Golden Jubilee Celebration in Fiji

Sr Rosemary Simon made her first Profession as a Marist Sister in the Merrylands Chapel on 6th March 1971 with Sister Carmel as her Novice Mistress. Rosemary still remembers that day with great clarity as both Sisters David and Carmel were present with all the Sisters in Merrylands at that time.   Also present was her mother who travelled from Fiji for that special day.  This wonderful  occasion was celebrated with great dancing in the community room with Father Kevin Kehoe at the piano.  Auntie Bonita Rounds and her mother danced the Tongan and Samoan Siva.

50 years later, on the anniversary of the day,  Rosemary recommited herself to Jesus by renewing  her vows during a special Jubilee Mass in the Mount St. Mary’s Church, Nadi.  The Church was beautifully decorated with white orchids  and pink antheriums. The main celebrant, a good friend of Rosemary, was Father John McEvoy scc (Columban), the friendship going back to the 1970’s when Rosemary was teaching at Xavier College, Ba.

Because of her Kiribati background, the hymns were a mixture of English, Fijian and Kiribati. The local blend of hymns sung by the Mission Choir of Lautoka was much appreciated by all who attended Mass. The members of the choir were made up mainly of Rosemary’s relatives.  The Offertory was a Kiribati cultural dance which accompanied those who carried up the bread and wine.  Concelebrating with Father John , were five other priests:  Frs Joe McHugh sj, Dennis Levy sm, Lewis Henry sm, Fr Sanele (pp of Nadi town) and Fr Veremo (pp of Lautoka).

Following the Mass the guests went to the school Square  for the formalities followed by the partaking  of the delicious meal catered for mainly by Rosemary’s family.  The venue was very convenient as the school verandahs provided ample space for people to sit, eat and enjoy the entertainment.  All in all, it was a very joyful, meaningful and memorable occasion.

We thank God for the gift of Rosemary and we thank her for the generous gift of herself as a Marist to the Congregation for the mission of the Church, and we wish her many more years of joyful and fruitful service as Mary’s Presence in the Church.

Click on images to see enlarged version.

Reopening and Blessing of Dental Clinic in ‘Balay Pasilungan’

In the Philippines the Marist Fathers Chanel Community joined the celebration of the opening of the Dental clinic for children at Balay Pasilungan. The newly blessed dental equipment enables Marist Sister Sheila Manalo SM (a dentist) to offer safe and covid-free clinic to children.

Founded by the Society of Mary in 1989, Balay Pasilungan is home to former street boys. They eat, sleep, play and pray as a family, supported by a social worker and house parents under the supervision of a Marist priest. Many of the boys also attend a local school.

[Photo: Marist Community with Fr Gil Casio SM, the new executive director of Balay Pasilungan with their dentist, Sr Sheila Manalo SM]

Jubilee Celebration in Fiji

A wonderful and joyful celebration was held recently at Mt St Mary’s parish, Nadi, Fiji, as Sr Margaret Sharma celebrated her Diamond Jubilee as a Marist Sister and Sr Marlene Giblin celebrated her Golden Jubilee.  Columban priest, Fr Frank Hoare, was the main celebrant and homilist with Marist Fathers John Crispin and Lewis Henry concelebrating.
Many Marist Sisters were present along with family members  and friends of the two jubilarians. Also part of the celebration was Sr Anna Rarasea, a Sister of St Joseph of Cluny and Sr Carmel Pilcher, a  Sister of St Joseph from Australia who is currently teaching at the Pacific Regional Seminary, Suva. It was a beautiful sunny day. All present enjoyed the Mass and the delicious meal that followed. Special thanks to Sr Lavinia and her team for a well organized celebration.

New Ministry in the Philippines

Davao’s Balay Banaag Center is now in the care of the Marist Sisters. Balay Banaag offers residential care to girls who have been abused or at risk. Up until now it has been run by Talikala Inc. – a local NGO whose goal is to improve the quality of life of women prostitutes and survivors of prostitution.  The Marist Sisters have worked with Talikala for years. So when it became difficult for Talikala to continue the management of Balay Banagg the director turned to the Sisters for help. With the enthusiastic support of the local Marist Fathers, the Marist Mission Centre, Marist Laity Australia and our Congregation, the  handover took place on 31 May 2018.

Sr Monida Lum writes:

“On May 31, the Sisters of the Unit and the staff of Talikala Inc, were joined by members of the Marist family and family members of the resident girls for the handing over of the management of Balay Banaag. 

