In the late 19th Century, here in Australia, Mary MacKillop and Julian Woods shared a dream born of God, and they brought that dream to reality in the founding of the Sisters of St Joseph - a Religious Congregation uniquely suited to Australian conditions.
St Joseph, the man to whom God spoke in Dreams was to be the inspiration and patron for all who would follow their dream. Bishop Matthew Quinn, the first Bishop of Bathurst, saw that his dream for this diocese could be assisted by the presence of Mary and Julian’s daughters and so he invited the Sisters to his far flung diocese - which at that time stretched to the Q’land, SA and Victorian boarders. Today we celebrate the weaving together of all these dreams, and our present dreams, as the Sisters of St Joseph Perthville celebrate becoming one with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart (SSJSH), as we were in the beginning of the Josephite story. What a wonderful and intricate pattern God makes in the weaving together of our dreams!
It was almost 142 years ago that Mary MacKillop and Julian woods sent from Adelaide, three sisters and an aspirant to make the first foundation of Sisters of St Joseph in NSW at Perthville. For three and a half years, the founding sisters, the sisters who joined them from Adelaide and the local girls who entered the Convent here, were supported by letters from both Mary and Julian and with two visits by Mary MacKillop, as the Sisters prayed, taught school and built up a community here and in the surrounding area. Then 3½ years later, in early 1876, with the intervention of Bishop Matthew Quinn, Perthville separated from the original Adelaide group of Sisters of St Joseph and, led by Sr Hyacinth the little group of two professed sisters, one novice and eleven postulants became a Diocesan Congregation. At the Bishop’s request, Fr Julian Woods in the following years visited the sisters, gave them retreats and re-wrote the rule in keeping with their Diocesan status.
From Perthville, other Diocesan groups were founded in New Zealand, Goulburn, Lochinvar, Tasmania and Victoria. In 1967 the Five Diocesan Josephite Congregations seeking greater solidarity and unity became the Australian-New Zealand Federation of Sisters of St Joseph. Now, after careful discernment, Perthville becomes the fourth of these Federation Congregations to be united with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The story of separation and gradual re-union is then, one that spans 138 years.
With dedication and generosity, the Perthville Sisters have taken the message of the gospel to the corners of this Diocese and also to PNG and ministries in Sydney and the Kimberley. Responding to the directives of the Second Vatican Council the sisters revised the Rule, updated their customs and dress, expanded their ministries beyond the classroom through a preferential option for the poor and earnestly sought to return to the original charism of our founders. All this brought us into ever closer association with both the Federation and Central Josephite sisters.
Over many years, we have all steadily re-ignited our connections through the sharing of our founding stories, retreats, pilgrimages, publications, ministries, gatherings and endeavours of many kinds. In particular, our passion for God’s mission in the spirit of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and Father Julian Tenison Woods has drawn us all closer. The canonisation in 2010 of our co-foundress, Mary MacKillop was a rich, inclusive experience of being Sisters of St Joseph together and became another catalyst to greater unity.
With fewer active sisters living in the community and ministering among the people it became clear to many of the Perthville Sisters that we needed to make some real decisions for the future. At the beginning of 2012 we entered into prayerful discernment regarding our Josephite future culminating in the collegial decision of our Extraordinary Chapter in July last year to seek to fuse or merge with the SSJSH. It took the Vatican a long time to answer our request. However, the Decree authorising our fusion was signed on 19th March this year. We have been truly gratified by the generous welcome and ready acceptance afforded us by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
Our fusion in no way denigrates the 138 years of the Perthville Josephites as a Diocesan Congregation. Being and living as a Diocesan Congregation, was all part of God’s plan for the Sisters, for the good of the Church and the people of this region. Today though, we respond to the needs of these times, consistent with the directive of the Church in Perfectae Caritatis (#21, 22) which favours fusion (or union) for small Congregations in order to perpetuate their spiritual gift and contribution to the life and holiness of the Church.
We have much in common with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. We were all one in the beginning. We have the same Co-Founders. We have a shared history, charism and purpose. As an expression of our way of life, our two Constitutions express a similar spirituality and mission. Today, as Josephite sisters we will renew our commitment to God in our service of God’s people, as we renew our vows together during this Mass.
Through our fusion, the Perthville Congregation becomes one with the SSJSH. We take on a new identity. We believe that the strong desire for Josephite unity expressed by the Perthville sisters and so many Josephite Sisters is a movement born of the Spirit in this time of our history. Our Perthville Josephite history and story will always be a vital part of the Bathurst Diocese. Our Fusion will not change this as the Sisters will continue predominantly to live and minister within the Bathurst Diocese. Our fusion with SSJSH is a mutual sharing of our gifts, charism and mission; a respectful unity in diversity; a Weaving of Dreams.
Today the Perthville sisters pay tribute to and honour the close and rich relationship we experience with our families and with the parishioners, the priests and the religious within this Diocese. Our amazing connection of friendship, shared vision, dreams, sorrows, joys, failures and achievements, are an integral part of our Perthville Josephite story and we are delighted that so many of you are here to share this day with us. We are grateful also for the love and support of our Josephite sisters. Let us pray as we celebrate Eucharist that all of us may continue to journey in love and joy together into the future, weaving new dreams for God and God’s people.
Sr Therese McGarry
Sisters featured in Perthville Leadership Timeline Banner
Sr Hyacinth Quinlan 1876-1880
Sr Evangelist Holohan 1880-1881
Sr Benedict Hickey 1881-1894; 1896-1902; 1908-1921; 1929-1941
Sr Lucy Cuffe 1902-1905; 1921-1923
Sr Francis Morrissey 1923-1929
Sr Seraphim Lynch 1941-1953
Sr Paula Pini 1953-1965
Sr June Cleary 1965-1975
Sr Christina Morrissey 1975-1983
Sr Marie Kelly 1983-1989
Sr Janice Ryder 1989-1995
Sr Therese McGarry 1995-2000
Sr Jean Cain 2000-2005
Sr Mary Comer 2005-2010
Sr Therese McGarry 2010-2014
Sisters not featured in Perthville Leadership Timeline Banner as photo unavailable
Sr Teresa MacDonald 1872-1876
Sr Joseph Lyons 1894-1896
Sr Paulinus Farrington 1905-1908
Page last updated June 2016