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

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Six

Father Julian Tenison Woods wrote many articles on scientific subjects.

This month I present an example of the detailed research and time that must have gone into his writing: Palaeontology of New Zealand Part 4, Corals and Bryozoa of the Neozoic period in New Zealand. [i]

This is not a paper that I expect too many people may read in its entirety. Indeed it may not be a subject of interest to too many. It is, however, a valuable insight into the scientific mind of Father Julian and, I hope, may lead the reader into finding other articles of more personal relevance. It certainly shows Father Julian’s ability to apply his observations to areas unfamiliar to his experience.

Father Julian was regularly commissioned to write papers for Government and scientific departments, both within Australia and overseas. In this way he was able to earn an income.

This particular paper is written in response to a request in 1880 from Dr Hector, Director of the Geological Survey of New Zealand, that Father Julian examine the collection of Tertiary corals and bryozoa exhibited in the New Zealand Court of the Sydney International Exhibition. Each specimen is described and illustrated in detail. There are four pages of illustrations at the end of the article. Copies of the book are available in libraries and online.

It is interesting to note the qualifications of the author at the beginning of the article. Though these are many, he is always referred to by his priestly title first – Reverend.

Carmel Jones rsj

This month we present Palaeontology of New Zealand Part 4, Corals and Bryozoa of the Neozoic period in New Zealand:

View ‘Corals and Bryozoa of the Neozoic period in New Zealand’ article here


[i] Palaeontology of New Zealand. Part 4, Corals and bryozoa of the neozoic period in New Zealand /by J.E. Tenison Woods, 1832-1889, Wellington, N.Z. : Govt. Print. 1880

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Five

This month’s contribution is a tribute to the friendship between Father Julian Tenison Woods and Adam Lindsay Gordon, Australian poet, jockey, police officer and politician. Gordon died, at the age of 36, on 24 June 1870 in Melbourne.

Father Julian Tenison Woods met Adam Lindsay Gordon in 1857 on one of his first trips out from Penola riding from station to station across his huge, scattered parish. At that time Gordon was a horse-breaker on a station near Guichen Bay. The two shared a love of poetry and the classics and often rode together reciting to each other. They seemed to find in each other a kindred spirit based on literary enjoyment and entertainment. Woods lent Gordon books from his collection.

In 1865, with Woods’ encouragement, Gordon was elected in the South Australian Parliament, being appointed as the member for Victoria, but after eighteen months he resigned and returned to writing poetry and competitive riding. When news of Gordon’s death reached Woods he recalled a conversation he had had with his friend, one that made a deep impression on him and explained somewhat the melancholy mood that Gordon often lived with.

Woods then wrote Personal Reminiscences of Adam Lindsay Gordon and this was published in the Melbourne Review in April 1884.[i] The Melbourne Review (1876-1885) was a quarterly magazine founded by a group of literary gentlemen as a serious attempt to establish a superior kind of periodical on general and literary topics, including poetry.

This month’s contribution to Man of Words gives quotations from Personal Reminiscences of Adam Lindsay Gordon and references to other relevant articles for the reader to peruse. These give an insight, not only into the life of a great Australian poet, but also into the literary mind of Father Julian.

Carmel Jones rsj

This month we present quotations from Personal Reminiscences of Adam Lindsay Gordon and references to other relevant articles:

Download ‘Quotations from Fr Julian Tenison Woods’ (PDF)


[i] The article can be obtained through the National Library of Australia.  Details are as follows:
Personal Reminiscences of Adam Lindsay Gordon  Julian Edmund Tenison Woods, 1884 in Melbourne Review, April vol. 9 no 34 1884; (p. 131-141)

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Four

On 2 February 1874, Father Julian Tenison Woods gave a lecture in Melbourne entitled How Australia was discovered and explored. A large number of people attended with Mr William Archer in the chair for the evening.

The following day an extensive summary of the lecture was published in the Melbourne Argus [i] and the article was repeated in the Brisbane Queenslander [ii] several weeks later.

The content of the lecture was from research that Father Julian had undertaken for his publication A History of the Discovery and Exploration of Australia: or an account of the progress of geographical discovery in that continent from the earliest period to the present day [iii] in 1865.

The lecture was very well received with Father Julian receiving much applause and a vote of thanks.

Reading through the summary of the lecture gives one an insight into the extensive knowledge that Father Julian must have had about Australia. To have written two volumes on the topic so early in his time in this new land indicates not only his own interest but also that of society at the time. Father Julian was a powerful speaker, his subject was fascinating and, by all accounts, a good evening was had by all.

It seems to me that the word discovery was very much part of Father Julian’s life. He was enthusiastic about discovering more about whatever he came across, whether it be matters scientific, religious or historical. He must have read widely and been part of many absorbing conversations before he ever committed pen to paper to share his insights. It would have been good to have met him!

Carmel Jones rsj

This month we present a comprehensive summary of a lecture given by Fr Julian Tenison Woods on 2 February 1874 in Melbourne:

Download ‘How Australia was Discovered and Explored’ (PDF)


[i] Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Tuesday 3 February 1874, page 6 obtained from
[ii] Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld: 1866 – 1939), Saturday 21 February 1874, page 8 obtained from
[iii] ‘A History of the Discovery and Exploration of Australia: or an account of the progress of geographical discovery in that continent from the earliest period to the present day’, with maps and portraits, London, 1865, 2 vols.

Fr Julian: Man of Words – Letter Three

On 21 May 1887, the Sydney Morning Herald [i] published an article by Fr Julian Tenison Woods on his trip to the Victoria River.

This river (named for Queen Victoria) runs from the northern edge of the Tanami Desert to the coast near the Western Australian-Northern Territory border.

Father Julian obviously enjoyed his trip in 1886 and gives his readers historical and geological background about the river and careful descriptions of all he saw along the way. He describes the river as strangely impressing him, having a beauty of its own and that is high praise considering all the rivers he had travelled in his lifetime.

I was particularly taken by Father Julian’s description of being on watch as the sun set and darkness fell. His words express such a vivid picture that I’m sure any reader with artistic skills could translate them into a painting.  Similarly inspiring are his words about the many shades of red in the rocks.

It is interesting to note that another description of a trip to the Victoria River was published in the Northern Territory Times and Gazette on 4 May 1889 [ii]. In this, Mr Alfred Searcy gives a very similar account of the dangers of navigating the river. Searcy travelled in the same boat with the same captain and mentions that Rev J E Tenison Woods had also done this trip.  He gives a great description of an eagle capturing one of the thousands of flying foxes roused out of the mangroves.

I haven’t been to the Victoria River but, for those who have, it might be interesting to compare both of these descriptions with the experience of sailing along it today.

Carmel Jones rsj

This month, we present a third article written by Fr Julian featured in the Sydney Morning Herald on 21 May 1887:

Download ‘A Trip to the Victoria River’ (PDF)


[i] Article: Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842-1954) Saturday 21 May 1887 page 6 obtained from the National Library
[ii] Article: Northern Territory Times and Gazette (Darwin, NT: 1873-1927) Saturday 4 May 1889, page 3 obtained from the National Library

Why Did Fr Julian Woods Found the Josephites?

Fr Julian Tenison Woods and Mary MacKillop.

In the year 1866 Father Julian Woods, aided by Mary MacKillop, founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Penola, South Australia, for the Catholic Education of children from poor families. [1] But why did this busy priest working in one of the largest mission areas in the colony take this step?

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