Unveiling of Statue at Marist Sisters College Woolwich

On 14th June 2024, at Marist Sisters’ College Woolwich (MSCW), a unique statue was unveiled – a life-sized bronze depiction of Jeanne-Marie Chavoin with two college students. Immediately striking is the relational connection among the three – the French woman, the student beside her and the younger one opposite. Standing before them, one senses the years of history converging into the now, bringing our foundress to life in this new setting.

Almost as remarkable as the sculpture is the story behind it. It seems that a student of 1948 had been so touched by her experience at the college that on her death a couple of years ago she left a substantial bequest to her alma mater. The current principal worked with staff and students to realise a dream of creating this meaningful tribute to Jeanne-Marie or JMC as she is affectionately known at the college. Five staff and seven students formed the Sculpture Working Planning Committee – three of whom were the models for the statue. World renowned artists, Gillie and Marc, were engaged. During the 15 months or so that followed, a clay version was produced, changes requested and then the final bronze creation was shipped to Australia.

The Unveiling Ceremony was designed with as much attention to detail as the sculpture itself. Marist Father Tony Corcoran presided, nine Marist Sisters and a Marist Brother were present. The College Strings and College Choir ably led the music throughout, beginning with “The Presence of Mary”. The college principal, Dr Anne Ireland, shared the “Sculpture Journey”, acknowledging all who had contributed. The blue covering was then removed, revealing the “JMC statue”. Two students offered heart-warming reflections on the significance of this addition to the college. For the Blessing, water had been brought from the Garonne River in France and blended with water from the Lane Cover River, the river the school overlooks and which flows into the waters of Sydney Harbour.  The Sisters present read the beautifully prepared prayers of intercession and the Salve Regina was sung.

Sr Gail Reneker spoke on behalf of the Marist Sisters, expressing deep gratitude to staff and students for honouring our foundress through this sculpture, which “keeps alive the memory of a woman worthy to be remembered whose warmth and compassion drew her to be of service to all those in need, especially children and young people”. The Principal’s Address and the singing of the College Song concluded the memorable ceremony.

Over the lavish morning tea, our Sisters had the opportunity to meet with students and some parents, as well as to reunite with members of staff. Afterwards, we reflected on the depth of each encounter and the blessing it is to see the Marist spirit lived out in such a tangible way by these lay people – young and older – associated with MSCW.

 

Gathering with Sr Kate

The Marist Sisters in Australia met recently to welcome Sr Kate McPhee back to her homeland for her official visit of our Unit.  The gathering commenced with a welcome from Sr Gail, our Leader, who kept in mind our Sisters who were unable to attend.  

 An informal talk from Kate followed, outlining how the visit will take shape. Kate then went on to share snippets of news from around the Congregation which will assist in our understanding of where we are at and how we will proceed so as to enhance our Marist lifestyle throughout the world.  The talk concluded with a reflection and prayer, after which Kate distributed copies of our updated Constitutions from our General Chapter of 2022.

Gail thanked Kate for her input.  She also thanked her for returning for a few weeks to her previous position of Bursar after hearing of the sudden death of our Business Manager.  This included the employment of our new Business Manager and the appropriate handover.  As well as showing our appreciation of Kate, Gail mentioned our gratitude for Sr Sylvette Mane (Congregational Leader) and her team who made it possible for Kate to return to Australia early for this added assignment.  It was then appropriate for Gail to conclude her thanks with a gift to Kate on behalf of the Unit of Australia.  

 As Kate celebrated a significant birthday on 2nd May we commenced afternoon tea with our amazing singing skills, singing the birthday song and then relaxing and enjoying the social aspect of our gathering.

Sr Marie Patricia Toomey sm

Sr Marie Patricia Toomey sm was called to eternal life on Friday 29th March 2024.

Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord.
May perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.
Amen
.

We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in Australia and to Sr Marie Patricia’s family. The following words of Remembrance were delivered at Marie Pat’s funeral by Sr Julie Brand.

Over 75 years ago – on 8 th September 1947 – Marie Pat made her First Profession in the Congregation of Mary, echoing Mary’s “Yes” of the Annunciation – the Feast of which our Church is actually celebrating today. Throughout her long life Marie Pat daily reiterated her “Yes” in union with Mary. It was Good Friday night when she made her final surrender to God. Uniting with Jesus in His last words, “It is accomplished”, she answered God’s final call and died peacefully after a lengthy period of suffering, which she had endured with great patience.

