Marist Sisters in the Asia-Pacific region celebrated the Season of Creation in various ways. The Season of Creation provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our common home, the Earth, and commit to ways of respecting and protecting it into the future.
In Fiji the sisters do this simply by planting their own vegetables, keeping their environment clean, pot planting, planting root crops and composting.
In the Raiwaqa community Sr Rosemary put together a display depicting creation from the beginning and the current devastating state of the earth -the natural and man -made destructive forces brought about through the effects of climate change. Many of the psalms sing in praise of God’s creation. As Bearers of Hope, we believe the Earth is alive and vibrant and wish to do all in our power to protect it.
In the Sefton Community in Australia, Srs Gail and Kate celebrated the Congregation feastday, the Holy Name of Mary, with a practical response to the Season of Creation. They did a make over of their garden.
Sisters in the Merrylands community gathered to renew their vows on September 12, the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown situation in greater Sydney it was impossible to come together physically especially as three of the five community members live in an aged care facility.
Srs Bev and Judith gathered and lit a candle for each of the sisters in community. Srs Julia, Veronica and Therese were able to connect by phone and together they joined in prayer and renewed their vows before concluding with the Salve Regina.
Australian Marist Sister Clare Francis celebrated her 99th birthday recently. As she resides in an aged care facility she was unable to have visitors on her birthday due to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Staff at Southern Cross Residential Aged Care in Marsfield did not let her birthday pass unnoticed. The kitchen staff made her a delicious cake which she enjoyed sharing with the other residents. Clare also received cards and phone calls from the sisters in Australia and beyond.
We look forward to celebrating with you on your 100th birthday next year Clare.
We, the undersigned, striving to work together for the greater Glory of God and the honour of Mary, Mother of the Lord Jesus, assert and declare our sincere intention and firm will of consecrating ourselves, at the first opportunity, to founding the pious congregation of Marists.
That is why by the present act and our signatures, in so far as we can, we irrevocably dedicate ourselves and all our goods to the Society of the Blessed Virgin. (Pledge of Fourvière, 23rd July 1816)
The anniversary of the Pledge of Fourvière each year is a time for Marist throughout the world to recall with gratitude the beginnings of the Marist Family. On 23rd July 1816 twelve seminarians climbed the 800 steep steps from the City of Lyon to the Chapel of Our Lady of Fourvière. Here they committed themselves to the Marist project.
The Marist project has grown to be a family of five branches – Marist Father, Marist Sisters, Marist Brothers, Marist Missionary Sisters and Marist laity – with a presence throughout the world.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions it will not be possible in some countries for Marist to come together physically for prayer and celebration this year. This will not dampen our enthusiasm to recall the Fourvière event and to renew our own commitment to the Marist project. Online opportunities are being provided for Marists to connect, give thanks, recommit and celebrate. One such opportunity has been prepared by Marist Laity Australia. For information on how you can connect with Marist in Australia click here. All are welcome to join with Marists in prayer and thanksgiving on this day.
On 15th July, Australian Marist Sister, Sr Joan McBride, celebrated the 70th Anniversary of her profession as a Marist Sister. Due to Covid-19 restrictions it was not possible for Joan to have visitors on the day. However the staff of St Joseph’s Aged Care Facility in Hunters Hill and other Marist Sisters resident in the facility did their best to make the day special for Joan.
We give thanks for Joan’s many years of faithful service and for the inspiration she has been to many. We ask God’s blessing on Joan as she continues living the Gospel as Mary did.
Cerdon College Merrylands takes Jeanne-Marie Chavoin, Foundress of the Marist Sisters, as their College Patron. Each year around her feastday the College sets aside a day to celebrate Jeanne-Marie Chavoin within the school community. This year because of the limitations imposed by Covid-19 the College was not able to have a full school Mass. Therefore, a liturgical celebration was held within the school setting.
Jeanne-Marie Chavoin came ‘back to the future’ and was interviewed by a student in a 21st century context. The occasion this year also marked the end of 61 years of physical presence of a Marist Sister on the Cerdon College Staff. Sr Kate McPhee, after a long association with the College, finished serving in school ministry moving on to minster elsewhere.
