Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Eleven

Tasmanian Forests: Their Botany and Economic Value [i] was the title that Father Julian Tenison Woods gave the paper he read at the meeting of the Royal Society of NSW on 5 June 1878.

In the paper Father Julian presented his observations of the forests he found in Tasmania from 1874-1876. He described various types of trees in detail and made comparisons with similar trees in other parts of Australia. He described meticulously the process of harvesting and sawmilling of timber, as well as the uses for which it is gathered. At times it is easy to imagine oneself standing among the stately trees and using all one’s senses to paint a picture of the surroundings.

I am sure this would have been a most interesting subject for Father Julian’s audience in 1878. Among other things, he explains how the locals tell the age of trees and, rather surprisingly, he portrays the life of young girls involved in the timber industry. Every now and then there are elements of humour, such as his descriptions of the inconvenience of ticks and mosquitoes.

Parts of this paper are often quoted by those who see a connection between Father Julian’s concern for the future of Tasmanian forests and the current state of our environment. This paper certainly brings Father Julian’s work and ideas into the 21st century!

Today we live in a visual and digital world. Father Julian Tenison Woods lived in a world of words. His background was journalism and he was a skilled wordsmith. However, no matter the medium, his message is as relevant today as it was in his time. As a Man of Words he has left much for us to ponder about the environment around us.

Carmel Jones rsj

View Tasmanian Forests: Their Botany and Economic Value online here

Download Tasmanian Forests: Their Botany and Economic Value here (PDF)


[i] See: | This article is also available online in booklet form from the National Library of Australia:

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Ten

This month we look at the plan for Catholic Education in South Australia that Father Julian Tenison Woods had the task of implementing when he became the first Director General of Catholic Education in Australia.

In 1867 Bishop Laurence Sheil appointed Father Julian Tenison Woods as his Secretary and asked him to leave Penola and move to Adelaide. Once he was there, together, they devised a comprehensive plan for Catholic Education and communicated this at a public meeting held at St Francis Xavier’s Hall on Friday, 26 April 1867. [i]

Catholic Education was henceforth to be managed by the appointment of:

  • A Director General of Catholic Education, a new position in the diocese, who was to:
    – inspect and report on schools and regulate the mode of instruction to be given
    – submit names to the Bishop for appointment to Local Boards of Management
    – certify the fitness of teachers and their eligibility for appointment by the Central Council
    – visit and examine all the schools of the diocese, or delegate others to visit remote schools
    – report on sites for school buildings
    – approve all plans before they were passed on to the Central Council
    – visit all school buildings and approve them to be licensed as schools by the Central Council
    – be the head of all the details of the department of education in the diocese
    – be appointed by, and only removed by the Bishop


  • A Central Council, consisting of the Vicar General, the Director General, three clerical members and five lay members. The Bishop would be the ex-officio President.
    The duties of the Council were to:
    – frame general regulations for the distribution of money for educational purposes
    – determine the localities in which schools receiving aid would be maintained
    – frame general regulations for the inspection of schools, the examination and classification of teachers
    – determine the course of instruction to be adopted in the schools
    – fix, from time to time, the fees to be charged to parents of school children
    – do everything necessary to carry into effect the intentions of the Bishop to give to the children of the whole of his diocese a good religious training in the doctrines and practices of the Holy Catholic Church, with a sound secular instruction to fit them for their position in life and their social duties to their fellow-colonists in the land of their adoption
    – recommend to the Bishop, for appointment or removal such officers as shall be deemed requisite for carrying out the regulations
    – see that the moneys collected for the purposes of education be properly applied
    – meet monthly
    – appoint a Secretary
    – the Director General would be the Treasurer, but orders for payment would be made by the President, the Treasurer and one lay member of Council.


  • Local Boards of Management for each school, under local pastors. Their role was to:
    – have power over their respective schools as far as visitation and supervision, as well as the admission of poor children; but any alteration in the teachers’ methods of instruction or of the established regulations could only be made with the consent of the Central Council
    – superintend the collection of local funds for educational purposes, these being lodged with their Treasurer, who made payments only on the order of the Director General: the local pastor be the Treasurer and was also to be ex officio the President of every Local Board.
    – meet monthly, and appoint for the ensuing month one of their number to visit the schools with the local pasto
    – visit and examine the school every six months and report to the Central Council on the attendance, religious and secular instruction
    All school property was to be vested in Trustees, appointed by the Bishop and on one Sunday in every year throughout the diocese a sermon in aid of education was to be preached with all moneys derived therefrom were to go into the general fund at the disposal of the Central Council.

