Congregational Leader Visits Sisters in Aorearoa-New Zealand

Srs Jane Frances & Gemma

Sister Jane Frances, Congregational Leader of the Marist Sisters, recently visited the Sector of Aotearoa-New Zealand.   Sr Gemma, Sector Leader of Aotearoa-New Zealand, writes: “Jane attended the Holy Week and Easter celebrations  with the Orakei community.    On Easter Monday she set off to visit the Sisters in Waitaruke and Rawene, North of Auckland. Over the next four weeks she visited all  the communities in the Sector: Orakei, Papatoetoe and Mount Albert in Auckland, Rotorua, and Tawa near Wellington, as well as the Northern communities.  There was an opportunity for her to speak to each Sister and in each place she led us in a very inspiring and thought-provoking process to help us focus on our mission as Marist Sisters in Aotearoa-New Zealand. It was a joy to have Jane back with us during this time.”

General Councillor Visits Australian Communities

Over recent weeks the sisters in the Sector of Australia have enjoyed having Sr Miriam McManus visiting their communities.  Miriam is an Irish Marist Sister currently serving as a General Councillor in Rome.


During her visit there was an opportunity for sisters to discuss with her some themes from the last General Chapter – Wine for a Thirsting World.  Her visit also gave an opportunity for the sisters to hear news of other parts of the congregation.

Sr Sheila’s Perpetual Profession

Sr Sheila Professing her Vows

On Friday 23rd March Sr Sheila made her Perpetual Profession as a Marist Sister.  The main celebrant for the Profession Mass was her uncle, Archbishop from Cotabato City.  He was joined by Archbishop Capalla (Davao) and his Auxiliary Bishop from the Matina Parish, where the Eucharist was celebrated.  A number of Priests, including Marist Fathers, concelebrated.

Sr Jane Frances Receives Sheila's Vows


Sr Jane Frances O’Carroll, Congregational Leader of the Marist Sisters, received Sheila’s vows. Sr Julie Brand, Regional Leader of Marist Sisters in Asia-Pacific was present along with religious from all branches of our Marist Family and other religious from near and far.

Sr Sheila with Her parents




Sheila’s parents, her two sisters, her brother and their families were present, together with many friends and parishioners.  It was a joyful, prayerful Eucharist with beautiful music and an excellent homily.  Sheila pronounced her Vows with confidence.  The Church was decorated with lovely greenery and pretty white flowers.

Afterwards everyone joined us for lunch in the nearby Parish pavilion, where caterers had prepared a delicious meal.  During the meal we were entertained with items, including a Fijian meke presented by Srs Val and Biri, and a Kiribati dance presented by Sr Terube.

Sr Sheila with Marist Sisters, Sector of the Philippines

All the Marist Sisters of the Sector of the Philippines had been involved in helping Sheila to organise this special day, and of course Sr Torika, Sector Leader of the Philippines, expressed the joy of all Marist Sisters when she welcomed everyone at the beginning of Mass.  Sheila expressed her own words of thanks at the end of the Eucharist.  In particular she mentioned the Sisters of each part of our Region – New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and the Philippines – who had been so significant in her journey towards Perpetual Profession.

First Profession of Two Fijian Sisters

Srs Val, Jane Frances (Congregational Leader) and Biri

On the  Feast of the Annunciation the First Profession of Srs Biri and Val was celebrated with great joy in Mintal, the Philippines.  Fr. Pat Muckian SM was the celebrant.  Congregational Leader of the Marist Sisters, Sr Jane Frances O’Carroll, and Regional Leader of the Marist Sisters in Asia-Pacific, Sr Julie Brand, were present as were all Marist Sisters of the Philippine Sector.

Sr Biri Pronounces Her Vows


They were joined by members of the Marist Fathers, Marist Brothers, Marist Laity, friends and neighbours.  Sr Jane Francis, Congregational Leader, received Biri’s and Val’s Vows.

Sr Val Receives Her Congregational Cross




Biri and Val were peaceful and happy as they celebrated this special event.  After Mass, and the taking of photos,  a delicious meal was shared.  Biri and Val received many loving messages from Sisters in the Region and beyond.

Regional Leadership 2012-2015

Srs Margaret, Vivienne & Julie

Following consultation of the sisters of the Region Sr Jane Frances, Congregational Leader, appointed the new Regional Leadership Team for Marist Sisters in Asia-Pacific.  The new team with Sr Julie Brand as Leader and Srs Margaret Vaney and Vivienne Goldstein as Regional Councillors began their mandate in August 2011.

On 2nd February as we celebrated the World Day for Consecrated Life, new leadership teams began their three year mandate within each Sector of the Region.

