop of that place today or tomorrow on the subject and whatever I would send Sisters there if I am asked.

It was not however until 1887 that the first Sisters of Saint Joseph arrived in Westbury, Tasmania.

Today Julian Edmund Tenison Woods’ mission-mindedness lives on in the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the Josephites Companions. On his birthday, 15 November, we remember with gratitude the influence he had and continues to have on what he called ‘St Joseph’s Isle’ and pray that he continue to influence our lives as we ‘bring what we have’ to our ministry in his footsteps.

Joan Cowmeadow rsj

Julian Tenison Woods: A Life – Chapters 21st, 22nd & 23rd

Chapters 21st, 22nd and 23rd

This year [1870] the schools were not so successful and complaints were many.[i] About this time Father Woods had a sudden attack of illness. The Doctor recommended absolute quiet and rest. But it was not easy to follow this prescription.[ii]

The death of Father Smyth [Vicar General] withdrew a powerful protection from the tantalized Director of Catholic Education.[iii] The Archbishop – there was only one in Australia then – appointed Archdeacon Russell Vicar General, until the will of Dr Sheil could be known. Seeing the debts and difficulties, the acting Vicar forbade Father Woods going on with the improvements at the convent building, tenders for which were already advertised. He also in his official capacity held an investigation at the convent into a mysterious occurrence which had happened there some months before. This was an unspeakably painful matter to all concerned.[iv]  The investigation, though most searching, discovered nothing.[v]

In December [Father Woods wrote] ‘Priests and people seem dead against us, and the most severe things are said’.[vi]

On Thursday 2nd February 1871 the Right Rev Dr Sheil, Lord Bishop of Adelaide [returned to Adelaide]…The Bishop made some changes in the diocese, placing Father Woods in North Adelaide. But the anxiety, the overwork, the many duties which he imposed on himself … proved too great a strain.  His health failed; indeed, some of his friends feared his reason would give way. A change of scene and labour was desirable.[vii]

On 18th May His Lordship found Father Woods very ill and gave him permission to go as soon as possible for a change to the College at Sevenhill. While he was at the College, Bishop Quinn of Bathurst paid a visit there. Dr Quinn invited Father Woods to go to Bathurst in August, and also requested Sisters for Wentworth and Bourke. The Bishop of Adelaide giving permission, Father Woods consented.

Though his stay at Sevenhill benefited his health, the poor priest had too many anxieties to allow him much enjoyment. Money which he had borrowed from the Bank was overdue, and he hurried back to town to face the trouble.[viii]

Dr Sheil sailed for Melbourne. Leaving the boat at MacDonnell Bay, he paid a visit to Mount Gambier, and then went on to Melbourne, en route for Ballarat where he was to preach at the opening of the Cathedral, which he had commenced.

Father Woods, being unable to settle his difficulties, went on with his usual work until the last day of July, when he preached the panegyric of St Ignatius in the Jesuit church at Norwood.[ix]

Within a few days, he received instructions to proceed to Victoria where the Bishop then was. This had already been arranged, as the Bishop of Bathurst expected Father Woods in his diocese, and on his way there he could call at Ballarat.

Yet, as he hastened to obey, he could not shake off the feeling that trouble was at hand.[x]


This extract is taken from:

Chapters 21st, 22nd & 23rd of Julian Tenison Woods: A Life has been used with the kind permission of the Trustees of the Sisters of Saint Joseph 1997 and the publishers, St Paul’s Publications.

If you would like to read the full text, including an informative Introduction, footnotes and an index, this book is available online and from some Mary MacKillop Centres.

For locations and contact details visit the Josephite Books webpage.

Carmel Jones rsj


[i] Chapter 21st, p. 136
[ii] Chapter 21st, p. 137
[iii] Chapter 21st, p. 139
[iv] Chapter 22nd, p. 143
[v] Chapter 22nd, p. 145
[vi] Chapter 22nd, p. 147
[vii] Chapter 23rd, p. 151
[viii] Chapter 23rd, p. 152
[ix] Chapter 23rd, p. 153
[x] Chapter 23rd, p. 154


Julian Tenison Woods: A Life – Chapters 19th and 20th

Chapters 19th and 20th

Mary MacKillop, 1871

On Friday, 4th December, the Bishop arrived from Europe, bringing some priests and a community of Dominican Nuns, who would take up the higher education.