Sr Lilibeth and Sr Edna had spent many weeks preparing for this day! The two house parents and the girls who reside in the center were happy and excited. The center was beautiful and welcoming. Everything was spick and span! The visitors-guests were impressed! Father’s Fernando Ingente,sm and Cleopas,sm (from Solomon Islands)  and Br Mark,fms also came to share the joy. 
Mass for the feast of the Visitation was well prepared. Fr Roque presided. The children did the singing including the responsorial psalm! The Parish organist accompanied the singing. After Mass, Fr. Roque blessed the “new look” center with the additional outside kitchen and laundry areas. With the children with lit candles, and the guests, in tow, he led the procession from room to room, blessing both the inside and the outside.
Then it was lunch!!! Fr Fernando prayed the grace before meals. The queue was long and slow moving! The caterers had provided many scrumptious dishes of main meal. Then there was dessert and drinks. Not to forget the delicious roast pork, Talikala had given two roast pigs! “
We ask God’s blessings on Sr Lilibeth, Director of Balay Banaag, and on her supporting community as they minister in Mary’s name.

Ministering in Outback Queensland

Australian Marit Sister Sr Mary Farrelly ministers in the Western Area of the Rockhampton Diocese. She recently shared on her ministry for the Diocesan Newsletter:

When you live just a hundred or two hundred kilometres from the border with the Northern Territory or even a hundred or two or three hundred kilometres from your nearest town, you don’t ride your bike to school. You don’t even make the daily mini-bus trip from your nearest bitumen road, travelling on just another 30 or 40 or 50 kilometres into town. It will probably be five or six weeks before you meet the other boys and girls in your class for the first time, before you meet your teacher in person. Of course you will know their voices long before then because you will have been “in” class each day during the week. During the course of the year there will be scheduled events, cluster groups and mini-schools. You will all come together then unless weather (if only it would rain!) or some urgent task on the property, prevents that from happening. Meanwhile, thanks to telephone and computer, to technology in all of its constantly developing forms and of course to the govies – who are often the mothers – distance education (“School of the Air”) continues to produce high achievers as in any ‘normal’ school. Travelling to the pupils Such is life in rural and remote Queensland. In the Diocese of Rockhampton this is increasingly so the further one travels west of the range. So when children are old enough to begin preparation for Reconciliation, the second Sacrament of Initiation, most of their lessons will be via the telephone. They are rarely able to join with peers for face to face lessons and because they are not always attached to the same school of distance education, their availability for a telephone conference may well not coincide.

An important part of the Western Pastoral Ministry is to support children and parents at this special stage of their faith development. There are a few key times when I am able to meet out on the property or in a town if opportunity offers, to introduce the programme. This happened when Cath and I made our annual visit to Bedourie in August. The rest of Georgie’s lessons will have to be via the phone until a visit next year when we will begin lessons for Confirmation and First Eucharist. Further into the programme I use one of several DVD’s to consolidate or enrich the children’s understanding. Learning this way involves challenges for all of us, not least in organising times in the midst of the many other calls on rural families. School lessons may be confined to five days a week whether face to face or by distance education, however livestock have daily needs and the children are often a part of the team caring for and working with them. Having spent 25 years in classrooms with multiple students, I find it hard not to be able to see the children and to pick up facial clues about their understanding. However, regardless of such challenges and limitations I have to say thank goodness for the telephone and to trust that our loving God whose children these are will make up for what is lacking in other respects. (Reprinted from Catholic Diocese of Rockhampton eNewsletter)

Sr Antonia Avey sm

Sr Antonia Avey sm was called to eternal life on Saturday 29th April 2017.

Eternal Rest grant to her, OLord.
May perpetual Light Shine upon her.
May she rest in Peace.

We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in New Zealand and to Sr Antonia’s family. At Antonia’s funeral Sr Francine delivered the following eulogy.

“When I heard last Saturday morning that Antonia had gone to her real home, these lines (with a slight gender change) came to mind – lines from the poem ‘Requiem’ by Robert Louis Stephenson:

Here she lies where she longed to be:
Home is the sailor, home from sea
And the hunter home from the hill

Antonia had a great desire and longing to be with God which in the latter years of her life she expressed often. I will talk about this later.

In “Sr Antonia’s Story” where she writes about her life, and in special detail her 23 years as a missionary in Fiji, she speaks of a happy and united family life with an open door to anyone who cared to call.  This characterised Toni’s attitude towards anyone who called at our door during the 10 years I lived with her in Linden and Tawa. It was in her family that her vocation was fostered. She would often accompany her Dad to daily Mass. She said his deep love of the sacramental presence of the Lord rubbed off on her.

