Sr Doreen McOscar sm

Doreen McOscar

Doreen died peacefully at St. Anne’s on Saturday afternoon, 29th November.  She took us by surprise, surrendering to our loving God quite unexpectedly on the eve of Advent, the beginning of the Year dedicated to Consecrated Life.  Earlier this year, on 25th May, Doreen celebrated her 100th Birthday, thoroughly enjoying the parties organised in her honour.  She delighted in the occasion, and the opportunity it provided to bring people together.  Doreen lived life to the full, and her love for others and interest in their welfare never wavered.  We have no doubt that she is now enjoying the company of all who have gone before her, resting in the embrace of God, to whom she had given herself so completely.

Doreen Mary McOscar was born in Sydney of Irish parents – Ellen and Hugh – on 25th May 1914.  She was the second of two children and grew up in a close-knit family with her much-loved older brother, Vincent.  The family settled in Daceyville where Doreen attended St. Michael’s Primary School for most of her early years before enrolling in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, Kensington, for her Secondary education.  Doreen’s home suburb of Daceyville was very dear to her, and she always expressed deep appreciation for the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, who fostered her love of learning.  Over the years Doreen remained close to her extended family – enjoying the visits of cousins from different generations and discovering more about her family tree.

Doreen001In 1935 Doreen entered the Marist Sisters at Woolwich, where she had attended a number of retreats for young women.  She was professed on 25th January 1937 and was known for many years as Sr. Felician before returning to her Baptismal name of Doreen.

Throughout her long life, Doreen’s commitment to the Work of Mary never waned.  She lived the Gospel in the manner of Mary, drawing others to experience the love and mercy of God.   Doreen touched the lives of many through her ministry in fields such as education and pastoral work, spiritual renewal and faith formation, Congregational leadership and Marist Laity animation.

Doreen began her Marist ministry as a Primary and Secondary teacher.  In 1940 she started her studies at Sydney University and was the first Australian Marist Sister to graduate from there with a Master of Arts Honours Degree.  Her thesis on John Henry Newman was received with acclaim.  Doreen had a great love for English literature, which she shared with her pupils. Her high regard for the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins was well known. She took delight in savouring the rich expressions of his verse.  I well remember her introducing my class to poems such as The Windhover, Pied Beauty and God’s Grandeur: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God…” Her enthusiasm for poetry was infectious, but it was the depth of Doreen’s faith and spirituality that made the most lasting impression upon us.

DSCF2779Doreen was the founding Principal of Loreto Secondary School in Levuka, Fiji, and Cerdon College, Merrylands.  She was also Principal of Marist Sisters’ College Woolwich.  Doreen’s students held her in high esteem and her interest in them remained life-long.  Ex-students of Loreto, Cerdon and Woolwich would often visit Doreen and many turned to her often to seek wisdom, encouragement, advice and spiritual guidance.

In 1972 Doreen began theological studies at the Marist Fathers’ Seminary, Toongabbie, followed by a course at the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila, the Philippines, and a period of study at Corpus Christi College in London.  Shortly afterwards she lectured part-time at the Marist Fathers’ Seminary in Toongabbie and assisted with the teaching of catechetics. In the mid-70’s Doreen was elected General Councillor and moved to Rome to serve the Congregation in this leadership role.

On her return from Rome some years later, Doreen joined the team at the Marist Spirituality Centre, Marcellin Hall, Auckland, New Zealand.  Here Doreen worked closely with other members of the Marist Family – priests, brothers, SMSM sisters and laity – with whom she formed lasting bonds.

In 1984 Doreen returned to Australia, engaging in pastoral work in Torquay (Victoria), Blacktown (western Sydney) and Gladstone (Queensland). As in her previous ministries, Doreen’s ready ability to relate with people across all faiths and cultures, and her genuine interest in young and old alike, endeared her to all whom she met.  She had a breadth of vision that enabled her to dialogue with openness about issues facing the Congregation, the Church and the world.  She was committed to ecumenism and all that would bring people of faith together. Her animation of Marist Laity continued throughout her years at Marian House and she never ceased to remain vitally interested in all things Marist.