There is no doubt that the Marist Spirit is truly alive and well among the staff and students of Cerdon College and the Marist Sisters are confident that Mary’s spirit will continue to permeate the life of the College Community into the future.
As part of the Human Rights component of their Legal Studies course, Year 12 students at Marist Sisters College Woolwich are studying Human Trafficking. Recently ACRATH member, Noelene Simmons sm, was a guest speaker for the class. The presentation included an explanation of what human trafficking is and the forms it takes in Australia and beyond, the legislation that exists in Australia to fight against this crime and the actions we can take to help in eliminating human trafficking and slavery. The students were very engaged throughout the presentation. Comments from the students include:
“Sister Noelene’s presentation opened my eyes to the injustice within the global community in relation to human trafficking and how we as young adults can act to strive for a more equal world.” (Emma)
“The presentation was really informative and helped me understand more about human trafficking and slavery issues within our world. The ethical brands booklet is very interesting, it’s good to learn more about the products I buy. (Cinzia)
“Sister Noelene’s presentation was engaging and really emphasised the ways that us as a community can make a difference in stopping modern day slavery” (Lauren)
Sr Philomena Hall sm was called to eternal life on Wednesday 2nd December 2020.
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 Philomena’s family. the following Words of Remembrance were delivered by Sr Julie Brand Philo’s funeral held at Holy Name of Mary Church Hunters Hill on 14th December.
Sr Philomena died very peacefully at St. Anne’s Nursing Home, Hunters Hill, on the morning of 2nd December. When news of her death began to filter through the Nursing Home, the Staff were very saddened, telling us what a beautiful lady she was, how she never complained and how much they would miss her gentle presence.
Sr Philomena – Margaret Patricia May Hall – affectionately known to us as Philo, was born on 1st May 1925 in Gloucester, NSW, the second youngest of six children. The family moved to Belmore, Sydney, in 1933 but Philo never lost her great love for the Australian countryside. She completed her Primary Schooling at St. Joseph’s, Belmore, and Secondary Schooling at St. Brigid’s, Marrickville, before beginning work. Philo had happy memories of this period of her life, recalling joining the Parish Youth Group – a very united, active group that met at least twice a week and enjoyed dancing, socializing, sporting activities and working together on Parish projects. It was while she was participating in a Parish mission that Philo began to recognize God’s invitation to Religious Life. While resisting at first, Philo grew in readiness to accept the call. In a reflection she wrote that, after prayer and spiritual accompaniment, she was ready to say to God: “Whatever you want Lord, I want”.
Philo was received into the Marist Sisters’ Novitiate in Merrylands and made her First Profession on 8th September 1949. The following year she began her Teacher Training at St Joseph’s, Mount Street, North Sydney, qualifying as an Infant and Primary Teacher. Thus began her journey in the apostolate of Education, which spanned over 40 years, and through which she touched the lives of children and their families in New Zealand, Fiji and Australia. Philo took up positions of leadership in Schools, and was always ready to assist other teachers and offer guidance and support.
For approximately 32 years Philo was on mission in Fiji, teaching for many of those years in towns of the western district and in the Yasawa Islands. The Sisters of Fiji and her ex-students remember Philo as an excellent teacher, especially of infants – dedicated, kind, generous and hard-working – one who knew how to encourage her students, especially the slower readers – and who was always ready to give a helping hand to others, children and teachers alike. Philo was indeed loved by the Sisters and people of Fiji. Ex-students, fellow teachers, parents and friends all around Fiji have been praying for Philo and giving thanks for her life of service in Mary’s Name. Philo’s gift of herself to Fiji was also very much supported by her family, whose generosity helped the mission of our Sisters there and the further growth of our Congregation in Fiji. In particular the Hall family remember with affection Sr Maria Goretti Satoqi, to whom they opened their home in Belmore and provided a warm welcome when Maria Goretti came to Sydney in the mid-60’s to enter our Marist Novitiate. Goretti is united with us today, saying once again “Vinaka Vaka Levu” to Philo and the Hall family.
