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.

 

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.

 

Celebrating in Australia

Marist Sisters in Australia gathered on 23rd July to mark three significant events. Firstly they acknowledged the anniversary of the Promise of Fourviere on 23rd July 1816. On this day a group of seminarians pledged themselves to beginning a congregation in Mary’s name. Beginning the afternoon with prayer the sisters remembered the Fourviere event and reflected on the gift of the Marist Spirit that has been passed down for over 200 years.

Secondly, the gathering was an opportunity to welcome Sr Grace Ellul home to Australia after serving as Congregation Leader for 7 years, and to thank her for her commitment and service during those years.

At the Marist Sisters General Chapter held earlier this year, Sr Kate McPhee was elected as a General Councillor. Kate will soon be leaving for Rome. While she will be greatly missed in Australia, the sisters expressed their love and support for Kate as she takes up this new role which she has generously accepted as God’s call.

75 Years of Marist Profession

On 5th February Sr Clare Francis will celebrate the 75th anniversary of her profession as a Marist Sister. Clare you are a living example of commitment and fidelity that inspires us in our Marist journey.

We rejoice with Clare and give thanks for her many years of Marist service in Australia and New Zealand. We ask God’s continued blessings for Clare in this her jubilee year.

Season of Creation

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.

Let Them Be Heard

To mark the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans has released a one minute video clip imploring people to listen to the stories and voices of trafficked people to gain an understanding of what can be done to combat the injustice. Victim-survivors are at the heart of everything that ACRATH tries to achieve in its work to help eliminate human trafficking and modern slavery.

ACRATH helps to restore the voice of victim-survivors through its Companionship Program and advocacy work. The Companionship Program involves 13 trained volunteer Companions walking the journey of recovery with survivors. Companions build relationships with these 34 trafficked women and their 45 children women, providing them with emotional, social and practical support.

Marist Sisters in Australia and New Zealand are engaged in the work of eliminating human trafficking and modern day slavery.

View the video clip here.

Chavoin Day at Cerdon College

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.

 

Unveiling and Blessing

The unveiling and blessing of the headstone for Sr Margarita Bourke took place on 28 December 2020.  Margarita died on 8 April 2018.   This Prayer Service took place at the urupa (cemetery) in the Far North in Waitaruke,  one of the first places the Marist Sisters went to in 1927. Sr Rita Gardiner  and Sr Aloyuisa are already buried there.  Fr Anthony Trenwith conducted the Service and as well as Marist Sisters Kathleen, Catherine, Gemma and Lorraine,  friends and relatives of Margarita also attended  – about 35 in all.  Sr Catherine and Bebe (Margarita’s niece) both unveiled the headstone as the blessing took place. Those attending socialized and met old and new friends over  kai (food) to finish the day.