Sr Norma Wood sm

Norma Wood

Sr Norma Wood sm died peacefully at St Anne’s Nursing home on Thursday 31st December 2015. At her funeral held on Friday 8th January 2016 eulogies were delivered by Norma’s niece, Mrs Penny Noonan, and Sr Julie Brand sm.

Norma Alice Wood was born at home at 165 Westgarth Street, Northcote, Melbourne, on the 22nd August, 1920. She was the third daughter of John Walter Wood and his wife Catherine, who had been a Fitzgerald before her marriage.  Norma (who very early in her life somehow was given the nickname of “Daudy” by her father) had two older sisters: Kathleen Alma who was 4½ and Evelyn May who was 2½ when she was born. The family was completed with the birth of John Fitzgerald who was born when Norma was 3.

All the siblings spoke of a happy childhood which was filled with the ups and downs of family life. All of them, with the possible exception of Ev, were blessed with a strong sense of humour and a good sense of the ridiculous which created a home full of fun and a lot of laughter.

John Walter, who was always known by his second name, Walter, had started his working life in the Commonwealth Department of Treasury and transferred to the Commonwealth Bank when it was set up in c1912. As a bank officer he was transferred to Sydney sometime in the mid-twenties to work in Head Office in Martin Place.

Our grandmother found a house in Vaucluse, which was close to some of her cousins, and was keen to live there. However our Grandfather had found the house in Rosebery Street in Mosman, which was to be the family home for more than 40 years. It seems a major consideration in his choice was that he thought the trip to work by boat was very attractive and even after the Harbour Bridge was built he continued to travel by boat.

The local church, Sacred Heart, Mosman, was an important part of the family’s life. The children went to school there – the girls to the convent, which was run by the Mercy nuns, and John to Marist Brothers, Mosman.  It was an era of Sodalities and the Holy Name Society. There was also an active St. Vincent de Paul Society, which was very busy during the Depression years. The Wood children grew up in a friendly neighbourhood with many friends of all faiths. On completion of her schooling at the height of the Depression, Norma was fortunate to obtain work as a book-keeper in a millinery business. Read more…


On the day of her reception as a Marist Sister, 17th March 1947, Norma wrote in prayer: “This day that I have been longing for has now come.  I aspired to wear Our Lady’s Blue and desired to give myself to You, the sweet Spouse of my soul.  I know I am not worthy to wear Our Lady’s Habit but, O Jesus, since You have called me to the Religious life, will You not give me all the graces I need to be a worthy Marist, a true blue Marist, a good child of Your most Holy Mother?”  We give thanks today that Norma’s prayer was answered.  Called by gracious choice, she responded with the whole of her being and God did indeed give her all the graces needed to be a true blue Marist.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANorma came to know the Marist Sisters through her visits to Merrylands after her close friend, Patricia de Coek, entered the Novitiate there.  Norma described Pat as a ‘real inspiration’ and said, “I couldn’t help noticing how serene and happy she was.  There was an atmosphere of peace and prayer about the place.  I began to feel that there were more important things than dancing and tennis and swimming etc. ……or was it that God and His love became more important to me than these other things?  Somehow within my heart I knew He was the only One for me.”  And so began what Norma described as her “Love Affair” with God.

For over 67 years Norma lived her Marist life in faithful love, doing all “for the great glory of God and the honour of Mary”.  In her early years, known as Sr. Evangelist, she ministered in Primary Schools in Australia and New Zealand, later taking up the role of Provincial Bursar for Oceania.  In this administrative role Norma gave assistance to bursars in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.  She was so supportive and encouraging, initiating many of us into the complexities of accounting and bookkeeping, always with patience and ready humour.  Norma was often appointed Local Superior or Local Bursar, serving the community with kindness and compassion, laughter and joy. Norma 2Many stories are told of Norma delighting others with her great sense of fun, her comical acting, and ability to tell a good yarn.   Norma loved engaging with people, and her gifts found ready expression in pastoral ministry, where her acceptance and understanding of others was so greatly appreciated. It was with much sadness that Norma set aside her pastoral work in 2004 when her health began to fail.  She did not find it easy to move from active parish ministry in Laverton to a quieter life in Marian House.  However, as with all her appointments, Norma accepted this move in a spirit of great faith. Read more…