Father Julian was excited about this plan for Catholic Education. His appointment as Director General was an acknowledgment of his success—or was it enthusiasm when he witnessed how Mary had set up his school at Penola, because at the time of his appointment, in fact, Mary was the only one wearing a black dress. The Institute was still little more than a pipe dream. As Mary wrote to the Sisters 25 years later:

Little did either of us then dream what was to spring from so small of a beginning. Mary MacKillop – 25 March 1891

Although the implementation of this plan gave Father Julian much power, it also brought him much grief.  There is no doubt that it was ambitious, forward-looking and a source of inspiration for many Directors further along in the history of Catholic Education in Australia.

To read more about the implementation of this 1867 plan click here.

Carmel Jones rsj

[i] For a newspaper report of this meeting go to:

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Nine

130 years ago, on 7 October 1889 Father Julian Tenison Woods died at 561 Elizabeth Street, Sydney.  He was only 56 years old.  This month we provide opportunity to explore some of the articles that appeared in newspapers across Australia at that time.

WOODS – October 7, at his residence, 561 Elizabeth-street, the Very Rev Julian Tenison Woods, in the 57th year of his age and the 33rd of his ordination R I P[i]
A SOLEMN DIRGE and REQUIEM MASS for the REPOSE of the SOUL of the Late Very Rev J E TENISON-WOODS will be celebrated at St Mary’s Cathedral, TO-DAY at 10am.  The funeral cortege will leave the Cathedral for the Waverley Cemetery at 2 pm. [ii] 

These are the simple death and funeral notices that appeared in Sydney newspapers following the death of Father Julian Tenison Woods.  Subsequently, newspapers all over Australia noted his passing and extolled his virtues.

All spoke of him as a good and gentle man, earnest in his duties, well known and highly respected. His contribution to Catholic education and the Sisters of Saint Joseph is noted as is his powerful and eloquent style of preaching and his accomplishments as scholar, linguist, artist, musician and writer. Many list his scientific essays, papers and books and the awards he was given for his research.  The Sydney Mail, the largest Illustrated Weekly Newspaper published in Australasia at the time, even featured a pencil portrait of Father Julian.

One tribute that perhaps sums up his belief in the close connection between science and religion says:

The only reward this patient devotee of Knowledge – this earnest investigator in the arcana of Nature – yearned for was some ever new manifestation of the immanence of God in Nature, and very often, happily, he attained this delightful reward….Such was Julian E Tenison-Woods – a man whose remembrance his friends and the scientific Australasian world generally will not willingly let die, a man whose memory, if young Australia possess any aspirations beyond the development of brawn and the deification of sport, should shine for many a year to come like a fixed firmamental star secure in the esteem and admiration of us all[iii]

Why not peruse the articles listed here and see what you think?

Carmel Jones rsj

[i] The Evening News, Tuesday 8 October, 1889
[ii] The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 9 October, 1889
[iii]Illustrated Sydney News 17 October 1889 page 12

Death of Fr Julian Tenison Woods

Anniversary of the Death of Fr Julian Tenison Woods on 7 October.

It is true God’s ways are not our ways, but if we look closer into it, we see that God is the Way, just as God is the Truth and the Life. [1]

We commemorate the 130th anniversary of the death of Julian Tenison Woods on 7 October. A multi-faceted human being with extraordinary gifts and talents in a variety of fields, his scientific exploration and writings demonstrate his profound appreciation of nature and challenge us to reverence creation. While he was well regarded in the scientific world, he was beset by many personal disappointments and misunderstandings within the church. He was not a saint, but through his suffering, he remained constant in his faith and committed to his priesthood.

We invited Tenison Woods College students in Mount Gambier, SA to produce a video to celebrate this wonderful man – please view at the end of this article.

Father Julian was a renowned missioner who captivated thousands with the eloquence of the inspirational homilies he preached throughout Tasmania, New South Wales, and Queensland. He left his mark in Penola and its outlying regions during his “ten years in the bush,” and the local monuments to his memory demonstrate that he is still remembered there with love.

While Father Julian was in Penola his bishop commanded all his priests to establish Catholic schools in order to protect the children’s faith. After several unsuccessful attempts at getting suitable teachers for his school, he took an extraordinary decision—he would found a new religious order for “the education of Catholic children from poor families.”

Young Mary MacKillop, who was working as a governess in the area, agreed to be its first member. They worked together and soon there were Josephite schools in many parts of South Australia and beyond. This endeavour was marked by numerous difficulties and caused great tensions between Father Julian and the priests of the colony.

