Historical Day in the Philippines

Unit 5Marist Sisters in the Philippines came together in Matina house on December 8 to celebrate and begin our life as the Unit of the Philippines. Sr. Sheila B. Manalo, our new unit leader, received the special candle marking our beginning as a unit. Sheila is the first Filipino born sister to be called to leadership in the Philippines. (Photo: L-R Srs Sheila & Torika)

Unit 2Sr Torika Wong handed over the leadership to Sheila and assured her  of the support of the sisters. Sr Veronica Lum handed over the Bursars ‘burden’ to Sr Lilibeth  Cajes with words of encouragement. Sr Monica Lum handed on the leadership role in Matina to Sr Sheila Manalo reminding her to keep hold of Mary’s hand! We all enjoyed the  special prayer sent to us from the General Team. April led us in this prayer. After a simple and delicious dinner Sheila held a short meeting to look at the calendar of activities for December and January.

Click on an image below to see the enlarged version.

Aotearoa-New Zealand – Joyful in Hope

IMG_4531All the Marist Sisters in Aotearoa-New Zealand came together at Mount Albert, Auckland,  for this very special occasion: the launching of the new governance structure. We began with the prayer in the  Chapel. Our opening hymn ” Joyful in hope your people pray” set the tone for the prayer, during which we named many of the Marist Sisters who had gone before us. After this we went to the community room where Grace spoke to us and to the whole Congregation.  Finally there was a celebratory meal which was a time for more sharing and joy. (Photo: New Zealand Administration Team – Srs Lorraine Campbell, Gemma Wilson, Marie Challacombe & Cath Lawson)

Click on an image below to see the enlarged version.


A New Beginning for Marist Sisters

Marist Sisters Embracing LfeOn this feast of the Immaculate Conception, and the inaugural day of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Marist Sisters throughout the world are marking a historical moment when our Congregation is taking on a new shape as one WHOLE made up of 13 Units. The Marist Sisters’ General Chapter held in April 2015 invited us to be Women of the Word, embracing live and to affirm the values of diversity and flexibility. The Chapter did not decide on governance structures, but has opened the way for each current Sector to reflect on its situation and its needs.  From this fresh starting point, each group is invited to shape its future governance model according to its own reality.  The vital issue is the life of the Unit, the mission of the Unit, its desire to promote and enhance life.

P1100827Sr Grace Ellul, Congregational Leader, in her video address to the Congregation urged us to open wide our hearts, our minds, our very selves and embrace the Whole that we are as Congregation.  Let us cultivate an awareness of the Whole, be in touch with the Whole, be interested in the Whole, pray with the Whole.  Unit Leaders, I invite you to establish networks among yourselves and to keep your Units connected with others.

Speaking About Modern Day Slavery

DSC00590The Australian Freedom Network was launched in Canberra on 2nd December. Seventeen faith leaders signed a declaration committing their faith communities to work for the elimination of modern day slavery.  The declaration was the same one signed by Pope Francis and other faith leaders in the Vatican in December 2014.  Present at the launch representing ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) was Marist Sister Noelene Simmons.

Following on from this event, John Cleary, host of Sunday Nights, ABC Local Radio’s weekly national program that opens up conversations on important issues concerning religion, spirituality, ethics and values, invited four guests to speak on modern day slavery. ABC Sunday Nights2Noelene was one of the guests along with Jenny Stanger (Salvation Army), Sheikh Ahmed Abdo (NSW Muslim Police Chaplain) and Fuzz Kitto (Stop the Traffik). Listen to the podcast here.

Marists at Marymount

1115-Marymount-Srs---2Two Marist Sisters and one Marist Missionary Sister are amongst the participants of programs at Marymount Mercy Centre, Castle Hill, NSW.

Sr Mariana Tevurega SM and Sr Petra Mario SMSM are close to completing the‘New Life’ renewal program, while Sr Titilia Tupou SM, in preparation for final vows, will graduate on Nov 29 from the program inspired by T.S. Eliot’s ‘Costing nothing less than everything’. Prior to completing the programs the sisters will be on retreat from 11th to 19th November.  Our prayers are with them over these days.