The Inspector intended the new Institute of St Joseph for parochial schools, and schools for the children of the poorer classes who were often neglected in small country places…[i]

When the priest arrived in these far-off places, his time was generally limited: he could not wait to instruct the young …[ii]

Father Woods had ten years’ experience of this difficulty before he became Director of Catholic Education. He knew it did not require very highly cultured people to impart the simple instruction needed – a plain homely education would be sufficient. Therefore, he decided to receive into the convent many who were not qualified to teach high classes, but who could certainly instruct little children in the rudiments of their religion…[iii]

Besides, what great services these good women could render to the orphans or the inmates of the Refuge – for the rule adopted by the Sisters expressly said that they must ‘Do all the good they can, and never see an evil without trying how they might remedy it.’

A book of rules and instructions, with prayers and devotions for the use of the Sisters, had been prepared; and now, with the approbation of the Bishop, was published.

A great deal had been done by the Founder, aided by the first Sisters, to arrange for perfect uniformity in the schools and branch houses…[iv]

Tuesday, Feast of the Immaculate Conception was a First Communion day for St Joseph’s children. Consequently there were 300 girls in white veils and about 40 boys in surplices….[v]

His Lordship said,

The untiring zeal and self-devotion of the Very Rev. Father Woods have relieved me from all anxiety of providing for the Catholic education of the humbler classers, dearer still to me, and more demanding my pastoral solicitude, because of their present and future positions in society. Amongst the co-operators in the grand sublime work committed to my charge, there is a department which most emphatically demands my most pleasing and grateful recognition and your deep appreciation – I mean the Sisters of St Joseph…[vi]

[Father Woods] arranged for a retreat to be given to the Sisters, who now numbered forty. The convent being too small for so many, a house in Rosetta Terrace was kindly lent for the purpose by the Hon. E. Solomon. The kindness shown by the Jewish community has been remarkable, but then, St Joseph was a Jew…[vii]

Father Julian Tenison Woods

Arrangements were made by the Bishops to hold a Synod of the Catholic Church in Australia the second week after Easter…[viii] Father Woods met the Bishop of Brisbane at the Synod…[ix] Early in September, a letter arrived from Dr Quinn, who was on the eve of his departure for Rome, requesting the Sisters to go to Brisbane where a school was ready for them…[x]

On 8th December, four Sisters left for Brisbane, accompanied by Sister Mary, who was to establish the new community and return to Adelaide. Father Woods was expected to go to Brisbane according to the invitation of Dr Quinn, but he delayed his visit till long afterwards.  Had he gone then, much sorrow and suffering might have been spared him.  By remaining in Adelaide, where he considered his duty obliged him to remain, with the best intentions, everything seemed to go wrong.

An old and sincere friend, speaking of the troubles which beset him in the management of the schools and other charitable works, said the Founder was ‘[t]oo innocent; too much of the dove and too little of the serpent in his composition.’  He could not believe that people with a fair appearance of piety were hypocrites.  Unless he saw the evil done under his own eyes, he could not believe any wrong of those whom he trusted…[xi]

And thus the storm gathered.[xii]


This extract is taken from:

Chapters 19th and 20th of Julian Tenison Woods: A Life has been used with the kind permission of the Trustees of the Sisters of Saint Joseph 1997 and the publishers, St Paul’s Publications.

If you would like to read the full text, including an informative Introduction, footnotes and an index, this book is available online and from some Mary MacKillop Centres.

For locations and contact details visit the Josephite Books webpage.

Carmel Jones rsj


[i] Chapter 19th, p. 121
[ii] Chapter 19th, p. 121
[iii] Chapter 19th, p. 121
[iv] Chapter 19th, p. 122
[v] Chapter 19th, p. 122
[vi] Chapter 19th, p. 122
[vii] Chapter 19th, p. 124
[viii] Chapter 20th, p. 126
[ix] Chapter 20th, p. 129
[x] Chapter 20th, p. 129
[xi] Chapter 20th, p. 130
[xii] Chapter 20th, p. 130

Julian Tenison Woods: A Life – Chapters 16th, 17th and 18th

Chapters 16th, 17th and 18th

Mary MacKillop, 1871

In addition to [Father Woods’] duties as Secretary to the Bishop, Director General of Catholic Education (a regular system of which he was expected to organise) and Inspector of Schools, he had to take charge of Port Adelaide, eight miles from the city, until another priest could be had. Dr Sheil was to go to Europe immediately after Easter, and the whole of the education arrangements were left to the new Director General…[i]