Marie Patricia Toomey was born on 23 rd September 1926 in Sandgate, Brisbane, the third child of Arthur and Margaret. She was a proud Queenslander and maintained strong and loving relationships with her older brothers, Jim and John (now deceased), her sister-in-law Mary, niece Pat, her husband Alan, and their family. Born of Irish heritage, Marie Pat delighted in her Irish roots, and kept in touch with cousins in Ireland, whom she had the joy of meeting when spending time overseas. While beginning her schooling in Sandgate, Queensland, Marie Pat completed her education in Mittagong, NSW, having been enrolled at Marist Sisters’ Woolwich, and evacuated with the Woolwich students due to the war. Upon leaving School Marie Pat spent time as a Telephonist before
entering our Marist Novitiate in Merrylands.

Marie Pat was Professed with the name “Benigna”, which she later changed in favour of her Baptismal name of Marie Patricia. She was a gifted musician and spent the early years of her ministry as a Music Teacher. She greatly appreciated classical music and introduced many students to the joy of playing Piano in Woolwich, in Mittagong, and throughout her time of education ministry in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Marie Pat spent around 28 years in New Zealand, including a significant period on the Maori mission in Waitaruke. Though always a dinky-di Aussie, we were very aware that she’d left part of her heart in the Land of the Long White Cloud. As a Primary School Teacher, Marie Pat also had the opportunity of teaching for a short time in Fiji. In 1983 she undertook studies at the Mater Hospital in Rockhampton to qualify as an Enrolled Nurse. Though she did not work for very long in this field of ministry, her care and compassion for the sick was at the forefront of her community living.

In 1992 Marie Pat had the privilege of assisting at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. At that time the Marist Fathers took care of the Shrine and were helped by the Marist Sisters in their ministry to pilgrims. Upon hearing of Marie Pat’s death, we received a message of condolence from a person who had been with Marie Pat in Walsingham. He spoke of his very good memories of working with her, saying that she brought a great presence to the Shrine in a truly Marist way. Upon her return to Sydney, Marie Pat continued the ministry she had begun a little earlier, taking up Library work at Cerdon College in Merrylands. Her ministry at Cerdon spanned 11 years, and Marie Pat formed strong bonds of friendship there, especially with Denise Hoeflake and her husband, Ralph, who remained close to her till the end of her life.

From 2007 until 2018, Marie Pat was an active member of the Marian House community, offering support in many practical and varied ways. She had always been a hard-worker with a great generosity of spirit, and this was very evident at Marian House despite her increasing age. Marie Pat was a homemaker and always on the look-out to provide whatever the Sisters might need. She loved shopping, and was alert to a bargain, particularly in regard to clothing. I think most Sisters have been the recipient of a skirt, a blouse, or a jacket that Marie Pat could not resist picking up when the quality was good and the price was low! She was the first to take a cup of tea to a frail Sister in bed, to get the supper ready for special gatherings, or to check that the chef had prepared the evening  soup to her satisfaction. Having been a cook in her day, she was keen to ensure that food served to older Sisters met the standards she was convinced were appropriate for the elderly. There were days, however, when she was met with disappointment and found it necessary to express her strong disapproval! Marie Pat did speak her mind and it would be true to say that she was not the most patient of people! She was an organizer who always thought ahead, and with the needs of others at the forefront of her mind, it was Marie Pat who kept us on track, reminding us to book the appointments for the Hairdresser, the Podiatrist, or indeed the Car Services. Marie Pat continued to look out for the needs of others when she moved to St Joseph’s Aged Care. Her kindness and compassion was always evident. Marie Pat had a quick wit and good sense of humor. She had a twinkle in the eye and often made us laugh with a funny turn of phrase or an entertaining story. She loved nature, especially the birds – particularly the magpies – whose markings, movements and foraging she enjoyed watching.

