Marist Sisters in the Sector of Australia gathered in the Chapel at Woolwich on Saturday 3rd July to celebrate in prayer the life of Jeanne-Marie Chavoin, Foundress of the Marist Sisters, whose feastday had occurred a few days earlier. At the conclusion of their prayer each sister was given a copy of the booklet “Still They Have No Wine”, a programme of readings and reflections that will assist in responding to the call of the General Chapter 2008.
In her letter to the sisters Sr Gail, Sector Leader of Australia writes: “The chapter’s call to attend, as it did, to Mary’s way of thinking, feeling, judging and acting at Cana alerts each of us to sharpen our sensitivity to the needs or our contemporary world….Our initial efforts to address this question have led us to express a desire to offer to our world, and indeed to each other, the wine of hope and hospitality.”
Cerdon College recently celebrated 50 years since it was established by the Marist Sisters at Merrylands with Sr. Doreen McOscar (Sr. Felician) as Principal assisted by Sr. Claire Penfold. On 26th June 2010 the occasion was marked with an Anniversary Dinner held at Rosehill Gardens in western Sydney. All the Marist Sisters had been invited. Among those who could accept were several who had taught at Cerdon, including a previous Principal, even a couple who had been students there. When the 400 guests were seated, Mrs. Patricia Baker, the current Principal, introduced the event by recalling the contribution of the Marist Sisters, naming the past Principals – Srs. Doreen, Carmel Conran, Joan McBride (Sr. Aquinas) and Ann-Marie Webb (Sr Gerard Majella). The sumptuous meal was punctuated by some wonderful entertainment offered by past students of the College – the highlight being a rendition of the School song by its composer, Jenna Hogan. Jenna had written “In All Things Christ” when only 15 years old. There was a Trivia Quiz to engage each table-group and a constant stream of filmed memories to watch, as well as the opportunity to be photographed next to life-size mannequins dressed as the Marist Founders – Chavoin, Colin, Champagnat and Perroton. A heart-warming touch was a film-clip of Sr. Doreen, who at 96 was unable to be present, but nevertheless clearly and warmly shared her memories of the beginnings of Cerdon College and offered her loving wishes. In a typically generous gesture, there was also a raffle, the proceeds of which were offered to the Marist Sisters’ Mission in Papua New Guinea – providentially, Sr. Kate McPhee was present to express her gratitude on behalf of the Kanosia Community.
On Friday 5th February Marist College Mt Albert, Auckland held its Inaugural Mass for 2010 at St Patrick’s Cathedral. After the Mass Sr. Jane Frances, Superior General, currently on visitation in New Zealand blessed and opened the Chavoin Suite for Religious Education and the Mother Bernard Archives.
Mother Bernard was one of the two pioneer Marist sisters in New Zealand and was the first principal and driving force behind the development of the College. The preparation of the archival space has taken a year. Displays of artifacts and photos were prepared for the occasion.
In her address, Sr. Jane highlighted Mother Bernard’s zealous work for catholic education and highlighted the role of archives in creating “an interest in our past, a past that is both a human and religious place from where we can look towards our future.” She urged staff to make community the heart of catholic education “as a reality to be lived”. Students were reminded that their commitment is to the future, and that they “are bearing Mary’s name and will soon learn how to live her spirit.”
“A life so hidden and yet so fruitful seemed to Fr Colin to be the model of what the life of the whole society (of Mary) should be”.
These words sum up the life of our dear Sr Martha Drummond whom we honour and lay to rest today. She, Alice Joyce, was born in Manly in 1919 and had 3 older brothers – Edmund, Francis and Leonard. In 1921 her mother Martha, having lost her husband, married Augustus (Gus) Drummond who became a good father to the family. In 1922 her twin sisters Mavis and Louisa were born in Lawson. In 1924 after the tragic death of nine-year old Leonard in a riding accident the family moved to Penrith where many happy years were spent. They lived next to the convent of the Sisters of St Joseph where Joyce (as she was always called) and her sisters were educated.
After leaving school Joyce moved into clerical employment until 1943 when, during World War II, she enlisted in the Australian Women’s Army Service, being posted firstly to Bathurst and then to Melbourne. She worked as a clerical assistant and in the Quartermaster’s store was promoted to Corporal and drove very large Army trucks in Victoria. In the Army she met her lifelong friend Kath Bobridge who remembers Joyce’s prowess as a keen ballroom dancer.
When she was discharged from the Army she entered the Marist Sister’s Congregation in December 1946 and at her reception was given the name Sr Martha to the great joy of her mother who was also Martha. Her first posting was to Mittagong where the Sisters were pioneering a boarding school for developmentally disadvantaged children.
Then followed many years of faithful service in Australia and eleven years in New Zealand. Our Congregational Leader, Sr Jane Frances, knew Sr Martha when she was a pupil of Mt Albert in Auckland. In her email she speaks of Martha as the kindest, gentlest and most thoughtful Marist Sister she had met and this continued down the years. She stressed her ability to listen, understand and empathise with everyone at all times and Martha’s tremendous respect for the value of the person and her spirit of openness and hospitality. The sisters in New Zealand have many lovely memories of her.
When I lived with Martha in Burwood, Melbourne, I was inspired by her loving motherly care for two very aged sisters, Cuthbert and Odilon, and also her compassion and joyful good humoured presence in the community. She was a great driver, a wonderful cook and house keeper, always ready to serve and help her loved Marist Sisters, and her own family. She exercised her gift of hospitality to so many people. She was very good to the priests of the parish. I remember Martha quietly preparing a daily egg-flip for a young and very fragile assistant priest. However, I believe he gained much more than health care from the 11am egg-flip given with such understanding and friendship by Martha. When she came to Marian House in 1991 she worked tirelessly and unobtrusively for all till gradually she slowed down but remained always cheerful and interested in everything. During those years she discovered she had an aptitude for Art and produced some lovely paintings and drawings.
When I was at Martha’s bedside in Royal North Shore Hospital I felt what a patient, enduring and strong heart she had! The words of our charism “Hidden and Unknown” express the gentle Marian presence of Martha. She never drew attention to herself, simply fitting in wherever she could be of service, never seeking praise or acknowledgement. The qualities of Mary also embodied in Jeanne-Marie Chavoin, our Foundress, seem to find resonance in Martha’s life: “humility, poverty, love of work, in an integration of prayer and action in constant union with God”.
Dear Sister Martha we will miss you but will never forget your true example of an authentic Marist life. May you rest in peace in the arms of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph – and all the saints. O give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His merciful love endures forever.