Srs Catherine, Gemma & Analulu

Aotearoa-New Zealand

Sector Leader:  Sr Gemma Wilson
Assistants:  Srs Analulu Tanuvasa & Catherine Lawson


Srs Grace, Gail & Catherine



Sector Leader:  Sr Gail Reneker
Assistants:  Srs Grace Ellul & Catherine Lacey


Srs Mariana, Salome & Marlene


Sector Leader: Sr Mariana Tevurega
Assistants:  Srs Marlene Giblin & Salome Dilagi


Srs Monica & Torika





Sector Leader: Srs Torika Wong
Assistants: Sr Monica Lum

Sr Blaise Manueli sm

Sr Blaise Manueli sm

Ana Manueli was born on the island of Rotuma on 20th January 1940. Although politically linked with Fiji since 1881, Rotuma has its own distinct character – as did our Sister Blaise. She did her primary education at Sumi, a village on her home island and then when she was 15 years old travelled the considerable distance to Levuka, Fiji to do two years at the Commercial School which was run by the Marist Sisters. A couple of years later at the age of 19 Ana left “home and country” to take up Marist religious life. This meant travelling a much greater distance to Merrylands in Sydney for her initial formation under the direction of Mother Romanus for the first year. Ana was professed in June 1961 as Sister Blaise and remained in Sydney for another seven years. During this time she lived in Woolwich and then again in Merrylands, completing her secondary studies and assisting with domestic duties, including cooking.

The Sisters in Australia have very fond memories of those days, remembering Blaise as bright and quick-witted with a larger than life personality. It was around this time she became renowned for her ability to cook for over a hundred boarders, keep the kitchen spick and span and still have time for scrabble playing her right hand against her left!! A little later when cooking at Merrylands she became known for her Saturday night hot curries which reduced Sr David’s novices to coughing fits and – much to their delight – brought an end to the silence of the evening meal.

In 1969 Blaise returned to Fiji where she did her teacher training at Corpus Christi. In 1971 she took up the role of head teacher at the Yasawas. From then on her characteristic strength, compassion and humour took her from one leadership role to another. These included head teacher at St Agnes Samabula and in Levuka; supervisor of the Commercial School in Lautoka and boarder mistress at Cawaci; care giver in Nadi; bursar in Vatukoula and Levuka, local leader in Levuka, Lautoka, Vatukoula and Lami. With great generosity Blaise also gave community service for over two years at Marian House in Sydney as well for three years in our general house in Rome.

For the past few years Blaise was back at Levuka where she first met the Marist Sisters. Again she held positions of responsibility – local leader for five years and recently local bursar. Some time ago her sight began to deteriorate so earlier this year Blaise moved to the Nadi community. It was there on 27th June this year that Blaise celebrated 50 years of Marist religious life with Sisters, family and friends who joined her for this very happy occasion.

Sr Blaise sm

There was joy and excitement in the air the morning of Monday, October 10th – Fiji Independence Day. During the first part of the morning, Blaise and Sr Maria Goretti were busy printing the Archdiocesan Vision Statement in our four major languages: English, Rotuman, Fijian and Hindi. The rest of the morning Blaise spent filling in her cross-word puzzle and Sudoku – her normal activity of a morning before lunch was ready.

The community then gathered in the dining room where Blaise led the prayer by singing the Vision Statement song. It was in the second verse of the song that Blaise moved back against the table, seeking support. Sr Miriama, who was standing close to her, noticed this and put her arm around Blaise. “I’m weak”, Blaise whispered to Miriama but she continued to sing in spite of it. Miriama alerted the rest of us that all was not right with Blaise. While the rest of the Sisters gathered around Blaise and helped her to a wheel-chair, Sr Marlene called for an ambulance, the parish priest (Fr Ipolito sm), and Dr Raymond Fong. Fr Ipolito was the first to arrive to administer the Sacrament of the Sick. When Dr Fong arrived he confirmed that Blaise had suffered a brain haemorrhage. When the ambulance came to take Blaise to the hospital she had already lapsed into the coma from which she never woke up.

From the hospital, Marlene called Sr Mariana (Sector Leader) with the news of Blaise’s collapse. Sr Jane Frances (Superior General) and Sr Julie (Regional Leader) were in Nadi for their visitation and were part of the anxious group awaiting news at Mt St Mary’s. Over the next few hours Blaise’s family and friends were informed of her illness. The Rotuman Community responded with love and devotion. They arrived from all over Viti Levu and took turns with our Sisters in keeping vigil by Blaise’s bedside in the hospital. Her brother, Kepieni, arrived from Brisbane on Saturday afternoon and went straight to the hospital. It was as if Blaise was ‘waiting’ for Kepieni to arrive! Together with his younger brother, Mua, Kepieni bade good-bye to his beloved sister, Ana.
Blaise remained in a coma from 1.50 pm on the 10th of October until she peacefully slipped away into God’s care at 4.50 am on 16th October. The parishioners of Mt St Mary’s Nadi, Lautoka, Nadi Town, the Rotuman relatives and friends of Blaise came to offer their help, bringing gifts of different kinds. The Sisters were overwhelmed by their show of love and support.

The Vigil was held in the convent chapel on the night of the 18th October and was attended by very many relatives and friends. The Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated the next day by Fr Kaitu’u the Rotuman priest who had offered Blaise’s Golden Jubilee Mass. Fr Kaitu’u was assisted by eight priests. Blaise and Sr Nolasco now lie side by side in Balawa Cemetery, Lautoka, their graves overlooking the sea which both loved so much in life.