These resulted in the excommunication of Mary MacKillop and the dismissal of some sisters from the Congregation. Although an enquiry, initiated by Rome, exonerated Mary and the sisters and acknowledged Julian’s goodness, he was removed as their Director. This action and subsequent disagreement over changes to the Rule caused his estrangement from Mary MacKillop and the centrally-governed Sisters and created deep sadness for all.

After Father Julian’s contact with the centrally-governed sisters ended, he became involved in the formation of the diocesan Josephites at Perthville. He also laid the foundations for the establishment of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Brisbane. Two years before his death, he commented that he was looking forward to a time “when all St Joseph’s children [would] be brought back together again and be what they were in the beginning.”[1] This has been achieved in part in recent years.

At odds with a church which at first embraced him and then distanced itself from him, he died surrounded by a group of loyal women in Sydney. Clothed in the Passionist habit, he was buried from St Mary’s Cathedral on 9 October 1889 with thirty Sisters of St Joseph attending. Members of the scientific community also attended his requiem and later erected over his grave at Waverley Cemetery an impressive monument recognising his life’s achievements. At Mary MacKillop’s instigation, the Sisters of St Joseph built a chapel at North Sydney to honour their Father Founder.

We remember this complex man.

 In triumph and in diminishment, in serenity and in turmoil, in joy and in sorrow, Julian Tenison Woods made his unique contribution to the symphony of life. We, too, are invited by our loving God to live out our motif in this symphony. [3]

Jo Brady rsj

Sr Mary Cresp (a Sister of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart) on behalf of the Julian Tenison Woods Committee, had invited Catholic schools to prepare some kind of project to commemorate the anniversary of Fr Julian’s death.

Students and teachers from Tenison Woods College, Mount Gambier in South Australia, produced a fantastic video to celebrate this wonderful man.

You’re invited to view the video below:

[1] JTW Paraphrase of Letter to Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, 23 October 1885.
[2] Letter JET Woods to Sr Francis McCarthy, August 1887
[3] Symphony of Life: Julian Tenison Woods, Sisters of St Joseph, p. 8

In Footsteps of Founders, Honouring Tim Fischer

Honouring our Founding and remembering Tim Fischer, Boree Creek, Riverina, NSW.

Boree Creek General Store

On Saturday 31 August, on a sudden impulse, we decided to drive from Leeton to nearby Boree Creek for morning tea. With the moving State tribute to Tim Fischer still fresh in our minds, it seemed like a good idea to honour him by going to experience the place he grew up in and loved.

We were thoughtful on the way. Golden canola stretching as far as the horizon. Young wheat too, firm and strong.

Julian would have loved this, besotted as he was with the beautiful, always aware of the Presence of the Creator in the created. A sense rises inside: “We are experiencing his type of amazement!”

As we travel, big black birds wait by the roadside, opportunistically. Cockatoos carpet patches of paddocks and galahs grey-pink their way here and there. Sheep in their creams on the greenest of fields, ‘playing cricket’ it seems. Not bowling or batting, just fielding, focusing mindfully in contentment. And shiny black cattle, all facing the same way, ‘Raising the power’ of our own consciousness in honouring a good man’s life on this bright day, under a denim-blue sky.

Janet Glass, Boree Creek

We find Tim’s primary school with its magpie emblem. The Boree Creek pub is open, because ‘the flag’s up!’ A museum on every wall: images of sheep, horses, cattle, football teams. Some poetry and recipe books on shelves. And posters of Tim. A railway line for a main street. Wheat silos towering over this nearly ghost-town. A colonnade of shops threatening collapse. Signs of former prosperity. And then the shock: This pub’s “For sale’.  A cry inside, “Don’t let it all die.”

And, for the Church in these parts: Small places of worship for different persuasions dot settlements along the way. Often empty now. Signs of zest from former times. Unsureness for the future. In Boree Creek a uniquely round ‘shared Church.’ A cry inside: “Don’t let it die. Please don’t let it all die!”

We greet a rusty wayfarer and his dog, a piece of bush art deep in thought, it seems. We know we are in territory that first inspired our founding and remember Mother Mary’s words of experience, “We are but travellers Here.” Janet says, “She’d have loved this place.” A sense inside: “Let’s not forget!”

