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.

Recalling the Life of a Foundress


Be all very united….
…In order to bear all things well
walk always in God’s presence.
Unite all your actions
to those of Our Lord,
ask him often to come to your aid
and to bless you.
(CMJ 65:1-2)

Jeanne-Marie Chavoin, Foundress of the Marist Sisters, was a woman who lived simply and, like Mary, was attentive to the needs of others. As we recall the anniversary of her death on 30th June we pray that like her we might always “try to live in a great spirit of faith which will lead us to see God in everything” (CMJ 90.3).

Te Wananga o Aotearoa’s Graduation Ceremony

Te Wananga o Aotearoa's graduation ceremonyCongratulations to Aotearoa-New Zealand Marist Sisters Rose, Isabelle and Catherine. They recently received diplomas at the Te Wananga o Aotearoa’s graduation ceremony.  Rose was the oldest graduate receiving Mauri Ora National Certificate in Maori(Te Waharoa) Level 2. Isabelle received a Diploma in Te Ara Reo Maori, and Catherine a Certificate in Te Ara Reo Maori, Level 2.

Working Towards Divesting from Fossil Fuels

Pope Francis - LSUrged on by the commitment of the Marist Sisters’ General Chapter 2015
to networking with other groups working for justice in order to counteract the violence being inflicted on people and the environment,
Marist Sisters in Australia are working towards divesting
from fossil fuels.

Dependence on fossil fuels is contributing to adverse climate change which affects everyone but especially the poor and vulnerable. In his encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis calls on us to reduce carbon emissions and develop sources of renewable energy. Divesting of fossil fuels is one way that we can be stewards of God’s gift of creation so that life in all its forms can be sustained now and into the future.

Refugee Week 19th – 25th June

Refugee Week 2016Refugee week is an annual week-long celebration of the positive contributions of refugees to Australian society. This year, Refugee Week will be celebrated from Sunday, 19 June to Saturday, 25 June, which includes World Refugee Day on June 20. The theme is “With courage let us all combine”, which is taken from the second verse of the national anthem and celebrates the courage of refugees and of people who speak out against persecution and injustice. It serves as a call for unity and positive action, encouraging Australians to improve our nation’s welcome for refugees and acknowledging the skills and energy that refugees bring to their new home. Let us give thanks for the contribution that refugees have made in Australia and extend a welcoming hand to those currently seeking asylum.

Laudato Si Week

laudato si week

Marist Sisters are committed “to networking with other groups working for justice in order to counteract the violence being inflicted on people and the environment.” (General Chapter 2015)

On June 18th it will be one year since  Pope Francis released his historic encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home. During Laudato Si Week, 12th – 19th June, let us ask ourselves to what extent we have taken the message of this encyclical to heart. How will we journey forward as stewards of God’s creation sustaining life in all its forms now and into the future?

Honouring the spirit of Laudato Si

Tane and usThe Marist Sisters’ Novitiate community in New Zealand decided to honour the spirit of “Laudato Si” on the Monday of Queen’s Birthday weekend – which was also a public holiday and, more importantly for Marists, the Feast of St Marcellin Champagnat!

The place they chose was the Auckland Zoo which has been renovated to become a place not only of conservation of many diminishing species such as the kiwi and takahe, the Siberian tiger and the Asia elephant but also  a place where visitors are invited to slow down, to reconnect with nature and to be inspired. They were surrounded by plants, trees, birds, insects, people…

Set in a patch of native bush they found it to be a place of contemplation, meditation, discovery and learning! As you can see in the photo, they paused at the magnificent carving of “Tane nui e Rangi” at the
entrance of the forest aviary of the Zoo. “Tane” is the Maori god of the forest. This carving is the work of five Maori carvers,  and they honoured the presence of the Maori people of New Zealand.

While they enjoyed their  day very much, they were also conscious of the invitation of Pope Francis to have  an ‘ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of our encounter with Jesus Christ will become more evident in our relationship with the world around us.