Ill health, travel, negative media reports, lack of support and apparent failure can all have an adverse effect on our wellbeing. Julian Tenison Woods was subject to all these.
Family history suggests he may have suffered a form of hereditary immune deficiency. He travelled extensively, was the subject of gossip and innuendo, appeared sensitive to real and imagined slights, and tried unsuccessfully to join several religious congregations. All this was more than enough to threaten his sense of wellbeing. So how did he remain so motivated, productive, and connected throughout most of his life?
Each year we recall Julian Tenison Woods on the 7 October anniversary of his death and laud his talents and deep spirituality. While Mary and the early sisters didn’t readily express their attachment to Julian’s eco-spirituality in writing, I am certain that his vision brushed off on them and that they shared his wonder at God’s creation.
We read that, “Mary took a broad view of his activities, not restricting her interests to his spiritual ministry. Her selection of quotations from his writings reveals not only his fine literary style and the variety of his interests, but also her own eye for colourful detail and the natural works of creation.”  Mary, like Julian, enjoyed the outdoors and was a fine horse rider.
To celebrate the 7 October anniversary of the death of Fr Julian Tenison Woods, co-founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, this year we have done something special.
Fr Julian was a man of many talents: an environmentalist, scientist, priest, explorer, campaigner for social justice and the rights of Indigenous people, among many others.
To introduce Fr Julian to the next generation, we have produced the attached resources for children and adults.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.