Sr Doreen with Srs Torika(Philippines), Sr Judith (Australia) & Sr Kalala (Fiji)

Doreen moved to St. Anne’s on 25th October 2011 and continued to reflect the presence of Mary to those around her – residents, staff and visitors too.  Doreen was a most gracious lady, attentive to others and appreciative of the loving care she received. She always joined in activities at St. Anne’s and encouraged others to do the same.

Indeed, Doreen was always affirming and encouraging – helping others to believe in themselves, and to have confidence in their abilities.  Through her warmth and freedom of spirit, she exuded joy that enlivened others, and many felt uplifted when they received a letter or phone call from Doreen.

She was determined and tenacious – and very particular!  We all knew how difficult it was for her to make a decision about buying a new blouse, or pair of shoes.  She was so petite and finding just the right fit would often prove impossible.  Doreen made us smile, she made us think, she brought light to our lives, and we will miss her greatly.

Pope Francis said recently that the effectiveness of consecrated life depends upon the eloquence of lives which radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full.  We thank you, Doreen, for the eloquence of your life and the inspiration you have been to us.  You have followed Christ in the spirit of Mary, loving as God loves us.  May you enjoy the rewards of eternal life.  Rest in peace, Doreen.

Sr. Julie Brand SM – 5th December 2014

Journalist Wins Award with ACRATH Article

Catholic Outlook ArticlePublished in the Catholic Outlook November 2013 issue, Virginia Knight’s article Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans took out the award for Best Social Justice Coverage at the Australasian Catholic Press Association Awards for Excellence 2014.  The awards were presented by the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, at the National Press Club in Canberra.  The judge said: “This article had as its focus some of the poorest, powerless and most vulnerable people in our world. It was well written and had the capacity to touch the heart and inspire the reader to action. It helps to expose an issue that gets very little publicity anywhere. It provides readers with an understanding of the underlying causes of trafficking and slavery as well as a sense of direction as to how to act in support of the cause if they choose to do so.”  To write her article Virginia interviewed Australian Marist Sister Noelene Simmons who is NSW Project Officer for ACRATH.

Congratulations to  Virginia Knight on winning this award and asssisting ACRATH to raise awareness about human trafficking, an issue that violates the dignity and rights of vulnerable people. (Photo: Virginia Knight, Catholic Outlook)

Aotearoa New Zealand Celebrations

Jubilee2014 047Marist Sisters from the Sector of Aotearoa New Zealand held their Assembly at Mt Albert from July 11th- 13th.  Sister Julie Brand, Regional Superior, facilitated the election of Sector Assistants Catherine Lawson and Marie Challacombe.  Unfortunately the four sisters from the North of New Zealand were prevented from coming because their route was flooded.Jubilee2014 030

On the Sunday, to acknowledge the Diamond Jubilee of Srs Marie Challacombe and Rose Harris,  a Mass was celebrated by Fr David Kennerley, sm  in the Mt Albert community chapel and followed by a special meal and the cutting of the Jubilee cake.  Unfortunately Sr Rose Harris was prevented from attending the celebration because of the floods in the north.  However her jubilee candle and her photo were placed in the chapel during the Mass.

Vocation…Call Waiting

Yr 12 Vocation ForumYr 12 students from Marist Schools in ACT and NSW gathered at The Hermitage, Mittagong over a weekend recently for the Marist Forum on the theme of “Vocation…Call Waiting.” On the Saturday afternoon forum participants had the opportunity to hear from a team of guest speakers who shared with the students on their vocation story. The speakers gave an insight into the joys and challenges of their vocation, an outline of the ministry that they are currently involved in and shared words of wisdom about the process of vocational discernment. Marist Sister, Noelene Simmons, was a member of this panel.

Sr Cora Bergin sm

Sr Cora Bergin sm died peacefully at St Anne’s Nursing Home in Hunters Hill, NSW, on 28th September 2013.  The following is the eulogy prepared and given by Sr Fidelis at her funeral Mass on 3rd October.

