Ministering in Outback Queensland

Australian Marit Sister Sr Mary Farrelly ministers in the Western Area of the Rockhampton Diocese. She recently shared on her ministry for the Diocesan Newsletter:

When you live just a hundred or two hundred kilometres from the border with the Northern Territory or even a hundred or two or three hundred kilometres from your nearest town, you don’t ride your bike to school. You don’t even make the daily mini-bus trip from your nearest bitumen road, travelling on just another 30 or 40 or 50 kilometres into town. It will probably be five or six weeks before you meet the other boys and girls in your class for the first time, before you meet your teacher in person. Of course you will know their voices long before then because you will have been “in” class each day during the week. During the course of the year there will be scheduled events, cluster groups and mini-schools. You will all come together then unless weather (if only it would rain!) or some urgent task on the property, prevents that from happening. Meanwhile, thanks to telephone and computer, to technology in all of its constantly developing forms and of course to the govies – who are often the mothers – distance education (“School of the Air”) continues to produce high achievers as in any ‘normal’ school. Travelling to the pupils Such is life in rural and remote Queensland. In the Diocese of Rockhampton this is increasingly so the further one travels west of the range. So when children are old enough to begin preparation for Reconciliation, the second Sacrament of Initiation, most of their lessons will be via the telephone. They are rarely able to join with peers for face to face lessons and because they are not always attached to the same school of distance education, their availability for a telephone conference may well not coincide.

An important part of the Western Pastoral Ministry is to support children and parents at this special stage of their faith development. There are a few key times when I am able to meet out on the property or in a town if opportunity offers, to introduce the programme. This happened when Cath and I made our annual visit to Bedourie in August. The rest of Georgie’s lessons will have to be via the phone until a visit next year when we will begin lessons for Confirmation and First Eucharist. Further into the programme I use one of several DVD’s to consolidate or enrich the children’s understanding. Learning this way involves challenges for all of us, not least in organising times in the midst of the many other calls on rural families. School lessons may be confined to five days a week whether face to face or by distance education, however livestock have daily needs and the children are often a part of the team caring for and working with them. Having spent 25 years in classrooms with multiple students, I find it hard not to be able to see the children and to pick up facial clues about their understanding. However, regardless of such challenges and limitations I have to say thank goodness for the telephone and to trust that our loving God whose children these are will make up for what is lacking in other respects. (Reprinted from Catholic Diocese of Rockhampton eNewsletter)

Sr Mareta Nai sm

Sr Mareta Nai sm was called to eternal life on Tuesday 10th October 2017.

Eternal Rest grant to her, OLord.
May perpetual Light Shine upon her.
May she rest in Peace.
Amen.

We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in Fiji and to Sr Mareta’s family.

Sr Noreen Kerins sm

Sr Noreen Kerins sm was called to eternal life on Tuesday 26th September 2017.

Eternal Rest grant to her, OLord.
May perpetual Light Shine upon her.
May she rest in Peace.
Amen.

We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in Aotearoa-New Zealand and to Sr Noreen’s family. At Noreen’s funeral the following eulogy was delivered by Sr Margaret Cross sm:

Sister Noreen was born in Masterton just 90 years ago on 10th September 1927. The Kerins family farmed a property on the border of the town, and they were much involved with the parish and town activities. Noreen, who was the third child, attended the local primary school, and received catechism instruction on a weekly basis, as did most of the families in that time. Then followed three years at St Bride’s College, and from then on she busied herself on the farm.

Having wider family members living in Karori whom she often visited, she came to know our Sisters, and in 1947 entered the Marist Sisters, being professed on the19th May 1949. Her first appointment was to Waitaruke in North Auckland, and it was there that she laboured strongly in all aspects of community and boarding school life, and it was from there too, that her love and understanding of our Maori people went ahead by leaps and bounds.

In the period to 1973, she gave loving, and sometimes correcting service to the youngsters in her care, and over a number of years she fed the sisters, children and constant visitors extremely well with next to nothing in the purse and cupboards! There was generally work available (or waiting) for any visitors to the kitchen, but also refreshments, and tales of humour to liven any day!

1973 saw her move to our Woolwich community in Sydney, and there she cared and cooked and gardened in the same generous way for our Aussie companions and their young people. Her ability to contribute to local pastoral life, and at the same time, to the daily movements of community life, was always inspiring.

After this in 1979 she returned to NZ to the north again and worked among the people of Kaikohe, KeriKeri, and the wider areas. Her accompaniment of the elderly, with visiting and taking Holy Communion to housebound people was a joy for her, and, a precious time for those she visited.

In 2009 she transferred to Mount Albert visiting the elderly, taking enjoyment in helping with the gardening, and enjoying the community around her. This was followed by her movement here to Mary McKillop Care. She deeply appreciated being at this home away from home, and the care of all the staff surrounding her. I am sure that she will call down blessings on all who live here, and those of us who visit.

