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Josephite Journeying Retreats continue April/May 2011

Perthville Retreat:    12th – 19th April, 2011.

Josepha O’Connor writes…
It seems that every Josephite Retreat, wherever the venue, has been special for those taking part but, when the venue is Perthville, it must be more than special.  We were on the sacred ground where the Josephite story unfolded into two families.


As the Retreat days progressed and we looked at the landscape of our personal journeys alongside those of our Josephite story, we wondered about Julian’s words:

 “I think the time will come when….all St.Joseph’s children
will be brought back together again,
and be what they were in the beginning.”
(Letter To Sr.Frances McCarthy, Westbury, Aug.1887)

Our retreat presenters, Ann Morrison, Perthville,  Colleen O’Sullivan, Central NSW and Carmel Drew, Goulburn,  were quite inspiring, and they introduced Marie Crowley, Perthville Congregation historian and author of “Women of the Vale”, who spoke to us several times during the week. Marie holds Perthville in her heart and wears it on her sleeve as well.  Her inputs, mini-tours of the property and Wattle Flat pilgrimage guidance were outstanding.

Marie knows every board in the building, when and why the extensions were made, which rooms Julian and Mary were in when they spoke to the Sisters -  the history of the chapel, the church, the bell.   So at Perthville we had the whole package – spirituality, humanity, history – who was here, what took place.  There were lots of tears, laughter, precious moments and memories. I made sure that every day I walked past the front door of the first little convent, “our own little place”, paused, and remembered that Hyacinth and her companions walked through here as they left for Whanganui on 9th April 1880 to light the Josephite lamp which still burns brightly one-hundred and thirty years on.

At Perthville there’s very little separation between the living and the dead – a few steps out the side door and you’re amongst the Sisters of the Vale resting there in peace.  It is so close, so inviting to walk along the mowed terraces, note the names on the little plaques and ask them their story?  And what stories are there. 
The cemetery became the outside chapel at our Retreat and we had some moving remembrances at some gravesides – particularly Teresa MacDonald’s, one of the first four Sisters, and dearest friend of Mary MacKillop, who died in 1876, four years after arriving at the Vale – and Mary not able to be there.
We also had a pilgrimage day at Wattle Flat during the Retreat where Marie again gave us some very moving history of this little Perthville outpost which has a significant and sad history related to the early days of the Vale
The gift of the Retreat for me, though, was the Sisters with whom I journeyed.  They were warm, loving, humorous, open, and, I wonder, could it be the time that Julian spoke about “……the time when all Joseph’s children will be brought back together again?”

Kincumber Retreat  2nd – 9th  May 2011

Helen Doyle and Anne Burke share…
Neither of us had been to Kincumber so the beautiful setting was a lovely surprise. It was just the best of Australian countryside – bush, water, wetlands and open spaces, and myriads of birds. Situated on Brisbane Waters, this Conference Centre has a very special Josephite history also.

Mary MacKillop had been offered this land by the Bishop of Sydney for her orphans in 1887, and as they stayed there till the 1960’s, the site is full of special places.  We were able to sit on the verandah in the same place as Mary had later in life, looking over the calm waters of the estuary.  We attended our Sunday Mass next door in the little Parish Church of the Holy Cross, built in 1842.  And in the cemetery we stood at the graves of the early Sisters and some of the orphans, as well the great grandfather of Sr Virginia Bourke of Lochinvar.  He had often rowed Mary MacKillop across the water when she visited. 

We both found the retreat a very special time.  By looking at the early Josephite story through the lens of the period in which the separation happened, we were enabled to view with a sympathetic appreciation, the decisions that were made back then.  With representatives from all the Provinces and Federation Congregations except Tasmania and Western Australia, we had a good mixture of Josephites.  We found so much in common, and we made the most of the times of conversation and sharing. 

Our presenters, Mary Ryan (Victoria), Ann Morrison (Perthville) and Lyndall Brown (N Z) led us daily with many beautiful Power Points, music, discussion and plenty of opportunity for quiet and reflection.  As others have found it was a helpful and satisfactory process to enable all to benefit from the stories.

The six New Zealand Josephites who were part of this Retreat - Ann Gilroy Congregational Leadership Team, Lyndall Brown Presenter, Joan Tuite and Patricia Thompson of Auckland, and we two – Anne Burke and Helen Doyle.  As others have found, it was a graced time!         


Gallery / Whakaahua

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