Blaise – like St Paul – has run the race and fought the good fight. She was loved by young and old, remembered as strong and forthright, but with a big heart, generous, vivacious and great fun. As one of our Sisters put it: “We have another Marist in heaven. May she now enjoy the reward of a Marist life lived to the full.”

Sr Joan Sheppard sm

Sr Joan Sheppard sm

Today we come to honour and say farewell to Joan Sheppard, probably one of our tiniest sisters, yet one of the biggest in her thinking and exercise of real care and education for all people, especially the not so well off. Joan was a Sydneyite born in 1925 and daughter of Nora and Victor Sheppard. When Joan was quite young she spent a year with her grandmother in Adelaide which seems to have been a valuable experience for her. She was lonely but loved her grandparents, and young though she was, reflected on God and life. “My key relationship at that time was with God. My significant people were the saints”. She had three brothers and one sister. Two of her brothers were in the War and spent years in Changi. When they returned to Australia they were, like so many others, wrecks of their former selves. It was not surprising that they died earlier than the rest of the family. Her one sister, named Betty, and her younger brother, Bill, died in more recent years.

Joan entered the Marist Sisters novitiate in 1949 and was professed in 1951. After one year of profession Joan went to Teachers Training College and was then sent to Melbourne to teach in our school there. This was the time of mass migration to Australia, many of whom were Catholic parents who were anxious for their children to have a Catholic education. The result for Joan was that she had a class of 130 primers! What was astounding was, that this recently graduated teacher, was able to manage as well as she would have with 30! From 1954 to 1973 she moved between Burwood and Merrylands, which had the same kind of migrant intake. After teaching for so many years in Melbourne or Merrylands, she turned to a new apostolate.

All this time she had been having contact with Catholic children who were at the State school and giving them instruction in their Faith outside of school hours. She could see how important this was but realised it would be much better if she could do so in the State schools. She spoke of this to her superior who was then in touch with the Bishop of the area, Bishop Kelly, and he could see the needs of the children of Western Sydney at this time. The Bishop then asked to talk with Sr Joan and the deed was settled. From 1973 to 1979 Joan was engaged in this work, but also helping other catechists and writing a book, suitable to give to all children in State schools, of First Reconciliation and First Communion, which was used throughout Sydney. This work continued to 1979 then Joan went in 1980 to Woolwich to teach in the parish school in Gladesville Road , with a short break in Mackay in 1983 and then back to Merrylands. As one of the sisters remembered, what was essential in all this, was that Joan loved and enjoyed the children, ever finding their misdemeanours amusing.

In 1986 she took up pastoral work in Merrylands and in 1987 was appointed to St Patricks, Church Hill, which for her was a different sphere of work though still of a pastoral nature. Here she remained for three years and was then appointed to Richmond to continue the same work of pastoral duties.

Another aspect of Joan’s life was her extraordinary gift of supporting the very poor and sometimes illiterate people, quite a few of whom were adults. With these people she had the gift of conversation, making sure they never were in danger of losing their dignity. From 1993 to 1995 she was on the staff of Marian House and then in 1986 was teaching and doing CCD work at Marist College, Woolwich. In 2001 she was due for a good break and chose to live for a time in Gilroy Village. Then when it was realised she was not well, she moved to Marian House and in 2004 to Our Lady of Consolation, Rooty Hill, where she died after a prolonged term of illness.

Joan was generous with her time, had a terrific sense of humour and was very good company. There was a down side when she could be quite cranky but her good humour certainly outweighed this. This year, just a month ago, on the exact date of her first profession she was able, though very ill, to renew her vows with her companions, on the exact date of her Diamond Jubilee of Profession, the 15th July. A big thanks to Sr Beverly and Sr Judith who arranged this, when the group met at Our Lady of Consolation Home for this little ceremony. Judith has been caring for Joan in this period of illness over a number of years, made more fruitful by her own expertise in this field. Joan died on the 17th August, 2011. In Joan’s own words written some years ago for the children in her catechetical programme,

God loves me, God calls me, Lord here I am.
In answer to your call I come, in answer to your love I bring
the life that you gave me.

Rural Ministry in Central West Queensland

Srs Mary & Cath

Marist Sisters Cath and Mary are based in Barcaldine, a town in Central Western Queensland. Their ministry is to people on properties and in little towns to north, south, east and west in that area of the Diocese of Rockhampton. They travel many thousands of kilometres in the course of a year, often staying away for nights at a time. Many of the people rarely if ever see a priest.

Baptism in Barcaldine

An important aspect of this rural ministry is preparation of children (and sometimes adults) for reception of the Sacraments of Initiation. Sometimes the Sisters are called upon to lead a service of the Word and Communion – no Mass being possible without a priest – to baptize or to lead a funeral or burial service. Frequently they simply visit to spend time, to listen and share the joys and sorrows, the struggles of men and women coping with the difficulty of surviving years of drought. Through phone calls, emails, letters and newsletters, the Sisters strive to nurture the sense of community regardless of the great distances separating people and to support them in whatever way they can.