Antonia did her primary schooling in Taihape and the convent school in Frankton with the Sisters of the Mission continuing at Sacred Heart in Hamilton.  Her final year was spent as a boarder in Mt Albert with the intention of getting to know the sisters before travelling to Sydney.  She thoroughly enjoyed that year but admits to ‘not studying terribly hard’ and she writes “At the back of my mind I thought that if I didn’t study too well they might not want to have me in the convent.  What generosity!  However I was gradually coming round to the truth that Jesus was calling me and I would answer the call.”

This she did in 1940 on the S.S.Mariposa with Sr Margarita at the tender age of 17 years.  They both got very sick on the boat and she tells the story of them and I quote, ‘feeling so seedy the second  night we couldn’t face going down to our cabin. We staggered down to get a couple of cabin blankets, came back to the deck, made ourselves as comfortable as we could on deck chairs, draped ourselves in the cabin blankets and there we stayed. A couple of times someone came along the deck saying, “Would those with cabin blankets on the deck please return them to the cabins.” Neither of us moved. We thought that if they wanted them back in the cabin they could take them themselves. We weren’t going down again. We awoke next morning to the sound of swishing water with sailors washing the deck.”

The novitiate at that time was in Woolwich, a beautiful spot which overlooked the Lane Cove River in Sydney. Her time there was short-lived as a submarine was spotted in Sydney Harbour and the Woolwich community, the Novitiate and boarding school of 50-60 boarders had to move to Mittagong, a safer place in the country. The hardships during this time were a very good preparation for her time as a missionary in Fiji. This move fulfilled her greatest desire which was to be a missionary.

She travelled to Fiji and spent the next 23 years there as a primary school teacher in different schools. 13 years were spent on a remote island in the Yasawas which was the highlight of her time in Fiji. Travelling on the village boats to reach the island took 8 hours and Antonia was very fearful to begin with but after a couple of trips with the Fijian crews, she lost all her fear because of their prowess at handling the boats. She had many stories to tell of her time there.

Antonia returned to NZ in 1967 where she taught at Mt Albert. She completed her teacher training at Loreto Hall and then taught at both Mt Albert and Herne Bay with several years in Melbourne. Subsequent years were spent in remedial teaching and pastoral work in 7 different parishes throughout the North Island. Her work in Linden, Tawa was mostly with refugees who benefited greatly by Antonia’s teaching skills. One of them who came from Cambodia, wanted to set up a hairdressing business and Antonia spent a lot of time taking him around and showing him what that would entail.  He changed his mind but did manage to set up a hairdressing business in his garage later.  A young Somali girl was another of Antonia’s pupils and she took infinite pains with her.  She came to live in a bedsit opposite our house in Linden where she received a lot of mentoring and instruction. Another Chinese gentleman with his wife went to see her several times at Marian Rest Home as it was called then when she moved North and they still ask after her 10 years later.

In 2007 Antonia moved from Tawa to MacKillop Care and we were told what a wonderful difference she made there, greeting newcomers and visitors with a cheerful smile and a kind word as well as making a great contribution to the life of the residents with her astuteness, sense of humour and prowess at rummykub in the early days and scrabble later. Prue, the Manager, said she was one of life’s special ladies, everyone loved her and she was a joy to have every day.  She would walk around humming and singing, often telling someone how nice she looked and that if the admired item of clothing was left around, she’d take it and put in her wardrobe. Gemma recounts that in probably the last game of scrabble she ever played, she beat her by getting TWO words of 7 letters thus receiving two bonuses! This is spite of being in a lot of pain!   Prior to her illness, she was a dab hand at cryptic crosswords, crochet and knitting.

Antonia has lived in 15 convents in Fiji, Australia and New Zealand touching the lives of countless numbers of people and many, many children. She was a woman of deep faith, prayer and compassion, totally committed to living out her vocation as a Marist Sister.  It was a great hardship for her to live out of her own community in the last 10 years but she did so in a spirit of acceptance and courage.  I have already mentioned  that Antonia often expressed a longing for Heaven and in St Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians he wrote “We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.”     This longing for Heaven, this homesickness for heaven is something Antonia bore within herself daily. She remembered that Jesus said  “There are many rooms in my Father’s house, if there were not I should have told you I am going now to prepare a place for you and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me so that where I am you may be too. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

On April 29th in the 74th year of her Marist life, God called Antonia home.