The woman whose life we are celebrating today was most aptly named – ‘Cora’ being derived from ‘heart’. Cora Bergin, known for a considerable part of her life as Sister Julian Eymard, might have been small in stature, but she was large in life. There is an expression that really is quite profound, even though it has suffered from overuse in recent times. It is an expression that embodies three defining qualities of hers.  Cora did, indeed, make a difference.

Cora made a difference as Marist.
At the age of 20, in 1944, she was professed as a Marist Sister at Carrick-on-Shannon in County Leitrim, Ireland. Her home base was Dublin, where the Bergin family lived. They were very much part of the cultural life of Dublin. As well as music being part of this experience, Cora was introduced also to the theatre at a significant time in modern Irish literature, enabling her to meet poets, writers and playwrights. One of these luminaries was James Joyce, who became a family friend. These experiences engendered her love of the arts. Mr Bergin also had a sports equipment business- but this seemed not to have had the same impact on his daughter.

Cora was ever mindful – maybe even proudly so- that the city of her birth had been a British city for five hundred years. For Cora, the almost mythical wooden fence around county Dublin, was her way of defining her understanding of the island of Ireland: anything ‘beyond the pale’ had to work hard to earn her respect.

As well as Cora’s contributions in Marist ministries, and her work within the structure of the Congregation, a standout difference that Cora made as Marist was her significant contribution in community, and this has been commented on in recent days.

As a community leader, her idea was to establish family.  She is remembered for her vitality, her acumen, and her wit. She had a wicked sense of teasing, but what gave her away was the twinkle in her eye. Her sense of wonderment allowed her rarely to be less than optimistic. Undoubtedly, this optimism and her life of prayer were intertwined and perhaps she reaped the benefit of this in her lovely peaceful death.

Colleagues of Cora remembered the warmth they felt when she hosted them for meals, or a coffee to be enjoyed between meetings. They appreciated the interest she showed towards their families.  They enjoyed chatting with her, and many a vibrant discussion was about the relative merits of English and Australian – or ‘colonial’- writers.

Cora made a difference in mission
Her ministry spanned 60 years and it was lived globally: Ireland, Fiji, Africa . Australia and Germany. Very much part of Cora’s ministry was set in the missions, thus fulfilling a long held belief that this was her calling.  Part of her entering the Marists was the possibility that she would be sent to the missions.  At the time of her coming here, Australia itself was a mission field.

In Senegal , she taught secondary school students. In Germany her focus was involvement in the parish, elsewhere it was in education, and it stretched across the spectrum from secondary school teacher to teacher education.  However, Cora’s longest and most intense work in the missions was in Fiji.

The third dimension in which Cora made a difference was as an educator
Mid twentieth century saw Cora and Sister Mary of the Presentation sail for Oceania with a stopover in Sydney: Sister Mary was off to New Zealand, and Cora to Fiji, where she worked at Nadi.  Later, with Sr Doreen ( then Sister Felician) Sr Julian Eymard opened a high school for Fijian girls on the island of Ovalau.  Later still, Bishop Foley established a Teachers’ Training School in Suva, and Sister Julian Eymard was asked to be on the teaching staff. Here she worked with Father Bambrick , SM, and Sister Patricia Fitzgerald, SMSM.

As well as what Cora contributed to the day-to-day learning of students at the schools, in the region and in training teachers, she is remembered on three further grounds. First, along with the other Sisters, she had the Nadi students sit for the New Zealand education accreditations. Secondly, Cora encouraged Sisters who were trained as teachers, to become Civil Servants. Her idea was that their salaries would become financial support for the mission.

And finally, at the time of Fiji’s independence, Cora was awarded a special Independence medal by the Government of Fiji for her contribution to education in that country. This was a significant award, and was seen as recognition of the monumental achievement she made in the lives of so many young people, some of whom are here today.

While her roles were different in subsequent ministries , Cora brought to them that same passion for learning. She modelled that passion herself. She loved literature and she loved language, and in her Master of Arts studies at the University of Dublin back in 1948, she specialised in languages. Cora developed quite a repertoire including French, Hindi, Russian and German. She also was proficient in Gaelic, but this achievement tended to be whispered about! Then, when she was on staff at Marist Sisters’ College, the need arose for a teacher of Japanese, and Cora took that on with the same passion, so that classes could be held.

