Villa Maria – One Hundred and Forty Years

Margaret’s most recent poem was to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the coming to Brisbane of the women who would form the nucleus of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, also founded by Fr Julian Tenison Woods whom we are remembering in a special way this year. She has kindly shared this poem with us…

Villa Maria – One Hundred and Forty Years

It’s been one hundred and forty years, it’s time to celebrate
The years of dedication – to recall and to relate
The history of the RPA’S, how the Institute came to grow
With the pioneering sisters who arrived so many years ago.

To adore the Blessed Sacrament was their charism and their call,
To spend their lives in service, to love, and give their all
For the people they encountered in their ministry and prayer,
And especially to the aged and frail who came into their care.

So let’s look back across the years to how this came to be,
And what impelled these women brave to leave the security
Of family and familiar scenes to come to Brisbane town
Trusting that the God they loved would never let them down.

Fr Julian some years before had shared a dream to found
A group of women who would be to Adoration bound,
Who would live a poor secluded life plying a needle and thread,
And through this means would earn enough to buy their daily bread.

In Sydney the first few gathered inspired by Julian’s dream,
Tasmanians too, were drawn to join the growing stream.
At Fr Woods direction they headed for Queensland’s shore
With just a few belongings, and scarcely a penny more.

No Father Founder greeted them, nor would he see them soon,
And so they arrived as strangers here on the fifteenth day of June.
Fr Julian had directed them to seek help from Sr Clare
And the Josephites in South Brisbane gave them kindly care.

A house was found in Russell Street on Brisbane’s poor south side
Where the Josephites already lived and worked in schools nearby.
Nineteenth century Brisbane was a rough and shabby place,
But Villa Maria came to be with the help of God’s good grace.

Who were these valiant women who pioneered the way?
Most remained in Brisbane, but some chose not to stay.
Whatever their final calling, their names are in history,
We recall them now with reverence for their brave integrity.

Stanislaus Gaffney, Mary Aloysius, Teresa Lafferty
Joseph Breen, Francis Downs and Gertrude Connelly.
These were the founding Sisters in 1874,
And following in their footsteps came many Sisters more.

How could their religious life be formed with Julian far away?
He wrote their Rule and sent them notes, but could only briefly stay
To give direction and Retreats and then be gone once more,
Theirs was just to keep the Rule, to serve and to adore.

We thank God for Fr Tenison Woods, and his spirituality,
For the dreams he had for the love of God that came to reality
In Sisters who through all the years would keep alive the flame
In fidelity to their calling for the glory of God’s name.

For all the blessings we have shared who name Fr Woods our guide,
For mutual friendship which began on Brisbane’s southern side.
We walk together thanking God for all those years long gone,
And with trust in the Providence of our God, we continue to journey on.

Margaret Gillespie rsj
15th June 2014