Dr Sheil left for Rome on 29th April and Father Woods worked on alone at his school plans. Nothing baffled him – troubles and difficulties he said were ‘a sign that God blesses our work, and please Him, we will prosper too.’…[ii]

He had drawn up School Regulations for the use of the diocese and was considering the advisability of bringing two of the four Sisters (who were teaching in the South East under his supervision) to Adelaide. Once established in the city, they (being already experienced teachers) could train others: so he determined to wait no longer…[iii]

Sister Mary and her companion arrived at Port Adelaide on Sunday 23rd June. Father Woods met them and accompanied them to the city by the evening train.  They took up their residence in the cottage provided for them by Miss McMullen who remained with them as a postulant. The Cathedral school was opened on the Feast of the Visitation, 2nd July, attended by sixty children…And now the work was fairly begun…[iv]

At the Examination six months after, there were 200 pupils present…[v]

Father Julian Tenison Woods

On the Feast of the Assumption (15th August), Sister Mary made her Profession and two postulants, one being Miss McMullen, received the Habit, the first ceremony of the kind that ever took place in Adelaide…[vi]

It might interest the reader to see the round of duties he attended to in the course of the year, as taken from the Southern Cross of 1867 and 1868. This paper came into existence a short time after Father Woods had taken up his residence in Adelaide… Father Woods contributed largely to it… his former connexion with the press being serviceable.

The first number appeared on 20th September, announcing itself as ‘[t]he only attempt ever made by the Catholics of South Australia to have a little journal of their own’…[vii]

This one year will suffice to show the devotedness with which the earnest worker carried out his design.[viii]


This extract is taken from:

Chapters 16th, 17th and 18th of Julian Tenison Woods: A Life has been used with the kind permission of the Trustees of the Sisters of Saint Joseph 1997 and the publishers, St Paul’s Publications.

If you would like to read the full text, including an informative Introduction, footnotes and an index, this book is available online and from some Mary MacKillop Centres.

For locations and contact details visit the Josephite Books webpage.

Carmel Jones rsj


[i] Chapter 16th, p. 86
[ii] Chapter 16th, p. 86
[iii] Chapter 16th, p. 87
[iv] Chapter 16th, p. 92
[v] Chapter 16th, p. 92
[vi] Chapter 16th, p. 93
[vii] Chapter 17th, p. 94
Note: Chapters 17 and 18 refer to the events that made up a year in the life of Father Woods as compiled by Mary MacKillop from the Southern Cross journals of 1867 and 1868 – including opening new schools, attending Board meetings, giving lectures, celebrating Masses and Funerals, preaching sermons, establishing orphanages, refuges, temperance guilds and a Catholic Book Depot, writing textbooks for Geography and Grammar and arranging Examinations.  The number and variety of events and activities make very interesting reading.
[viii] Chapter 18th, p. 120

Laudato Si’ Webinar: Part Five

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.

It is striking that many of the issues raised in Laudato Si’ find a parallel in the writings of Julian Tenison Woods. We can be proud of the fact that Julian Woods, as co-founder with Mary MacKillop, injected into the foundations of the Sisters of Saint Joseph a sense of the integration of spirituality and nature and set an example of science being a means of relationship with God. We remember, however, that he lived in a different time from us, and no-one is suggesting that his perceptions of creation and his world are the same as those of Pope Francis. But like a thread that runs through the whole garment, Julian’s words do illustrate his insights into a constant theme that can be traced from the Gospels to our era, and they, like those of Laudato Si’, can help us recognise these teachings as foundational to our faith.

In this five-part webinar, Sr Mary Cresp explores some of the parallels between the work of Pope Francis and Julian Tenison Woods. Sr Colleen Keeble assists her in the presentation.

You’re invited to watch the fifth and last part of the webinar below:



View all the webinar videos here

So Small a Beginning: Part 5

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.

You’re invited to watch the fifth and final part of Sr Marie’s conference speech, ‘So Small a Beginning’ below…

Part 5

Click here to view Part 1

Click here to view Part 2

Click here to view Part 3

Click here to view Part 4