As well as remembering the difference that Cora made as Marist, as a missionary and as an educator, we remember warmly the little imperfections that made her perfect for community.  Contrary to her self belief, Cora was not the world’s best driver. Let’s go back to Fiji . One day she was driving Tulip, the convent car, when somehow she managed to knock over a young man.  She immediately went to his aid, and offered to drive him to the hospital. Not surprisingly, he declined the offer. He had, after all, been walking on the footpath. We are also told that eventually he would not go out on his bicycle when he could see Tulip on the road.

As well as having a passion for learning, Cora loved her swimming, enjoyed her music, took art lessons, was obsessed with the music of Beethoven, and her opinion of the Jesuits is legend. Indeed, had there been Jesuettes, I am sure Cora would have been a founding member. Heaven for Cora will not be heaven unless the mansion prepared for her has a swimming pool, has the music of Beethoven piped throughout, has a library filled with the classics as defined by her, and is run by the Jesuits.

To share the things Cora did not like is simple: it was all and everything but the above.

Today at Cora’s parting, we acknowledge the love she had for her family and the love and care she enjoyed from them. She often shared stories of her parents, William and Agnes, her sister Joan and her beloved brother Bill and his wife Maureen, and she was proud of their achievement.

So as we farewell Cora,
thankful for having known her,
impressed by her achievements,
appreciative of her legacy and
with the warmth of our love, we are reminded of these words from The Dubliners by James Joyce:

‘Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion,
than fade and wither dismally with age.

Sr Makareta Gilbert sm

Sister Makareta Gilbert sm, formerly known as Sr Basil, died suddenly in Whangarei, New Zealand, on September 9th, 2013, while visiting her sister, Amelia Kanara. Makareta was one of three Maori sisters who joined the  Marist Sisters after a congregation founded by the late Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Liston, had been disbanded. Of the three Sisters who became Marists, Kare has already passed away and Sister Rose Harris is now the only remaining Sister of the original group. Makareta was preparing to celebrate 60 years as a Marist Sister in January.

Makareta was born and baptised in Waihou, Hokianga on July 4th 1932.  Her primary education was at St Joseph’s school in Panguru. As she had to help look after her younger siblings, her secondary education had to be through the correspondence school.  After her profession in 1954 she spent most of her life as a teacher in New Zealand and Australia. She taught in Putaruru, Karori, Mt Albert, Waitaruke (Northland) Herne Bay, Merrylands, (NSW)  and Burwood (Vic). After her return to NZ she took up a position in Rawene State School and taught there for 4 years.  Some of her first pupils, now in their sixties, say that they will never forget her classes or herself! Later Makareta moved into pastoral work in Kaikohe and Matata. Her last appointment was to Tawa and the little church of Te Ngakau Tapu on the hill, where she made a valuable contribution to the life of the Maori community as she had in so many other places.  She was an expert in Maori spirituality and by sharing her knowledge and love of this spirituality has enriched many of her own people as well as many pakehas over the years.

Makareta was farewelled in a Vigil Mass in Mount Albert, Auckland, and in a special way by her Marist sisters as she lay in their chapel there. The Sisters shared many memories of her: her generosity with her time and talents, (playing the guitar and singing, sewing, cooking, making cards…), her wonderful sense of humour, her frequent bursts of laughter, her endless supply of stories!  On the 11th her body was taken up to the marae in Waihou, her birthplace, where she lay for two nights. Many of her family, and friends, as well as the Marist sisters, came to say goodbye to her there.  It was moving to witness just how much she was loved by them all.  Many of her nieces and nephews spoke of the great influence for good “Aunty Bas” had been in their lives. She had never hesitated to challenge any deviation from the right path! On Friday 13th September after a beautiful Requiem Mass celebrated by Pa Henare Tate and three other priests, she was buried in front of the little Waihou church beside Father Wanders who had been parish priest there when she was a little girl. The Maori community saw this as a great honour.

May she rest in peace.

Empowering Trafficked Women and Children

Sr Edna (3rd left0) with APWRATH members

APWRATH (Asia-Pacific Women Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) and SAMIN (The Sisters’ Association in Mindanao) co-sponsored a training on feminist counselling as an intervention to counter trafficking in persons at the Benedictine Sister’s Priory at Davao City.

