The Response of the Gospel of Mercy

Migrant_Refugee_Kit_Poster_2016_smAs we celebrate Migrant and Refugee Sunday on 28th August we are invited to have the response of the Gospel of Mercy. Pope Francis reminds us that “migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all….it is important to view migrants not only on the basis of their status as regular or irregular, but above all as people whose dignity is to be protected and who are capable of contributing to progress and the general welfare.” Like Mary, let us respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters with compassion and love.

Journeying With New Members

IMG_0649For six months, beginning February 2016, Sr April Ancero took part in the Journeying With New Members formation programme at Marymount Mercy Centre in Castle Hill.

April found this course to be very enriching. IMG_0652She appreciated this opportunity for spiritual growth and for skills development that will enable her to journey with others as they discern their vocation. The Marist Sisters in Australia were delighted to have contact with April while she was here. Following the graduation Mass that took place on 13th August April has now returned to the Philippines.

Fourvière Celebrations in Fiji

DisplayFourvière celebrations in Suva, Fiji, began the evening before as members of the five branches of the Maist Family went to the Parish hall in Laucala Bay to put up pictures and decorate their booths in readiness for a vocation display the next day.

The morning of 23rd July, the day of the 200th anniversary of the promise at Fourviere, was bright and beautiful.  The program began at 9.30am with prayer prepared by the FMS  Brothers.  Picture1It really set the tone for the day.   The prayer concluded with a video clip presenting each of the branches. Then there was a time for mingling with other members of the Marist Family.

At 3pm in Laucala Bay Church Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Peter Loy Chong.  He was very interested in our Marist History and wanted to know what happened  after the promise and when and how the female branches came into the picture.  His questions were answered by many who were sharing with him at the dinner table. Our celebrations ended  with a lot of joyful dancing of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for those who made the promise,  for the perseverance of Fr. Colin, Fr. Marcellin, Mother St Joseph and Sr. Francoise

Sr Dorothea White sm

Dorothea White

Sr Dorothea White sm
Sr Dorothea was called to eternal life on the evening of Friday 12th August. At her funeral on Thursday 18th August Sr Julie Brand delivered the following eulogy.

It was said of our Foundress, Jeanne-Marie Chavoin, in her early years: Each day brought out more clearly her sound judgement, a remarkable aptitude for business and a rare gift for organising, combined with a sincere and practical piety……….She seemed made for self-forgetfulness and sacrifice and was irresistibly drawn to spend herself for the glory of God and the good of others. (RMJ 279:7) How like our Foundress was Sr Dorothea – a valiant woman of unwavering faith, totally committed to living the Gospel in the spirit of Mary and spending herself, like Jeanne-Marie Chavoin, for the glory of God and the good of others.

Dorothea, whom we affectionately called Dot or Dotty, was born in Mascot on 2nd July 1924, the eldest child of Laurence and Amy White.  She was baptised Amy Agnes, and known by her family as Ness. In the early 1930’s the White family moved from Sydney to Katoomba, where Amy completed primary education and attended secondary school before enrolling in the Metropolitan Business College. After completing a Business course, she assisted at the College for a short while as a staff member.

On 15th August 1945 Amy entered the Marist Sisters at Merrylands. The following year she was received as a novice and given the name Dorothea. Dot would often recall her period of formation, remembering the poverty and hardship of these years and the Sisters’ reliance on Divine Providence.  Though tempted to return home, the inspiration of women such as Mother Mary of Victories, gave her strength and courage.  Dot continued her journey in response to God’s call, celebrating her First Profession on 8th September 1947. Thus began her many years of selfless Marist ministry.  Dot was first appointed to Woolwich and then to Mittagong and Bowral where she taught infant and primary aged children.  However, it was not until 1952 that Dot had the opportunity to attend Teachers’ College at Mount Street, North Sydney, where she honed her teaching skills before being missioned to New Zealand in 1953.  She ministered as an Infant and Primary teacher there for seven years, returning to Sydney in 1960 to continue teaching at St. Margaret Mary’s Primary School, Merrylands.

At the beginning of 1967 Dot was asked to leave teaching and take up a new work as Bursar for the Merrylands community.  Sisters recall that Dot loved teaching and felt this move greatly.  However, in typical fashion she took up this new role with unwavering energy, surrendering as always to God’s Will.  She was a practical woman, who was tireless in attending to the needs of a large community, and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds.  One of my early memories of Dot is seeing her up on a ladder checking the guttering above the kitchen.  Following in Dot’s footsteps was indeed rather daunting. Sr Gemma recalls that, when Dot was handing over the role of Bursar at Merrylands before moving to Woolwich, she showed Gemma a huge black cape that hung behind the door.  “This”, she said, “is for after a storm when you need to climb up onto the roof to check on the tiles”! Gemma tells us that she never did use the cape, but learnt from Dot a lesson in poverty of spirit and total commitment.  During her years as Bursar in Merrylands Dot undertook a Catering course and many of us remember the festive celebrations when Dot went to no end of trouble to ensure that the food looked as good as it tasted.  Dot loved to cook and I’m sure many have enjoyed meals and treats lovingly prepared by her.  She also loved to tend the garden, not simply pruning and watering, but working hard to clear the ground, fertilise the soil, keep the weeds at bay and nurture the young plants.  There were no half-measures with Dot! She delighted in nature, enjoying the beauty of the sea and the mountains, the birds and the animals.