The three sisters, all Fijian, join a succession of members of the Marist family who have enjoyed Marymount’s programs.

Blessing and Opening of Navua

KateSr Kate McPhee represented the Marist Sisters in Australia and the blessing and opening of the new boatshed at Marist Sisters, College Woolwich.

The name for the boatshed, Navua, is the name of one of the ships that brought the first Marist Sisters to Australia.

The pioneering sisters, Mother Melanie, Sr Cyrille and Sr Odilon, arrived in Sydney Harbour on 31st December 1907. Marist Father Kevin Bates blessed  the boat shed during the opening ceremony.

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Sr Rose Shields sm

Rose ShieldsAt the funeral for Sr Rose Shields held on October 26th eulogies were delivered on behalf of Rose’s family by her niece Christine and on behalf of her Marist sisters by Sr Gail Reneker sm. Segments of these eulogies are given below.  For the full text click on the link at the end of each section.

Rose was born on 9 March 1929, the youngest of six children of Catherine (nee Cannon) and Peter Shields.  Peter and Catherine both grew up in Glenfin, Donegal, Ireland. They first met on board ship in 1919 while emigrating here. Their shipboard romance began when Catherine caught influenza and Peter cared for her. They married and settled in Cabarita, not far from Mortlake Gasworks where Peter worked. Their local parish was St Mary’s at Concord. The family held a strong Catholic faith.

During the Depression, Peter lost his job at the Gasworks where he was also active as a union rep. This put pressure on the family, especially during the wartime years.

The oldest 3 siblings, Joe (Tony’s father), Mary (my mother) and Peter all married and had families while the youngest 3 entered: John became a Christian Brother, Rose became a Marist nun and Tess became a Sister of the Good Shepherd. A well-balanced family. Rose is the last sibling.  Many nieces and nephews and grandnieces and nephews survive her. Two sisters-in-law will remember Rose fondly – Terry, who married Peter, and Miriam, Joe’s wife.

Terry told me recently, when Rose was thinking about becoming a nun, she chose the Marists because ‘they wore Our Lady’s blue’.  And, from what Sr Carmel says now, Rose is still today wearing ‘Our Lady’s blue’.

Rose was a very calm person. She would be ready to join in the family fun but also seemed happy to sit quietly with a contented smile on her lips. Read more…

Rose & JoanRose was one of a number of early Marist Sisters whose vocation was fostered by Fr Nolan a popular confessor at St Patrick’s Church Hill.  Having discerned her vocation Rose joined the Marist Sisters in 1950, was received as a novice in July 1950 when she was given the name, Sister Stanislaus, and made her first profession on the 15th July 1951.

Her parish priest’s reference that had accompanied Rose’s application to join the Marist Sisters reads: “Rose is a girl that one admires not only for her piety, but for her generosity and good works.  She has always been a faithful Child of Mary, and an active and effective Theresian, also a member of the Altar Society, and she has done all these works with a quiet and gentle ubotrusiveness”.  This could almost read as a description of our foundress Jeanne Marie Chavoin’s life in Coutouvre before her call and decision to leave home to found the Society of the Blessed Virgin.  Like Jeanne- Marie, having left home and committed herself to God as a Marist, Rose lived her life given to the Congregation and its mission and available to go wherever she was called.