Why feminist counselling?  Feminist counselling or therapy aims to empower the disadvantaged and disempowered victim of violence and trafficking through a process where the victim learns to embrace her inherent power, the power within, and eventually confront the socio-cultural, economic and political factors that discriminate against and marginalize women.

Sr Edna giving basic counselling skills course

In the Philippines Marist Sister Edna Gado supports the work of APWRATH. She has been involved in giving basic counselling skills courses for social workers in Davao City who are working with trafficked women and children.

Episcopal Ordination of the Archbishop of Suva

Archbishop Peter Loy Chong

Months of preparation culminated on 8th June in a magnificent ceremony for the Episcopal Ordination of Archbishop Peter Loy Chong.  Marist Sisters in Fiji were delighted to be part of this historical event for the Fijian church.  People poured into Suva’s Vodafone Arena from all over Fiji, its outer islands, towns and cities.  The Mass was concelebrated by bishops from other Pacific Islands and 140 priests .  The choir consisted of 300 men, women and children with 3 people who conducting the singing. Also present were the representatives of other Churches in Fiji, dignitaries, Government officials and people from overseas.  There was a Fijian ceremony straight after the Mass to welcome the new Archbishop and assure him of the support of his flock.

On Sunday 9th June there was a Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral Suva.  During this Mass the new Archbishop was escorted by the former Archbishop, Petero Mataca, to the special chair.  This was an emotional moment for all.  Marist Sister Mariana Teveruga  represented the Religious Congregations in Fiji as she pledged obedience and loyalty to the new Archbishop.  Representative from the priests of Fiji and from the laity made similar pledges.

Archbishop Chong's Coat of Arms

The Bishop’s Coat of Arms is “To Be Church in the World”. His vision embraces both church and theological prospects in the diagram. Archbishop Chong said that he was strongly convinced that theology had to be contextual so that it would be relevant to peoples’ questions and problems today.

May Archbishop Peter Loy Chong be blessed with all the graces he needs to implement his dream for the Church in Fiji.

Sr Tecla Scala sm

Tecla Scala was born in Italy, in a little town between Sorrento and Naples, on 31st December, 1921 to Rafaele and Maria Catena Scala.  She was born into a big Catholic family some of whom migrated to Australia, and when she was six years old, Tecla came here with one of her older brothers.  I think her father was already here and later her mother and sister, Clara, were to follow.  The family were involved in the fruit and vegetable trade especially in the markets.  According to Tecla, ‘Scala Coffee’ which the family made, was the only coffee worth drinking.  Love of her family was always a significant part of Tecla’s life.  If there was a gathering of the clan, Tecla made sure she was present.  When she was in St. Anne’s, a visit from her nieces, Veronica and Josephine, was very special to her.

At age 21, in 1942, Tecla entered the Marist Sisters and with Sr Gabriel, became one of  the first two postulants to be received as Marist Sisters in Mittagong, where most of the sisters had gone during the war years.  She was professed in 1944 and so began her long life as a Marist Sister.  She was given the religious name of Sr. Angela, and for most of her religious life, was affectionately known as ‘Angie’. She was to minister in many different countries, including New Zealand, Fiji and her beloved Italy, as well as different states in Australia.  Both primary and secondary schools were part of her ministry, and it was in the latter that her giftedness in domestic science and sporting prowess came to the fore.  Not only was she able to produce wonderful culinary dishes but what a great netball coach she became.  Many the trophies her   teams won in school and district competitions; and how distressed she was when they lost.  Allied with these sporting achievements was her passionate support for the Manly Sea Eagles Rugby League Team; on one occasion, when the team was losing regularly, Angie rang up the Team Coach to give him a few pointers!!

I think you may have gathered that she was a passionate, energetic lover of life.  People were her special concern and when her teaching days in school ended, she took up a pastoral care ministry mainly among Italian families in the western suburbs.  Never loath to speak her mind, she chided any one who may have become a little negligent in Sunday Mass going or were tardy in having the baby baptized.  On the other  hand, many were the times when she would go to the Markets and return home to Merrylands laden with fruit and vegetables which she bundled expertly and then delivered to families in need.  Generosity was her second name.