Christmas Greetings

peace on earthOnce again we come towards the end of another year. We celebrate that beautiful Season of Christmas – the birth of our saviour. Sometimes it is hard to get past the commercialism of Christmas with all the rush and bustle. However, if we can stop and reflect on what great love God has for us we can use this time to give God thanks for all the blessings of the past year and look forward to what is to come. Read more in the Marist Sisters Australia December Newsletter…

Making Room at the Inn

Sefton“This year our minds cannot help but dwell on the millions of people fleeing persecution and conflict and who like Mary and Joseph find that ‘there is no room at the inn’.  Christianity is rooted in history.  Bethlehem is past history.  Yet, the story goes on. It is not Mary and Joseph looking for a room at the inn now, but the millions of people, ordinary men/women/children, who are asking for a place of safety and an opportunity to live normal lives.”  (Extracts from a letter from Congregational Leader of the Marist Sisters to all the sisters.)

In response to the refugee crisis the Marist Sisters in Australia have made one of their houses available for refugee accommodation. In the photo Sr Kate, Bursar of Australia,  can be seen handing over the keys of the property to the refugee support organisation that will oversee the placement of refugees in the property.

Unit of Fiji is Born

Fiji 5jpgThere was great rejoicing when Marist Sisters in Fiji gathered in Nadi on 8th December to celebrate the birth of the Unit of Fiji. As the sisters gathered around Mary’s statue, they were very conscious of being one family with all Units of the Congregation.


Fiji 1During a time of prayerful reflection the Sisters untied knots in a chord to symbolize Mary’s action of untying the complexities of our lives and bringing us to Jesus. No celebration in Fiji is complete without a feast. Included in the feast was the cutting of a birthday cake to mark the birth of the Unit of Fiji.

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Rejoicing in the Gift of Vocation

12358199_10206895716105349_12307092_nOn the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12th December 2015, Sr. Edna B. Gado, SM, publicly make her Perpetual Profession of the vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience in the Congregation of Mary. Present to witness Edna’s Perpetual Profession were her Marist Sisters, Edna’s family, members of the Marist Family and many other friends and invited guests.   The Solemn Mass was celebrated at the Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Tagum.and was officiated by Most Rev. Wilfredo D.Manlapaz, D.D., STD., Bishop of Tagum. A number of Marist Fathers and Diocesan Priests also concelebrated. Sr. Sheila B. Manalo, SM the new Unit Leader of the Marist Sisters Philippines, received the vows of Sr. Edna in behalf of Sr. Grace Ellul, SM, Superior General of the Marist Sisters.

12380235_10206895716025347_657261944_nFor several years now, Sr. Edna has been with the Talikala Foundation passionately ministering to Prostituted and Trafficked Women and Girls. We thank God for the gift of Sr. Edna and we continue to pray for her. We pray also for special blessings for her Mom and Dad as have they generously “given” their only daughter Sr. Edna to the Church and to the MaristsSisters.

More photos…



Embracing New Life in Australia

Unit of Aust 12 Dec 2015 (6)On Saturday 12th December, Marist Sisters in Australia came together to celebrate a new beginning – the Design for Life for the Unit of Australia. The afternoon’s prayerful reflection began with the viewing of a video in which Sr Grace Ellul, Congregtional Leader, addressed all Marist Sisters reminding us that “we are called to live as Marist women embracing life in our tiny little corner of the universe…It is Mary’s work we have pledged ourselves to do and we trust our Good Mother to be with us as we journey forward in her Name.” During the final stages of the prayer Sr Cath Lacey, Unit Leader of Australia, presented each Sister with a copy of the Design for Life and also a copy of the General Statutes of our Congregation. Following the prayer there was a delicious afternoon tea and time for much talking and rejoicing.

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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.

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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)

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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.