Her ready response to the call of the Congregation took her to communities in Sydney, Melbourne and Queensland as well as to New Zealand.   Rose did her teacher training at the Sisters of St Joseph’s Training College at Mount Street North Sydney and her love for children found expression in the teaching roles she had in St Margaret Mary’s Merrylands, Villa Maria Hunter’s Hill, St Scholastica’s Bennettswood, Star of the Sea Gladstone, St Therese’s Karori, Sacred Heart Herne Bay and St Augustine’s Keilor.  In Burleigh Heads, Mudgeeraba, Auburn, and Blacktown Rose was provided the opportunity to serve in pastoral ministry, particularly to the sick, elderly and housebound.  Within the Congregation itself Rose’s yes to God led to her being called at a relatively young age to the role of Assistant Novice Directress at the novitiate in Merrylands and to participate in the formation of future Marist Sisters.  100_1596Further she accepted the appointment to leadership roles in communities both large and small and in several schools.  She was also elected to serve a number of terms as a Provincial Councillor in Australia and under three different Provincials was appointed to assume the additional role of Assistant Provincial. Read more…

Sr Patricia de Coek sm

Pat de CoekOn the 8th September 2015 our Sr Patricia de Coek was called home to Paradise.  It was Our Lady’s Birthday and such an appropriate day for a marist sister to die.  Pat would have been 92 years old this coming 5th October, seventy of those she lived as a  Marist Sister, a Woman of the Word as our recent General Chapter called us to be.  Since her death, we Marists have been sharing many stories and memories of Pat and during this Eulogy I hope to incorporate some of these.

Patricia Mary de Coek was born in Hamilton, New Zealand, on 5th October, 1923 to Rene Aubrey de Coek and Elfreda Rose Shanaghan – an interesting union from  French and Irish backgrounds. Pat was the second of four girls in the family – Joan, Cecile and Nanette, all deceased.  In 1927, during the Depression, Aubrey moved his family to Sydney, where they settled in Cremorne and belonged to the Sacred Heart Parish, Mosman.

Pat’s childhood was a happy, carefree one, where she experienced much love and joy and this was to influence her outlook on life, as she viewed life with a sense of delight, incredulity, awe and wonder.  Although far from her many cousins in New Zealand, the family kept in close contact and it was Jacqui Driscoll, one of those cousins, who arrived on Monday night in time to say good-bye to Patty, as the family affectionately called her.  Pat was always so interested in her New Zealand clan and found much happiness when Jacqui and Betty Mortimer were able to attend her 90th Birthday Party and also Nigel, a young cousin, who brought his whole family over for the celebration.  Other cousins, especially Maurice Hall and Audrey (now deceased) kept in contact by phone and so Pat felt so much loved, supported and cherished.

In Sacred Heart Parish, Mosman, Pat met her life-long friend, Norma Wood, who was also to become a Marist Sister.  The two of them belonged to the Parish Youth Group and were involved in the Liturgy, Children of Mary Sodality and Choir.  The Youth Group also provided them with many social activities, such as, outings, walks, picnics, rowing on the Lane Cove River.  Belonging to The Legion of Mary became part of these two friends’ lives, and Pat used to say that it was here that she developed a life-long love of and relationship with Mary, Our Mother.  She also acquired a sense of the missionary aspect of being Catholic and the responsibility that was hers to spread the Good News.  Visitation of homes with Norma was part of their Legion ministry and Pat found it was a rewarding, fun-filled time.  This prepared her for her later ministry as a Parish Pastoral Associate.

Soon Pat began to feel a niggling call to give herself to God in Religious Life.  She was sent by a priest from St. Patrick’s Church Hill, to the Marists at Woolwich, and as soon as she met the sisters, she knew that she had found the right Congregation for her.  Consequently in 1945, Pat became one of the first marist novices at the new, very poor novitiate in Merrylands. That the Marist Congregation was French was also significant for Pat, with her French heritage.  The Novitiate was a challenging time for her but a grace-filled one, and she always looked back on those days as very happy.

After Profession Pat was sent to the Marist Sisters College at Woolwich to teach Mathematics and French.  Soon she was to be sent to France to imbibe more of the Marist Spirit and to prepare for formation work.  After that, it was back to Woolwich for a few years teaching and then in 1958 she was appointed to Merrylands as Superior of the Community there.  In those days, the community numbered almost forty and being leader must have been very demanding for Pat.

