Honour Father Julian, Care for the Earth

Photo by Markus Spiske

Commemorating Julian Tenison Woods’ anniversary of death (7 October), we examine his vision from our present time and perspective.

In the 1860s, Julian Tenison Woods invited Mary MacKillop to share his vision of a group of women working with children and families in Australia. His vision was born of the country areas he ministered in, of the urgent needs of his time and place.

He could see the immediate need for education, as communities were isolated from the major towns where they might receive it. He saw the need for continuing education in faith, because families were spread in parishes and celebration of Mass was infrequent.

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Let’s Cultivate the Vision of Father Julian Tenison Woods

Photo by Ann Morrison rsj

Julian Tenison Woods was gifted with the ability to see the presence of God in all that surrounded him. His God was embedded not only in human life and the people around him, but in the entire creation.

In a letter he wrote to Mary MacKillop in 1870, he said, “God’s beauty, God’s goodness, God’s fatherly watchful care of me and all nature pursues me everywhere.” 

The very rocks, trees, caves, skies, plants and animals shone with the beauty and unique wonder of God for Julian. So much so that he was able to simply say, “All created things give us ideas and glimpses of the beauty of the infinitely beautiful Creator.” (1881) 

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What Did Julian Tenison Woods Say About Indigenous Australians?

Uluru, Australia. Photo by Neil Morrell.

When the ordained ministry of Julian Tenison Woods began in Penola in 1855 he soon saw the conditions under which the local Aboriginal people lived. What he observed raised concerns that remained with him for the rest of his life. Several times, on his various journeys, he wrote about the Aboriginal people he encountered.

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What Would Fr Julian Say About Climate Change?

What would Fr Julian Tenison Woods have to say about climate change? Sr Josephine Mitchell imagines an interview with the scientist, priest and Josephite co-founder on the “MJ Media Network”…

Interviewer: It is my great pleasure today to welcome to the program, a remarkable man who needs very little introduction, Father Julian Tenison Woods.

A zealous priest, a committed educator and a well-respected scientist, Fr Julian is probably best known as being the co-founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph with Mary MacKillop, established in 1866 for the education of poor children. Thank you for joining us, Fr Julian.

JTW: I am very pleased to be with you.

IV: As a scientist, would you share your views on a matter of deep concern to us today – the climate emergency confronting our world?

JTW: Yes. I have been following the discussion among eminent scientists with great interest and I must say I find the situation deeply concerning.

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The Compassion of Father Woods

Father Julian Tenison Woods.

Perhaps because of the circumstances in which Julian Tenison Woods constantly found himself, he developed throughout his life a deep sense of compassion for those in need of any kind.

Losing his mother at an early age, his long road to priesthood and subsequent rejection by Bishops, his separation from the Sisters and his broken friendship with Mary MacKillop could have made him a rather bitter man.

Yet his own deep sense of God evoked in him a compassion towards those who lived on the edges of the society of the time — whether in remote rural areas, Indigenous peoples, or those who had not had opportunities for education whom he met as Parish Priest in Penola.

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The Two Mothers of Julian Tenison Woods

Grave of Julian Tenison Woods located at Waverley Cemetery NSW.

Julian Tenison Woods had a dream at age six of a heavenly mother. At age 15 he suffered the death of his earthly mother.

These two mothers held a special place in Julian’s life: Mary, whom he described as “my darling, sweet mother”, and Henrietta Marie St Eloy Tenison, his quiet, gentle and kindly mother whose life ended at age 46, in 1847.

The death of his mother was a profound loss for Julian.

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A Fair Go

Julian Tenison Woods, 1866.

The Christian belief is that all people are equal in God’s sight.

The Christian concept of love of neighbour is starkly different from the self-seeking competitiveness we often find in today’s world. Jesus identified with the poor and marginalised people, whereas current society often highlights the rich and powerful for adulation. Jesus advocated for a society of justice, freedom and peace. It was this type of society, this concept of love of neighbour, of fairness and justice, that Julian Tenison Woods lived and promoted.

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St Joseph – Fr Julian’s Example and Guide

In his last circular to the Sisters of Saint Joseph two years before his death, Fr Julian Tenison Woods affectionately reminded the sisters about what was essential for their Josephite lives.

Julian exhorts the sisters to follow the example of their patron, St Joseph.

We are to try to teach [others] by the example of St Joseph, the prince of God’s house and one of the greatest saints who was amongst the poorest of men and completely hidden. With Mary and Jesus he reformed the world, not by talk and display but by virtue and prayer. We are his children and our vocation is to follow in his footsteps and leave the result to God.Julian Tenison Woods, Circular to the Sisters, 4 September 1887

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