Being a woman of deep faith, Marie Pat greatly appreciated the pastoral ministry of the Marist Fathers, who attended to the spiritual needs of the residents at Marian House and St. Joseph’s. As her health declined, she was comforted through the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, most recently administered to her by Fr. Brian, whose friendship she valued. As Marie Pat’s care needs increased, the Staff at St. Joseph’s remained vigilant in their attention to her. We are most grateful for the professional and compassionate care provided by them and by Dr. Grace Kong. Marie Pat was a prayerful woman, who lived the Gospel in the spirit of Mary. She responded to God’s transforming grace, living the last months of her life patiently waiting, and accepting her total dependence with peaceful resignation. God looked upon her lovingly and welcomed her to Paradise on Good Friday night, 29 th March. We know she will continue to pray for us, interceding for our needs. Marie Pat, we will miss you. May you rest in peace.

Congratulations Sr Tulua Otuafi sm

On 27th January 2024 Sr Tulua Otuafi sm made perpetual profession as a Marist Sister in Holy Cross Parish Church Papatoetoe, New Zealand. The Sisters of the Unit of Aotearoa New Zealand were so happy to have Sr Sylvette, Congregation Leader, present to receive Tulua’s Vows.  Bishop Steve Lowe of the Auckland Diocese was the main celebrant at the Eucharistic celebration. Many of Tulua’s family members travelled from different parts of the world to be in New Zealand for this special event including her mother, Huni and her namesake, Tulua Senior, who travelled from Tonga.

Before the Solemn Blessing at the end of the Mass, Bishop Steve congratulated Tulua and reminded her that she has made a wonderful witness to Marist Religious life. In his own words he said “Tulua, you have guts” – in these days, a lot of people do not seem to have the ability to commit to a relationship permanently. After the Eucharist, everyone was invited to the parish hall for some lunch and entertainment.

Congratulations Tulua. Our prayers are with you as you continue you live your Marist commitment.

 

Sr Marie Therese Ranum sm

Sr Marie Therese Ranum sm was called to eternal life on Monday 4th December 2023.

Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord.
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 Marie Therese’s family. The following eulogy was delivered at her funeral.

Marie Therese was born 16 May 1939 in Matamata, the Waikato, followed by her baptism on 9 th June 1939 in the town she grew up in, Putaruru. Marie Therese was the second child born to Colin and Margaret Ranum , the first being still born. The family grew to 4 girls and 2 boys, of whom Marie was the eldest 4 girls and 2 boys. It was there that Marie Therese and her siblings attended St Mary’s Primary School which was staffed by the Marist Sisters. Her secondary school education was as a boarder at Sacred Heart College in Hamilton with the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions finishing in 1956. Marie Therese then spent a few years helping out as a farm worker and domestic helper on her parents’ farm.

Marie Therese entered the novitiate in 1961 at Merrylands, Australia and was professed as a Marist Sister in 1962 as was the custom of the time she was given a new name of “ Sr Marie Bede”.

Marie Therese was a quiet, humble person . It became obvious over the years that her way of living her religious life was on a deep level developing that Marist characteristic that we call “ hidden and unknown in its truest meaning. The best way to remember Marie Therese is to highlight some of those experiences which reflect the depth of her witness to others as Marist. First and foremost, Marie Therese was a woman of faith. This was especially shown in her love of the Eucharist which she sought daily where possible.

Marie Therese had a deep love of her family and over the years she accumulated a number of family photo albums covering more than one generation and which she would share with us . Each photo was clearly identified. In September 1990 to September 1991, Marie Therese went home to care for her mother in Putaruru. Marie Therese also had a great love for her family of Marist Sisters. Whenever she came down from the North or up from the south, Marie Therese always made a point of visiting the sisters, especially those in care. She was also interested in happenings in different parts of the Congregation and about Sisters whom she had met and/or ministered with overseas.

Marie Therese was a woman of generosity of spirit – if there was work to be done, she was there be it in the garden, some sewing to be done, cleaning the house, volunteering for what was needed, meeting other people. Marie Therese was able to put people at their ease: those she knew and those she didn’t:  after Mass on a Sunday, at the shops down the road, with parents in the school –– this was done unobtrusively, without a fuss, not drawing attention to herself. It was her way of reaching out to others and making them “comfortable” in the way of Jeanne–Marie Chavoin.