From 1960 to 1965 Pat was Mistress of Novices at Merrylands.  Some of her former novices are here with us today and others have written beautiful tributes to their former spiritual guide.  Some spoke of her womanliness and her desire to help them become true marist sisters. One sister remembers Pat as unobtrusively always carrying a tiny statue of Mary in her hand.  She also recalled Pat’s surprising tennis prowess and how she could put great spin on her shots.

During the sixties Pat developed a great love of the Scriptures and one sister recalls a talk Pat gave on St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians and how that stimulated a deep love in her life for that part of Scripture.  As Pat’s love of Scripture grew, so did her collection of Bibles.  She must have had a copy of every possible translation.  The pages of her Bibles are marked with highlighters of many hues as Pat diligently underlined chosen passages and loved to compare one translation with the other.

In 1966 Pat was elected General Councillor in the Congregation and spent the next eight years in Rome, contributing much as General Secretary to the life of the Congregation in those heady days following Vatican II, with all the changes that religious life underwent.  It was in Rome that Pat revealed she received a call to live her Marist Vocation at a deeper level. While making an Easter Retreat, she came to know the Holy Spirit in a new, vibrant way.   She wrote once when speaking of her vocation:  “The Holy Spirit burst into my spirit and released my heart into a song of praise.  I became radiant with joy, noticeable even to my companions”.  This joy was to stay with Pat for the rest of her life.  Her sole desire was to let people know of the joy of living in the Spirit and how all-embracing that could be.  This, of course, was always in the context of her Marist Vocation and her love of Mary who became more and more alive to Pat through the Scriptures.

Pat’s Marist calling was to take her to many places and ministries.  One of her favourite ones was as Pastoral Associate in the parishes of Burwood and Torquay in Melbourne where she led Scripture and Prayer groups and participated fully in the life of the parish.  Even when she was semi-retired in Haberfield, she still reached out to people from all walks of life and loved to share the Scriptures.

On a different level, Pat was an avid cross-word fan, even cryptic ones, and her dictionaries almost outnumbered her Bibles, not to mention her library of Joshua books which she read over and over. Another hobby was knitting and she produced jumper after jumper, as well as scarves and, in later years, brightly coloured vests.  The Lane Cove River was a magnet for Pat when she lived in Marian House.  She seemed to know every craft that appeared on the river and what time the different launches and cruise boats would arrive.  A sea plane landing and taking off was just heaven.

The cross loomed large for Pat when she became ill a few years ago and she had to move to residential care, firstly in Ashburn House, Gladesville and then St. Anne’s, Hunters Hill.  Finding strength in the Holy Spirit, Pat accepted this change and entered fully into her new life where she said she was so busy she didn’t have time to read her favourite books.  Attending Mass at St Anne’s was her deepest joy, followed by bus outings which often took her to her old haunts around Mosman.  I would like to mention here the happiness Pat got from telephone calls from Jacqui in New Zealand keeping her abreast of her family there and also the visits from her Mosman friends, Helen Stirling and Denise Playoust and her husband, Peter, and of course, her marist lay friend of many years, Rona Agnew.

Pat Mar de coekIt is fitting that Pat, this faithful Woman of the Word, whose sole desire in life was to live her Marist life in love and joy, should return to her loving Father in this year of Consecrated Life.

Pat, as you move into Paradise, may you be singing with joy that early marist hymn:

“J’irai la voir un jour
Au ciel, au ciel, au ciel.”

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Catholic EarthcarePope Francis has named 1st September the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. This day also marks the opening of the Season of Creation which extends to 4th October.

According to Pope Francis, “The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation offers to individual believers and to the community a precious opportunity to renew our personal participation in this vocation as custodians of creation, raising to God our thanks for the marvellous works that He has entrusted to our care, invoking his help for the protection of creation and his mercy for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

Resources for this day may be found on the Catholic Earthcare and the Global Catholic Climate Movement websites. (Photo: Catholic Earthcare website)