Virginia Bourke, Boree Creek

And so, for you, Tim Fischer! Hey ‘True Blue’, You in the broad-brimmed hat! ‘Nasho’ and ‘Nat’, Vietnam Vet, farmer, lover of the land, faithful family man,  Finding what’s ‘right’ midst competing loyalties. ‘Holy Roman’, Ambassador minding our Mary before her Canonisation, Papal Knight, the day before you died.

A Jesus-man, upturning expectations, disregarding mockers. A humble person whose truth and goodness still shine.  One who could enjoy fun enthusiastically, and play with trains, and love them, And know their timetables “by heart.” A cry inside, “Please don’t let his type of goodness die!”

After a coffee in the empty pub we drove to Lockhart. We visited a couple of Op Shops. Every township has several. Jan finds some garments for a song, and Virginia an Australian poetry book and a pair of as-new sneakers for $5. Then we have a bite and come home, feeling blessed in the experience.

Srs Janet Glass and Virginia Bourke rsj. [Leeton, NSW]

Photos taken by Janet Glass and Virginia Bourke rsj. Used with permission.

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Eight

Despite all his other commitments, Father Julian Tenison Woods wanted people in the Catholic community to be aware of what was concerning and influencing the Catholic Church in the 1860s. This month we explore his role as editor of the first Catholic journal in South Australia.

In the 21st century there are multiple ways for Australian Catholics to find out what is affecting the Church throughout our country and world. This was not the case in South Australia in the latter part of the 19th century. Father Julian Tenison Woods was convinced that Catholics needed to be aware of happenings relevant to the Church in Europe as well as locally. Despite all his other commitments, he and local Vicar General, Father Patrick Russell produced a newspaper that provided much-needed communication in a way that seems to have been respected by both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

On 20 September 1869, the first edition of The Southern Cross and Catholic Herald was published, with Father Woods as editor.

In his first editorial, Father Woods wrote:

This first number of ‘The Southern Cross’ is the only attempt ever made by the Catholics of South Australia to have a little journal of their own. The want of such an organ has been felt for a long time—but two things impeded the attempt. It was doubted on the one hand whether our Catholic population was sufficient to support such an undertaking, and there did not seem on the other hand to be much chance of getting a good permanent staff of contributors. These doubts have now vanished, and the work is begun… First of all, it is not a political venture. As Catholics we have no political interests which differ from the rest of the community. Peace, order and the religious well-being of society is what we desire. The laws of the colony, with one exception, do not affect us more than any others. We live in a delightful harmony as far as not interfering with others, and we shall never ask a higher privilege than to be let alone. … It is true that we shall always protest against our present Education Act and we should feel justified in opposing any similar legislation by which our conscientious tenets are infringed upon; but, though we are no small proportion of the population, we can do no more than protest against such a measure, and, by reasoning, try to influence the sense of justice and equity which we know our fellow colonists have at heart. This is the only political action we are likely to take. [i]Fr Julian Tenison Woods

As the Catholics of the colony increased in numbers and influence, the need for a more regular paper became apparent. A new weekly publication, the Irish Harp and Farmers Herald, began in opposition to the Southern Cross which then folded. Subsequently, Father Woods took on publishing a penny monthly paper called the Chaplet, to promote devotions and pious practices. This ceased publication when he left the colony.

It is interesting to read the history of these early Catholic Papers in South Australia. The Irish Harp survived until 1875, only to be followed by The South Australian Tablet which survived for less than two years. Then came the Catholic Monthly which suffered a similar fate, and finally The Catholic Record which lasted from about 1881 until mid-1889 when several leading Catholics, including the Hon. J.V. O’Loghlin, undertook to resurrect the Southern Cross.

Articles about the history of the Southern Cross make fascinating reading e.g. those that mark 25[ii], 40[iii] and 60[iv] years of publication. Examples of the content of early editions can also be found. [v]

The following quote shows how Father Woods used his role as newspaper editor to further his ministry among the people of South Australia:

A man of many parts was Father Woods, as these old papers show, the champion of the poor, the helpless and oppressed; a scientist of repute, his scholarly lectures were freely given in the cause of charity, and a poet of no mean achievement, as the “Poets’ Corners” of the old papers bear testimony. Many devotional verses appear there above his initials… [vi]

It leaves me wondering how he would use digital technologies for consciousness raising and meaningful communication if he were with us today.