Noreen, rest in peace with your loving God, under the mantle of Mary our loving Mother.

Asia-Pacific Sisters in Ireland

18 Marist Sisters from all over the world gathered in Dublin recently for their Plenary General Council(PGC) meeting from 15-30 September.  The theme of the meeting was Women of the Word, Whole-makers, embracing Life! Present at the meeting were four Sisters from Asia-Pacific – Srs Cath Lacey (Australia), Lavinia Henry (Fiji), Gemma Wilson (New Zealand) and Sheila Manalo (Philippines). The PGC was a wonderful opportunity for the sisters to reflect and discern together and so experience solidarity as a whole congregation.

Marist Sisters Gather in Fiji

Marist Sisters in Fiji gathered together to celebrate the life of Jeanne Marie Chavoin, foundress of the Marist Sisters. Australian Marist Sister, Kate McPhee, led the sisters through a process of reflecting, discussing and moving through various rooms which had been set up by the five Fijian Marist Sisters’ communities.The journey began 200 hundred years ago in Coutouvre with Jeanne Marie’s companion Marie Jotillon and ended in Jarnosse with stop-offs at Cerdon and Bon Repos.  The process helped the sisters to connect with the realities of the time…the simplicity, the humility, the environment , prayer life and desire to do the will of God.

Following these days of reflection the sisters engaged in a wellness programme led by another Australian Marist Sisters, Ruth Davis. The sisters found this to be very interesting and relevant to their life in Fiji.

Click on thumbnails below to view a larger image.

Marist Celebrations in Sydney

Marist Sisters in Australia gathered at Hunter Hill on the June long weekend to reflect and to celebrate. On Saturday morning Mrs Margery Jackman led us in a reflection on Option for the Poor. In the afternoon Sr Ruth gave us guidance on how to assist someone who has had a fall to ensure the safety of the helper and the one who has fallen then Sr Kate updated us on some financial matters.

It was with great joy that we gathered in the chapel at Marist Sisters’ College Woolwich on Sunday to celebrate our Jubilarians: Sr Catherine Lacey – Golden Jubilee, Srs Clare Francis and Marie Patricia Toomey, Platinum Jubilee.

Marist Father Paul Mahoney celebrated the Eucharist during which our Jubilarians renewed their vows. This was followed by afternoon tea in Marian House.

Golden Jubilee of Sr Jane Frances sm

Easter holidays saw the Marist Sisters of Aotearoa-New Zealand gathered for three days of assembly in Mt. Albert which concluded with the celebration of Sr Jane Frances O’Carroll’s golden jubilee of profession. Mass was celebrated in our recently renovated chapel by Bishop Patrick Dunn, for whom Jane works.

Marist Study Day to Mark Bi-Centenary

The Marist Family in Auckland gathered at Good Shepherd College June 5th for a very stimulating  seminar day of Marist Studies. The day began with a paper from Fr Alois Greiler sm titled The Marist Charism in a Trinitarian Key in which he developed the role of the Spirit in Mary and the charism of the Society of Mary. Fr Justin Taylor sm then developed some ideas of the the Work of Mary’ in the context of the historical trends taking place in the 18/19th centuries. This was followed by a description by Br. Edward Clisby fms of his recently printed book Far Distant Shores (unfortunately delayed somewhere on the route to us),with particular reference to the development of the early Brothers in New Zealand and Oceania.
The afternoon began with a presentation by Br Romuald Gibson  fms on the rise and fall of the four  Marist congregations and the implications of the present phase of religious life so valuable to the Church of our times. After this we heard  from Sr Gemma Wilson sm about the early days of the Marist Sisters. The afternoon concluded with Sr Patricia Leamy smsm’s paper on the significance of collaboration between the branches since the inception of the Society of Mary and in particular for her own branch. Copies of the various talks will appear in the Marist messenger and eventually in Forum Novum.

Sr Antonia Avey sm

Sr Antonia Avey sm was called to eternal life on Saturday 29th April 2017.

Eternal Rest grant to her, OLord.
May perpetual Light Shine upon her.
May she rest in Peace.
Amen.

We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in New Zealand and to Sr Antonia’s family. At Antonia’s funeral Sr Francine delivered the following eulogy.

“When I heard last Saturday morning that Antonia had gone to her real home, these lines (with a slight gender change) came to mind – lines from the poem ‘Requiem’ by Robert Louis Stephenson:

Here she lies where she longed to be:
Home is the sailor, home from sea
And the hunter home from the hill

Antonia had a great desire and longing to be with God which in the latter years of her life she expressed often. I will talk about this later.

