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‘Never See a Need’ is an account of the lives and works of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart in South Australia from the time of their foundation in 1866 until Mary MacKillop’s canonisation in 2010. Much happened during those 144 years. There were dark times and bright times, times of growth and expansion interspersed with times of decline, times of stability and times of change, and through it all, the members of the Congregation never forgot their call to do what they could to remedy the evils and ills of their society. They were educators, but they also looked out for the welfare of the poor and disadvantaged in different ways as they moved across the landscape to wherever they were needed, always a “people on the move” but always stable in their devotion to their ministry.
Launch of Marie Foale's Book
by Sr Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader, Sisters of St Joseph, held in Adelaide on 4 June 2016
I am delighted to be here today to launch Sr. Marie Foale's new book 'Never See A Need' the story and history of the Sisters of St Joseph in South Australia from 1866-2010. It is fitting that this book be launched in this our Sesquicentenary year as we ‘Listen to the Heartbeat of the World’. This book is indeed a story of a courageous and passionate group of women who over these 150 years have listened to the Heartbeat of the World and responded with generosity and grace to the emerging needs of each era. It is a story of the faithfulness of God in the creating and birthing moments of the Josephite story as well as in the times of suffering and tribulation.
The book begins by taking us into the very heart of our Josephite foundational story where we engage with those early pioneering and resilient women of our Josephite story as they 'Listened to the Heartbeat of the World' of their time. As they engaged in the life of the people around them, they were drawn more deeply into the mystery of God's love at the heart of this story. In this way the struggles and challenges that they encountered right from the beginning were embraced with fortitude and tenacity. The stories of the early Sisters is repeated throughout each era written about in this book - each era tells of a different time and different places yet that same pioneering spirit remains - stories of expansion, of moving on when the need changes and of continuing to go out to where the new need emerges. Time and time again the call to go the peripheries as Pope Francis keeps reminding Religious women and men to do, is told in these pages.
Once again Marie has not failed to engage us in the reality of this truly important work. In the words of Poe Francis, she enables us ‘to look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope’. Her particular gift and skill is the way in which she weaves together historical facts with the stories and writings of the women whom we meet in this history. Marie draws you into these encounters so much so that you able to identify your story in their story.
Marie’s particular style of writing history - with extracts from letters, diaries and newspapers - makes this book a living memory. You want to keep reading – you want to know more.
Through this history Marie weaves a colourful tapestry of Josephite life here in South Australia. She shares insights on the down to earth reality of daily life for these women. It is a very human story telling of the trials and tribulations as well as the hopes and dreams held in the hearts of Josephites both past and present. In this book you will encounter real women – women who speak of the realities of living – you will meet:
-Sr Joseph Mary Fitzgerald who writes of being very happy in Kapunda where the children are so good
-Poor Sr Bridget who has a wild mission in Blinman
-Sr Dorothea Ryan who writes of living in the church unable to cook because we have no fireplace as of yet
-Sr Mary Borgia who realistically tells ‘Today is very wet, a very good thing for our tank which is almost empty but no so good for the opening of our school. We only have four pupils this morning
-Mary MacKillop’s grief with the news of Sr Joseph’s death – who suffered from a mental breakdown – it gave me a great shock and made me cry more bitterly that the death of any other Sister
-The feistiness of Sr Josephine Carolan who wrote to Rome questioning the legality of Bishop Reynolds actions in 1883 ‘We are very hurt to find that Dr Reynolds has power to set aside the superior in whom we have every confidence and to appoint another in her place without legal reasons
-The ingenuity of the Sister Austin O’Meara in Penola in 1885 by raising the money for their fares to go to Sydney through a concert … then she goes on to say ‘We will tell the priest we are going to town in time to have the Blessed Sacrament removed … Of course going to town is all I shall say. It will be perfect truth as I hope to go Sydney town
-The weeping and sobbing of Sr Thecla Harding when she discovers that Mary MacKillop would be leaving them as orphans
-The good advice Mary gives to the Sisters when they remain in their quiet little country convent for Christmas encouraging them to enjoy occasional pleasant drives
-The on-going story of Sr Monica Phillips whose leadership and guidance remained as an anchor for the Sisters here in SA over these founding years and experiences
These provide you with a few small glimpses of the Sisters and people you will read about in this book which we launch today.
A thread throughout this historical account is the way the Sisters were helped so readily by the people as they expanded houses, built schools and classrooms. The people did this because they loved the Sisters who lived and worked among them in the spirit of their foundress, Mother Mary of the Cross MacKillop.
Overall you will encounter warmth, fortitude, the capacity of being one with, endurance, courage, compassion, resilience, steadfastness, creativity and an innovative spirit – along with faith, hope and love.
It is the story of dedicated women living in scattered towns across South Australia bringing life and hope to people as they lived in and among them in the towns and communities that shaped life in this part of the world. In many cases they were the living face of the church as they brought faith, education and extended works of charity and social service to those isolated, disadvantaged and marginalised.
It is a story of joys and sorrows embraced lovingly. It tells a story of women acting innovatively and choosing life in the inside out and upside down moments of life. Their practical down to earth way of life and common sense approach to living as well as their sense of humour is told in these pages.
It tells a story of the Sisters of this time who continue to embrace to new emerging possibilities as they stand alongside our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the movement towards reconciliation, become a voice for the refugees, minister to the frail aged, live in isolated situations often as the compassionate face of the church, and constantly look for the new edge in the familiar and less familiar areas of mission, challenging the status quo in matters of justice, and assisting people to find the meaning of life in the spirituality of all that underpins our lives.
Above all I wish to express the deep gratitude of the Sisters of St Joseph to Marie for her ministry as archivist and historian. Through this ministry she, along with our other historians, has enabled us to respond to the call of the Second Vatican Council to return to our foundational roots and to discover anew the wisdom there for us today. The Congregation and wider church and community are indebted to you for the many years of historical research you have undertaken not only in the publishing of this book ‘Never See a Need’ but also for the many historical works and projects you have undertaken. You have given us a rich heritage which will continue to be cherished over many years to come.
And on a day like this we express our gratitude to those early women in our history who have preserved our records and our treasures so that people like Marie have been able to draw on their wisdom - people like Columbkille, Campion, Evelyn, Anne Maree, and your own Callista.
As I formally now launch this book ‘Never See and A Need’ I trust that as you read the story of these women who ‘never see a need’ without responding, that you are encouraged and inspired by their tenacity and wisdom, their love of life and capacity to find hope in the most trying situations and their commitment to ‘never see a need without doing something about it’.