Carmel Jones rsj


[i] Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1954), Friday 8 July, 1949 page 8
[ii] Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1954), Friday 3 July 1914, page 10
[iii] Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1954), Friday 9 August 1929, page 10
[iv] Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1954), Friday 8 July, 1949 page 8
[v] Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1954), Friday 2 April 1926, page 19 Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 – 1912), Monday 28 June 1869, page 3 The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 – 1922) Mon 29 May 1871, page 3
[vi] Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1954), Friday 2 April 1926, page 19

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Seven

Have you ever been into a large underground cave? This month Father Julian invites us to share his experience of exploring the caves of Mosquito Plains, near Naracoorte, South Australia in 1857.

Of all the natural curiosities a country can possess, none tend so much to render it famous as the existence of large caves. There is such an air of mystery in the idea of long subterraneous passages and gloomy passages shut out from light and life; so little is known of their origin, and they are generally accompanied with such beautiful embellishments of nature, that one is never tired of seeing them or of hearing the description of those that cannot be visited.Father Julian Tenison Woods

These are the opening words of an article written by Father Julian Tenison Woods and published in the South Australian Register in 1858. [i] Subsequently this article was published in full by the Perth Gazette [ii] and The Argus. [iii] Other newspapers published the first half of the article [iv] and omitted the description of the fossil bones that he found in these caves. This article then formed part of a chapter in his book Geological Observations in South Australia: Principally in the District South-East of Adelaide.[v]

Father Julian’s words came alive for me during a visit to the Blanche Cave at Naracoorte. Here I was able to give context to quotations often cited with reference to Father Julian’s awareness of God in the creation around him and which are contained in the final section of his article, for example:

…man, pausing in his vain endeavour to stretch his mind to the capacity of that which has no bounds, is obliged to rest himself from the thought of the infinite, and confess that whether he searches in earth, or sky, or sea, he is everywhere met by the vision of the Illimitable.Father Julian Tenison Woods

Today Father Julian’s words remain a reference for those who continue to uncover the secrets of the caves. [vi]

Carmel Jones rsj

This month we present The Caves at Mosquito Plains (from the South Australian Register):

View ‘The Caves at Mosquito Plains’ here (PDF)


[i] South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA:1839-1900), Monday 29 March 1858, page 3 obtained from
[iv] E.g.,,
[v] Woods, J.E.T. Geological observations in South Australia: principally in the district south-east of Adelaide, London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green, 1862
[vi]  Follow these links for some very interesting articles on the Naracoorte Caves: and
Reed, Elizabeth & Bourne, Steven. (2013). ‘OLD’ CAVE, NEW STORIES: THE INTERPRETATIVE EVOLUTION of BLANCHE CAVE, NARACOORTE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA. Journal of the Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association.

A Communion of Companions

Mary and the men on the founding Monogram: A communion of companions.

In May this year, Sr Marie Foale wrote on the founding Josephite Rule written by Fr Julian Tenison Woods in October 1867 (First steps towards the Foundation of the Order). This Rule, lived by Mother Mary and her early companions, was signed by Bishop Shiel and approved for use in his Diocese of Adelaide on 17 December, 1868.

The following segment from Chapter Three of the Rule not only instructs sisters on the distinctive monogram to be worn on their habit, but it also holds the key to a spirituality of ‘companionship’ that Julian was keen to promote with Mary amongst the early sisters.

The professed sisters shall wear upon their hearts a large monogram of the Blessed Virgin [‘A’ without the crossbar + ‘M’, for ‘Ave Maria’] between three letters ‘J’ in honour of Jesus, Joseph and John the Baptist, thus, typifying the Holy Family.

The inclusion of John the Baptist in the Holy [extended] Family is probably stranger for us today than it would have been in the culture of Catholic Western Europe where there was a well-established tradition of devotion to John. Art by Leonardo da Vinci [1452-1519] and Bartolomé Murillo [1618-1682] and others depict Jesus and John as companionable children growing up together. The tender vein of that art possibly helped Julian intuit the significance ‘companionship’ could be amongst young colonial women in a brand-new venture within Religious Life in a new world.

The Rule shows the influence of various aspects of European spirituality that had inspired Julian in his personal journey. His devotion to the Holy Family draws on what he experienced amongst the Passionists in England [from 1850] and the Marist Fathers in France [in 1853]. Both honoured the Holy Family, as did the Josephites of Le Puy in France, whose homely lives amongst ordinary people impressed him so much when he encountered them. Then when concluding his training for the priesthood amongst the Jesuits in Sevenhill, SA, [across 1856-7], Julian would have become aware of the importance St Ignatius placed on ‘companionship’ with Jesus…

Continue reading the article here:

Mary and the men on the founding Monogram: A communion of companions (PDF)

Virginia Bourke rsj