Training as a teacher at Loreto Hall enabled Marie Therese to bring a number of talents to her ministry of education. Over the years she was a primary school teacher, a music teacher, a remedial teacher, an assistant principal, and a principal. After her school teaching involvement , her skills were used when asked to participate in the Diocesan Motor Mission with Sr Florence Mary based in Moerewa in the North . Their mandate was to help children prepare for the sacraments of Holy Communion, Reconciliation and Confirmation and to teach those who had little or no Catholic education. Marie Therese also spent many years in the Far North at Waitaruke at Hato Hohepa Primary School and Hostel among our Maori people where she was teacher, acting Principal and Principal, superior and bursar .

Although she appeared to be “shy” at times, Marie Therese was very courageous. When the call went out to the Congregation for volunteers for personnel for assist in Slavutich in the parish of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the Ukraine . When asked if she was interested, her response was, “well I can’t think of any reason to say “ no”! And off she went with two others. Her reflection was that ‘she thought she could be a support to those Sisters who could speak Russian, as she could not. She did tutor some young people in English. Besides the Ukraine, she also assisted at our general house community as a hospitality person in Rome . She was a welcoming and hospitable presence among us. More recently Marie Therese’s cancer returned, and she was moved to The Sisters of the Poor in Auckland were she was lovingly and professionally cared until she died on the morning of December 4th. In conclusion , she faithfully lived out who she was called to be.

As a Marist Sister she answered the
“call to humility, poverty and simplicity, a love of work, the readiness to undertake
various tasks, the integration of prayer and action , of a life of constant union with
Jesus Christ” as expressed in our Constitutions No.3
.
Rest in Peace , Marie Therese

Sr Lavinia Henry sm

Sr Lavinia Henry sm was called to eternal life on Friday 20th October 2023.

Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord.
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 Lavinia’s family.

General Councillor Welcomed in Fiji

It was with great joy that the Marist Sisters in Fiji welcomed General Councillor, Sr Mari Aranda, to Fiji. Mari was elected to the General Council of the Marist Sisters in May 2022. This is her first official visit to Fiji.

During her visit Mari will visit the Marist Sisters communities and learn of their history and mission involvement since 1892. She will also encourage the sisters in their Marist vocation and share news of other parts of the Congregation.

The Sisters in Fiji are delighted to have Mari visit them. Mari presented the sisters with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and shared with them the story behind the image.

 

Sisters in Fiji Gather

Marist Sisters in Fiji recently gathered for their annual Assembly. This wonderful event was held in their new convent in Nadi. It was faciliated by Marist Father Samu Tukidia and Unit Leader, Sr Mariana Tevurega. They led the sisters throughout the weekend using the synodal process.

Every voice of the sisters was heard resulting in very meaningful participation and discussion. They considered issues related to Unit and Community Life.

Celebrating Anniversaries

In Australia, 8th September was a double celebration. We joined in spirit with Marist Sisters throughout the world in celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Marist Sisters. On 8th September 1823 Jeanne Marie Chavoin and Marie Jotillon, with the permission of the Bishop of Belley, came to live together in the parish of Cerdon, France, and so began the Marist Sisters.

We also celebrated our Jubilarians and their almost 200 years of Marist commitment – Sr Marie Clarke (70years), Sr Mary Farrelly (60 years) and Sr Gemma Pearson (60 years). The sisters were grateful to Fr Kevin Stewart sm who presided at the Eucharist celebrated in the Marist Fathers chapel at Hunters Hill. Towards the end of Mass each Jubilarian received a papal blessing.

Following the Mass the sisters were delighted to share a simple meal together. It was a time to reflect and share on our Marist call and that of our Jubilarians. To mark the 200th anniversary of our congregation each sister was presented with a Congregation medal and a bookmark on which was found the following prayer:

Today, may we open our hearts and ears to hear the call, that simple call.
May our open doors witness the simplicity, poverty and joy of our first community.
May God bless us!

May we continue to respond to Mary’s gracious choice.
May we realise the wonder of our calling.
May young women be drawn to our doorsteps.

Mary of Cerdon, remember Jeanne Marie’s prayer
and walk hand in hand with us. Amen

Blessing of Nadi Convent and Chapel

It was in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving that Marist Sisters in Fiji and their friends recently gathered in  Nadi for the blessings of their new convent and chapel. Fr Veremo, the Vicar for the West, was appointed by Archbishop Peter Loy to conduct the ceremony. Five priests concelebrated the Mass and assisted with the blessing ritual. Following the ceremony there was a celebratory meal. The new convent has been purpose built to cater for the elderly and those needing extra care.