Congratulations Sr Kate

2016_teacher_awards_058On Thursday 27 October, 66 leaders and staff from Catholic schools and the education office of the Diocese of Parramatta were recognised for a collective 2570 years of service and 50 years of leadership at a special ceremony at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Paramatta. The Staff Recognition Awards were presented by Episcopal Vicar for Education and Formation, Rev Christopher de Souza EV and Executive Director Greg Whitby.

2016_teacher_awards_011Among the awardees was Australian Marist Sister, Sr Kate McPhee, who received an award for 25 years  of service. Kate’s community members, Srs Gail & Carmel were there to rejoice with her. Congratulations Kate.


Sr Gabriel Forster sm

Gabriel ForsterSr Gabriel Forster sm was born into eternal life on Friday 1st July 2016. At her funeral held on Thursday 7th July Sr Carmel Murray delivered the following eulogy.

On the 23rd July, this year, we will be celebrating the 200th Anniversary of “The Promise of Fourvière”, made by twelve young French seminarians who dreamed of a new society in the Church, The Society of Mary.  It seems so fitting that today, in this Fourvière month, we are gathered to farewell one of our own, Sr. Gabriel Forster, baptized Mary, a sister who entered Marist Life back in 1942 and lived seventy four years following her dream to follow Christ in Mary’s way.

Sr Gabriel, affectionately known as “Gabe”, was born in 1923 to Eileen and Joseph Forster in Bendigo, Victoria.  She was the only girl in the family, having four brothers, all now deceased.  Her family must have been a faith-filled one for from it came one priest, a Marist brother, a Marist sister and a married man whose wife, Connie, and daughter, Michelle, are here in spirit with us today.  Gabriel always had a deep love for her family and was always keen to have news of them as they lived so far from her.  In her later years, she loved to pour over photos of the family, especially Michelle and her two children and to tell us of their exploits.  Connie’s sister, Betty, was another cherished friend of Gabriel’s.

At age 19, Mary decided to enter the Marist Sisters.  To do so, she had to leave Victoria and journey to Sydney, New South Wales, where she was received into the Novitiate at Mittagong, a country town south west of Sydney.  Here the Sisters from Woolwich had moved the Woolwich School and Novitiate for safety as the War in the Pacific was getting closer.   Life in Mittagong was far from easy, but Gabriel’s desire to be a Marist was strong and in 1943 she was professed as a Marist Sister, the first Victorian to do so.

After Profession, Gabriel began her ministry in Education, first teaching at Mittagong and then moving to Karori, New Zealand.  She was to spend about five years in New Zealand as a teacher.  Later she received Teachers’ Training in Sydney and taught in both primary and secondary schools until the early seventies.  During those teaching years, she spent time in Fiji and there became a local superior and also bursar.  Australia was to see her again in the sixties and she was delighted to spend some years in her native Victoria at Burwood.

A big change came for Gabriel in 1973, when she was accepted into the Geriatric Nursing Training Programme at Lidcombe.  There she excelled in her studies and moved into training for General Nursing at Sydney Hospital.  Gabriel was highly intelligent and won the State Medal for Nursing. She truly loved nursing and having an enquiring mind, she delved into all aspects of it.  Her knowledge of nursing procedures was secondary to none and maybe this accounted for her rather meticulous demands when, in later years, she herself needed nursing care.  When the Gilroy Village at Merrylands built a Nursing Home, Gabriel became the first Matron.  Later she became a volunteer for the New South Wales Council for the Ageing and also cared for our own sisters in Marian House.  When health issues prevented her from active nursing, she engaged in pastoral work, volunteering at Westmead Hospital and at the St. Vincent De Paul Society at Lewisham.

Innovation was part of Gabriel’s make-up, and she was always seeking new ways to handle situations, whether it be teaching, nursing, pastoral work or living skills.  This desire to be one step ahead, often led her into some unusual manoeuvres.  Many of us who lived with Gabe at Merrylands, remember her love of driving the car and her delight in shopping, especially during the ‘Sales’.  One unforgettable day, Gabriel set out for Parramatta to buy a pair of sandals.  She left at 9 a.m. and should have returned within an hour or so.  Not our Gabriel.  Not finding what she wanted, off she drove to Warringah Mall, Brookvale, then to the City, then south west to Miranda Mall before finally arriving home about 6 p.m., still seeking that ‘elusive sale’.