In 1981 Dot began another new chapter in her life when she accepted appointment to Gladstone, Queensland, to undertake Parish pastoral ministry.  I had the privilege of living with Dot for the first four years of her time in Gladstone.  I witnessed first-hand her total dedication and generous service, and her ability to inspire, empower and organise.  In fact, Dot’s organisation of tasks, and people too, could leave one feeling rather overwhelmed! One of the most demanding aspects of Dot’s work at this time was calling forth people to serve as catechists in the numerous schools of Gladstone and the Calliope Shire. Dot trained and supported them in their ministry, co-ordinating the work of over sixty catechists.  She had a great love for the children at the Special School and for the sick and the aged.  She showed particular concern for the people in isolated country areas, visiting them as often as she could. Dot Dot drew many people to deepen their faith, identifying those who were struggling to believe or belong and offering them support and encouragement. She was highly regarded by the Gladstone Council of Clergy, who valued her opinions and insights.  Indeed, Dot had an exceptional ecumenical spirit.  She was inclusive, big-hearted and broad-minded.  In 1988 – the Bicentennial Year – Dot was awarded the Gladstone Australia Day Citizens’ Award.  Fr. Tom Fulcher wrote the citation on that occasion and it reflected the high esteem in which Dot was held, not only by himself, the Marist Fathers and parishioners, but also by so many people of the district.

After leaving Queensland Dot took up appointments in Victoria, continuing Parish pastoral ministry in the Burwood area and then in Laverton.  She was actively involved in all aspects of parish life, particularly the RCIA and Sacramental programmes, and visitation of the sick, lonely and isolated. She was thoughtful and practical. Sr Cath recalls with deep gratitude the care Dot took of her father on the day of her mother’s sudden death. Dot was there to organise and assist. She was always ready to reach out to those in need, especially the poor and struggling, despite the fact that she herself suffered her own health setbacks, particularly while in Laverton. Dot was very committed to social justice, and women’s issues.  She was a Marist woman who moved with the times, keen to read and embrace new ideas.  She was constantly updating herself through participation in courses, seminars and e-conferences.

From her early days in the Congregation Dot had always shown special care for our sick and frail Sisters.  In 2005 she generously accepted appointment as Community Leader of Marian House, where for two years she cared for each member of the community with selfless energy.  After moving to Haberfield and then to Blacktown, Dot continued to visit Sisters in residential Aged Care facilities, often travelling significant distances by public transport when unwell herself.   When the time came for Dot to receive special care, the staff at Minnamurra were delighted to welcome her, as she had been a regular visitor there when Sr. Norma was in residence, and they knew her as a loving woman who took pleasure in sharing stories and bringing joy to others. Indeed Dot was a great story teller, who had a sense of humour and enjoyed a laugh.  She was also a prolific writer, corresponding with many people and keeping detailed personal journals.

Dot’s two great ‘loves’ were her family and her Congregation.  She was always actively involved with her family, showing care and concern for all her relatives. Her love for the Congregation was unquestionable and she strove in all ways possible to promote vocations and encourage younger Sisters.  Though strong and determined, Dot was accepting of decisions made by those in authority and always embraced God’s Will in her life.

Dot was a woman of deep faith and prayer, who, like our Foundress, loved to sit before the Lord in the Tabernacle.  She had known suffering throughout her life and the Cross was at times a heavy one to bear, particularly in these latter years.  However, Dot’s trust in God was unwavering.  In the midst of suffering she had known deep spiritual joys through God’s revelation to her in unique ways.  One way in which God had revealed His love for her was through her encounter with the brolgas.  This happened while she was struggling through a dark period when on Retreat in Yeppoon, Queensland.  In recent times she would often say, with an ecstatic smile, “I saw the brolgas dancing!”  On the night of 12th August Dot breathed forth her spirit in union with Jesus in the presence of four of us, her Sisters. Now you have experienced the fullness of God’s revelation, Dot, and are surely dancing with the brolgas in Heaven.  Remember us before the Lord. May you rest in peace.