In “Sr Antonia’s Story” where she writes about her life, and in special detail her 23 years as a missionary in Fiji, she speaks of a happy and united family life with an open door to anyone who cared to call.  This characterised Toni’s attitude towards anyone who called at our door during the 10 years I lived with her in Linden and Tawa. It was in her family that her vocation was fostered. She would often accompany her Dad to daily Mass. She said his deep love of the sacramental presence of the Lord rubbed off on her.

Antonia did her primary schooling in Taihape and the convent school in Frankton with the Sisters of the Mission continuing at Sacred Heart in Hamilton.  Her final year was spent as a boarder in Mt Albert with the intention of getting to know the sisters before travelling to Sydney.  She thoroughly enjoyed that year but admits to ‘not studying terribly hard’ and she writes “At the back of my mind I thought that if I didn’t study too well they might not want to have me in the convent.  What generosity!  However I was gradually coming round to the truth that Jesus was calling me and I would answer the call.”

This she did in 1940 on the S.S.Mariposa with Sr Margarita at the tender age of 17 years.  They both got very sick on the boat and she tells the story of them and I quote, ‘feeling so seedy the second  night we couldn’t face going down to our cabin. We staggered down to get a couple of cabin blankets, came back to the deck, made ourselves as comfortable as we could on deck chairs, draped ourselves in the cabin blankets and there we stayed. A couple of times someone came along the deck saying, “Would those with cabin blankets on the deck please return them to the cabins.” Neither of us moved. We thought that if they wanted them back in the cabin they could take them themselves. We weren’t going down again. We awoke next morning to the sound of swishing water with sailors washing the deck.”

The novitiate at that time was in Woolwich, a beautiful spot which overlooked the Lane Cove River in Sydney. Her time there was short-lived as a submarine was spotted in Sydney Harbour and the Woolwich community, the Novitiate and boarding school of 50-60 boarders had to move to Mittagong, a safer place in the country. The hardships during this time were a very good preparation for her time as a missionary in Fiji. This move fulfilled her greatest desire which was to be a missionary.

She travelled to Fiji and spent the next 23 years there as a primary school teacher in different schools. 13 years were spent on a remote island in the Yasawas which was the highlight of her time in Fiji. Travelling on the village boats to reach the island took 8 hours and Antonia was very fearful to begin with but after a couple of trips with the Fijian crews, she lost all her fear because of their prowess at handling the boats. She had many stories to tell of her time there.

Antonia returned to NZ in 1967 where she taught at Mt Albert. She completed her teacher training at Loreto Hall and then taught at both Mt Albert and Herne Bay with several years in Melbourne. Subsequent years were spent in remedial teaching and pastoral work in 7 different parishes throughout the North Island. Her work in Linden, Tawa was mostly with refugees who benefited greatly by Antonia’s teaching skills. One of them who came from Cambodia, wanted to set up a hairdressing business and Antonia spent a lot of time taking him around and showing him what that would entail.  He changed his mind but did manage to set up a hairdressing business in his garage later.  A young Somali girl was another of Antonia’s pupils and she took infinite pains with her.  She came to live in a bedsit opposite our house in Linden where she received a lot of mentoring and instruction. Another Chinese gentleman with his wife went to see her several times at Marian Rest Home as it was called then when she moved North and they still ask after her 10 years later.

In 2007 Antonia moved from Tawa to MacKillop Care and we were told what a wonderful difference she made there, greeting newcomers and visitors with a cheerful smile and a kind word as well as making a great contribution to the life of the residents with her astuteness, sense of humour and prowess at rummykub in the early days and scrabble later. Prue, the Manager, said she was one of life’s special ladies, everyone loved her and she was a joy to have every day.  She would walk around humming and singing, often telling someone how nice she looked and that if the admired item of clothing was left around, she’d take it and put in her wardrobe. Gemma recounts that in probably the last game of scrabble she ever played, she beat her by getting TWO words of 7 letters thus receiving two bonuses! This is spite of being in a lot of pain!   Prior to her illness, she was a dab hand at cryptic crosswords, crochet and knitting.

Antonia has lived in 15 convents in Fiji, Australia and New Zealand touching the lives of countless numbers of people and many, many children. She was a woman of deep faith, prayer and compassion, totally committed to living out her vocation as a Marist Sister.  It was a great hardship for her to live out of her own community in the last 10 years but she did so in a spirit of acceptance and courage.  I have already mentioned  that Antonia often expressed a longing for Heaven and in St Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians he wrote “We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.”     This longing for Heaven, this homesickness for heaven is something Antonia bore within herself daily. She remembered that Jesus said  “There are many rooms in my Father’s house, if there were not I should have told you I am going now to prepare a place for you and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me so that where I am you may be too. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

On April 29th in the 74th year of her Marist life, God called Antonia home.