Gifted with artistic talents, Tecla showed these in her culinary skills, producing Christmas and Jubilee cakes that were exquisitely iced and decorated.   One Christmas she made a delightful ginger-bread house for Dario, her much loved grandnephew.  Italian dishes were her speciality and how delicious were her soups, lasagne and pasta dishes.  When she was in St. Anne’s Nursing Home, Chris, our Care Coordinator, for whom Tecla had a special love, would take Tecla for a pasta treat.  How Tecla looked forward to that.  Knitting and crocheting were further accomplishments of Tecla’s – always wonderfully executed.  Again, she had green fingers and plants flowered under her care.

Our Tecla was a woman who ‘spoke her mind’; her favourite saying was: ‘I say what I think’ and speak she certainly did.  None of us who were with her at our congregational assemblies will ever forget Tecla and her ideas.  Never was she too fearful to expound on what she saw ought to be happening even if she received little encouragement or support.

This carried over to local community matters.  She was a great fan of Talk-back radio and John Laws was her pin-up boy.  How often did she offer pearls of wisdom over the radio and when she was living at Canley Vale, in a rather needy area, she would contact her local member to tell her a few home truths of how politicians should be helping more.

Her fearlessness – perhaps sometimes lack of prudence – was often visible when she would lecture drug addicts whom she found in the local park in Canley Vale as she was on her way to daily Mass at 6.30 a.m.   Trying to tell her that it might be wiser to just greet them and continue on was useless.  To her they needed some friendly advice, and she was the one to give it….and I must say, they listened to her and generally treated her with respect.

Tecla’s passionate nature saw her cling to her Catholic Faith and Marist Life with great zeal and love.  Daily Mass for her was a must and so, too, her love of Mary, our Mother, shown in her great devotion to the praying of the Rosary.  Her prayer embraced all her loved ones, first and foremost, her family members, not forgetting her religious family and any one in need.  She was a feisty yet very loving character, with a heart filled with generosity and goodness.  At times her forthrightness could be quite daunting but in spite of that, there was a loveableness about Tecla that couldn’t be denied.

I’ve been privileged to journey with Tecla over the last few years during her time in St. Anne’s, where she was cared for so lovingly by the Sisters of St. Joseph and the staff there. Each time I visited Tecla we prayed the Hail Mary, together with the marist invocation, ‘Mary, Our Mother, Our First and Perpetual Superior, pray for us.’  Tecla prayed that prayer so fervently.  She also loved to have me sign her forehead with the sign of the cross and the prayer..’May the Lord bless you and keep you; may His Light shine upon you and give you peace.’  And her prayer was answered and her death was so very peaceful.

May Tecla now be enjoying the fullness of the Resurrection where she knows fully how much she is loved by God and by us.   May Mary, Our Good Mother, receive her daughter, Tecla, with great joy and love, and may Tecla not be telling the Lord how to run Paradise.

Enjoy your new life Tecla.  Please pray for us.
(Written by Sr Carmel Murray sm)

Australia and Asylum Seekers

Since returning to Australia in 2003 Marist Sister Grace Ellul has been involved in ministry to refugees and asylum seekers, at times a regular visitor to Villawood Detention Centre.  She has learnt much from so many resilient and loving people who only ask for a chance to begin life again after having endured imprisonment, torture, fear, anxiety for their families and often dangerous sea voyages.

The present plight causes great concern.  The many situations of conflict in our world, the countless instances where minorities are persecuted, lead to displacement of peoples and the need to seek asylum.  Governments are reacting defensively, looking for ways to exclude those seeking asylum.

What is worrying at present in Australia are the punitive measures that are in place.  The return to offshore processing, detention of children, the very long waiting period before visas are granted are all measures that are unacceptable if basic human rights are to be respected.  People continue to be forced back to their country of origin, despite clear evidence in some cases of well-founded fears.

As Marists committed to Gospel values of compassion, inclusion and hospitality we are concerned about this situation and desire to witness to these values concretely in our lives and ministry.