Eternal Rest Grant to her O Lord.
May perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.Amen

World Day of Prayer Against Trafficking in Persons

World-Day-against-Trafficking-in-PersonsIn 2014 the United Nations General Assembly designated 30th July to be the World Day against Trafficking in Persons aware of the need for “raising awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

Human trafficking is a global problem. No country is immune from this crime. People can be enslaved and exploited in situations of sexual slavery, forced labour in agriculture, hospitality, construction, mining and fishing industries; people can be enslaved and exploited in domestic servitude, by having their organs harvested, and in times of conflict and following natural disasters.

A number of Marist Sisters in the Asia-Pacific region are involved in counter human trafficking work. We invite you to take action against this heinous crime by joining with us in prayer on this World Day Against Human Trafficking. Click here for a prayer service.

Auckland Celebrations of the Fourvière Bi-centenary

Auckland groupIt was with a great sense of anticipation that groups representing the five branches of the Marist Family gathered at Sacred Heart College on the morning of July 23 to celebrate together the bicentenary of the Fourvière Pledge made in 1816.

Lighting Fourviere candleThe day’s activities began in the chapel where we were welcomed by Brother Richard fms and as Fourvière candles were lit, we prepared to join in the opening prayer which drew together so many aspects of this special day in the Year of Mercy.  The tone was set for all that would follow which began with the keynote address given by Fr Justin Taylor sm : What happened at Fourvière. This deepened our appreciation of all that had preceded the drawing up of the pledge, setting it in the context of the life and history of the seminarians who composed it.

Fr Justin Taylor smDuring the afternoon a series of workshops was provided: Marian music, Mary in Art, Keeping Pledges, Early Missionaries whose names were recorded in the heart of Mary, Mary, Mother of Mercy, and the Work of Mary today as it is lived by each of the branches.


0J9A0017The day concluded with Mass celebrated by Fr David Kennerley sm, provincial, at the end of which candles imprinted with an image of Mary of Fourvière were presented to each branch of the family while all recited a Fourvière pledge for today.  A beautiful day drew to a close leaving 150 Marist people with memories to ponder and challenges to absorb.

Celebrating Jubilees in Australia

IMG_0013On Sunday 24th July the Marist Sisters in Australia gathered to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Sr Anne Saunders and the Diamond Jubilees of Srs Elizabeth McTaggart, Julia Lourey and Therese Campbell.

During the Eucharist celebrated by Marist Fathers Bob Barber and Ron Nissan, the Jubilarians renewed their vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience in the Congregations of Mary.

IMG_0071The Jubilarians were delighted to have some of their family members present. The liturgy was followed by a celebratory afternoon tea, speeches that gave an insight into the lives of the Jubilarians and the cutting of the jubilee cake.


Fourvière Bicentenary in Australia

0716-FD-Sydney-2a-0716-FourHope and Joy for the Future

On Saturday 23rd July approximately two hundred and fifty members of the Marist Family gathered at Villa Maria Hunters Hill to celebrate the bicentenary of the Pledge of Fourvière. The main celebrant for the Eucharist was Fr Kevin Bates sm. Kevin concluded his homily by signing a song he had written specially for the occasion – More than Memories.

F0716-FD-Sydney-6a-0716-Fourollowing the homily Statements of Commitment from each branch of the Marist Family were read. At the end of the Mass these statements were signed by the Leaders of each of the branches. A moving moment in the liturgy was when all present were invited to stand and read together an Australian version of the Fourvière Promise.

0716-FD-Sydney-8a-0716-FourFollowing the Eucharist there was a great spirit of joy and thanksgiving as the celebration continued with a meal in the auditorium of St Joseph College, Hunters Hill. During the meal guest speakers, Maria Baden and Br Michael Green fms, shared their reflections on the Fourvière Pledge and doing the work of Mary into the future.

Fourvière Pledge 1816-2016

Dare to Dream 2016In 1816, in the chapel of Our Lady of Fourvière, twelve seminarians dared to dream that they could make a difference in the world by beginning a congregation in Mary’s name. Today, two hundred years later, Marist Fathers, Marist Sisters, Marist Brothers, Marist Missionary Sisters and Marist Laity are spread throughout the world. We ask you to join with us in celebrating the Pledge of Fourvière on 23rd July. We pray that like the men of Fourvière we will be fired with zeal as we strive to  “work together for the greater glory of God and the honour of Mary.”

Notre-Dame de Fourviere 2Mary, of Fourvière, show us what love is
and from where it draws its origin
and its constantly renewed power.
Holy Mary, good Mother of Fourvière,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son ‐ the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely to God’s call
and this became a wellspring of the goodness
which flows forth from him.
You inspired the first Marists to create a Society
dedicated to showing the Marian face of the Church.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world. Amen.

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.