Philo settled back in Australia in the mid-90’s and was soon to begin a ministry of care and service in Marian House, Woolwich. For many years she worked tirelessly in attending to the needs of the elderly Sisters, taking up the work of local Bursar and supporting the community. Before we restructured Marian House in the early years of 2000, it was often Philo who showered Sisters and attended to their personal care. She always showed love for the frail Sisters and would visit the Nursing Home at St. Anne’s every Sunday morning to spend time with our Sisters in residence there.
Philo was an excellent Bursar who had a great gift for figures. She was competent in complex calculations such as wages and superannuation payments, well organised and meticulous. I believe her gifts and talents were also readily identified in other members of the Hall family. Philo often spoke of her two brothers – Joe and Ben and their families, her sister Mary (who joined the Sisters of the Good Samaritan) and brother Trevor (a Christian Brother). She loved her family and enjoyed spending time with them, particularly holidaying in Ballina.
It was no secret that Philo was very determined – some would say stubborn – and stood her ground firmly and resolutely. She could be fiery at times, and left you in no doubt about her stance on a matter in question. Philo was quite a fierce competitor too. Sisters recall that she loved a game of cards and knew every card that had been played in a game of 500. Woe betide you if you were her partner and had not kept track of the hands played! When Philo moved to St. Anne’s Nursing Home, she always participated in activities and particularly enjoyed Bingo. Once again she was very well organised and it quite delighted me to see her arrange the markers in right order ready to cover the numbers when called. She was often the winner!
Philo took delight in nature, enjoying animals, birds, flowers and trees. She loved the stars, the moon and the ocean. One of her joys in latter years was to sit in the car by the water eating ice-cream and watching the pelicans. Philo was also artistic and would join in art and craft activities, colouring and decorating.
Philo – we thank God for you and Mary’s gracious choice of you. It was your fervent desire to do great things for God in Mary’s way. You have followed in Her footsteps and been faithful unto death. Like Mary you prayed, “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord”. You have surely done God’s Will and God now welcomes you into eternity. Rest in peace.
In the Asia-Pacific region Marist Sisters in Australia and New Zealand are engaged in the work against human trafficking and slavery. The sisters are members of ACRATH in Australia and Talitha Kum Aotearoa New Zealand in New Zealand.
Over recent week ACRATH has been advocating with members of the Commonwealth Parliament. Due to Covid-19 this year all meeting took part online. In addition to members of Parliament the ACRATH team also meets with members of Government Department. The image depicts a meeting with the Australian Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, Lucienne Manton (centre of lower right image), and her team. ACRATH is convinced that it is only through collaboration with government, NGOs and civil society that human trafficking and slavery can be eliminated.
The recent ACRATH Newsletter outlines ACRATH’s advocacy issues in 2020. It also gives a snapshot of other ACRATH activities over recent months. Download a copy of the latest ACRATH newsletter here.
Despite being in lockdown for six months due to Covid-19 Marist Sisters resident in St Joseph’s Aged Care are still deeply interested in Congregation and world events. Their passion and commitment is an inspiration to all of us. On behalf of the group Sr Marie Berise writes the following:
“We six Marist Sisters residing at St. Joseph’s Aged Care, Hunters Hill, New South Wales, Australia, have been in lockdown since the 19th March 2020, only leaving this place for important, necessary medical treatment. We received with joy the beautiful, inspiring Jubilee for the Earth – New Rhythms, New Hope” material. It resonates deeply with the groundswell happening in Australia to raise awareness of climate change and the desire to reach renewable energy targets by 2050, despite the coronavirus and bushfire issues. The Government – Federal and State – and the many local groups are active. We here – Josephite Sisters, lay women and ourselves – prayerfully do very small things, cultivating gardens, recycling waste materials and plastics. How encouraging to read Ross Garnaut, one of our top experts in this field, in his wonderful book about Australia’s low carbon opportunity citing Pope Francis’s Laudato Si as the “most rigorous, comprehensive and influential” treatment of the ethics, science and technology issues to protect our common home throughout the world. In Laudato Si no. 218 Pope Francis quotes the Australian Bishops calling all to ecological conversion. We look to the future of our world with renewed hope.”
Photo: L-R: Srs Joan McBride, Anne Saunders, Marie Clarke (seated) and Srs Marie Patricia Toomey, Patricia Bartley and Marie Berise Nash (standing)