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.

“He forbore to speak of his feelings with reference to this, his greatest loss in life … nothing ever affected him so much and to his latest years, the memory of his mother was the deepest and most tenderly hallowed of all his recollections of life.” [1]

Henrietta’s unfailing generosity to the poor people of their neighbourhood inspired in Julian a concern for people who were poor and needy.

Julian imbibed the Marist missionary zeal and gained a strong devotion to Mary, Mother of God when he entered the Marist Novitiate in Toulon, France at age 21. He came to appreciate the presence of Mary as a guiding star, teacher and protector.

“He (Jesus) has given us his mother to be ours and she has her arms clasped around us and her mantle folded about us, so that we are quite safe from harm.” [2]

He expressed his devotion in prose and poetry and wrote a volume of letters to Mary, his “sweet mother”. It was as if his heavenly mother took the place of his earthly mother.

After his estrangement from St Mary MacKillop, Julian turned more and more to Mary. She provided a soothing calm and closeness and was a trustworthy directress. It was she whom Julian turned to for support and direction throughout life, especially during troubling times.

“What would life be without the Cross? Under its shadow we meet the Mother of Sorrows who can teach us best through the Cross the infinite love of Christ.” [3]

Julian believed that fidelity to Mary led to love for and fidelity to her son, Jesus. He encouraged others to share his devotion to Mary. “What a treasure it is to know and love Mary…. May her love fill our hearts.” [4]

Julian’s intimate relationship with Mary, his love for and trust in her, was integral to his spirituality just as his relationship with Henrietta had been integral to his life and personality.

Therese McGarry rsj


[1] Julian Tenison Woods, Memoirs 1887-1888 as quoted in “Symphony of Life” p. 41
[2] Julian Tenison Woods, Retreat conferences to Sisters of Perpetual Adoration 1880-1887
[3] Julian Tenison Woods, Letter to Sisters of Perpetual Adoration 9/8/1887
[4] Julian Tenison Woods, Letter to Sisters of St Joseph at Westbury, Tasmania.