A favourite haunt of Gabriel’s was ‘Spotlight’, a haberdashery/craft shop.  She was gifted artistically, in drawing, painting (oils and water colour) and in craft and sold much of her work to help Marist Missions. Always on the lookout for something different, she accumulated boxes and boxes of ribbons, cottons, laces, cushion fillings, paints, brushes and art and craft books.   Needless to say, if we could, we would try to hide the ‘Spotlight Sales’ advertisements from Gabriel’s prying eyes.  However, Gabriel was up to our tricks, and when, every week, she was taken for an outing by her carer at Marian House, she used to go on ‘Mystery Trips’, and would only tell the carer the location after they had left the house.

100_1377In the early 2000’s, the cross became very much a permanent feature of Gabriel’s life.  Her eyesight was rapidly deteriorating, as was her hearing and blood circulation in her legs.  She finally had to have one leg amputated and so for the next sixteen or more years, this very active sister was called to a ministry of suffering and continual frustration.  Possessing a strong, indomitable spirit, she determined to still participate as much as she could.   The telephone became her life-line and in spite of her deafness, she conversed easily.   Card- making became a favourite hobby in which she involved many of her friends and carers (not always an easy task for them), especially as her sight was failing. Communicating via her cards became a priority and Christmas and birthdays saw her diligently cutting out, pasting and printing her cards.  Always family, sisters and friends had to receive ones made specially for them.

Gardening and listening to the radio were always high on Gabriel’s list of activities.  She developed quite expert knowledge of the garden and often rang Gardening programmes on the radio for advice (as she often did, too, about health issues).  At Marian House, from her wheelchair, she would guide our gardener as to the layout of the garden and remind him when it was time to prune or mulch.  Nothing deterred her and often we would see her holding onto the terraced-garden handrail, taking herself down very dangerous, steep steps to water a plant or do some weeding.

Visits from sisters and friends became very important to Gabriel.  I must mention here how much she valued her friends, Fr. Bernard Maxwell, O.P.,  Br. Frank Richardson, fms., Peter(RIP) and Rita Duggan, whom she met through her Marist brother, Br. Sevard, Robyn Smith, from her time in Mt. Wilga Rehabilitation  and the many carers and volunteers from Marian House days who were so attentive to her even after she left there.

When it came time for Gabriel to go into residential care at St. Joseph Aged Care, a real struggle raged within; she who was so independent now had to allow others to direct her.  Jesus’s words to St. Peter at the end of St. John’s Gospel became very real to her:

“I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.  (Jn:  21:18).

 This was a real learning curve for Gabriel, but very gradually the Lord’s peace entered her heart and in her last months, all was well.  She valued so much any spiritual nourishment she could get, and loved to listen to tapes about the Scriptures or Marist Living. Rosary beads were a life-line for her and many was the time a hunt was on to find a lost pair.   When her condition worsened and she moved to St. Anne’s Nursing Home, she was unable to use her radio or tapes and the suffering she endured, not being able to see, hear or walk, was intense.

The Lord came suddenly for her last Friday, 1st July.  Fr. Ron Nissen, s.m. anointed her that afternoon. She was still able to express her gratitude to him.  Sr. Julie tells us that the last words Gabriel said to her were, “Thank you”.   I’m sure that these words of gratitude were also meant for Chris Mackenzie, our Care Coordinator, Sr Maureen, her special carer and all those who cared for her at Marian House, St Joseph’s and St. Anne’s. A special thank you to Anne Romanous who always took that extra mile for Gabriel.

Now all her sufferings are over.  She no longer has to worry about not being able to see, hear or walk.  Now she is seeing the face of her loving Father, the God she wished to serve from her first steps into Marist Life all those 74 years ago.  May Mary, our Good Mother, accompany her now into the wonders of the Father’s all-embracing life and love.

Good-bye, dear Gabriel.  May that beautiful smile of yours that lit up your face so radiantly here on earth, now be beaming continuously as all those things hidden from you here on earth are now revealed.

Walking for Justice for Refugees

2016-03-20 13.37.26On Palm Sunday thousands of people across Australia joined in rallies marching to demand justice for refugees. Marist Sister Judith Lythall took part in the Sydney rally which was attended by over 3,500 people.

The 2016 rallies sent a strong message requesting that asylum seekers not be sent back to Nauru, and that the student Mogjan now held in detention in Darwin be released back to her school and husband in Brisbane. There were many calls for the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to be closed.

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.