Historic Occasion - May 2012

At the end of May the Sisters’ Coordinating Group, Catherine Shelton, Noelene Landrigan, Colleen Woodcock, and Anne Burke, spent some days in Tasmania to celebrate with the Tasmanian Federated Josephites their 125 years of Service to the people of the Island.

May 24th 1887 was the actual date of arrival in Tasmania of the Sisters from Perthville NSW, and Mass was celebrated in Holy Trinity Church at Westbury, the first foundation.

For the anniversary, the church was overflowing with over 100 Sisters of St Joseph from all round Australia and New Zealand, and together with family, friends, former pupils and parishioners brought the total numbers close to 400.

This celebration was one of added joy, as it also marked the fusion of the Tasmanian Sisters with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart the Central Josephites. The long process of discernment for the Sisters had come to fruition on a most significant day for them.


During the course of the Mass, all the Sisters present made a general renewal of their vows, and the Tasmanian Sisters, accepting their new constitutions, were called forth and presented with their new emblems by the Congregational Leadership Team.

The gathering in the Westbury Town Hall brought another special event the launch of Sr Josephine Brady’s history of the Tasmanian Sisters ‘St Joseph’s Island’. The book was officially launched by Sister Catherine Shelton, President of the ANZ Federation of the Sisters of St Joseph.

In Catherine’s words: “It is the story of a whole community. Sisters, children, parents, parishioners, Catholic and protestant, priests, bishops, civic and government authorities, and the Island itself… you are all there… threads seamlessly woven and re-woven into a relational tapestry of ever increasing detail, texture and colour emerging out of the social, cultural and religious

contexts of the time.”

In Jo Brady’s response she spoke of the journey of the Tasmanian Josephites between the two Roman Decrees that of 1888 giving them the option of returning to the Mother House (which they did not know about), and that of 19 March 2012 authorising them to fuse with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

The title of her book derives from Fr Julian Tenison Woods’ name for Tasmania. Julian ministered in Tasmania both before and after ordination, preached many missions in the state, and had preached at the opening of the Westbury Church in 1874.

The day concluded with a Celebration Dinner in Launceston for all the Sisters present. A presentation was made to Jill Dance, the final Sister Guardian for the Tasmanian Sisters of an etching of the Schoolhouse at Penola by Congregational Leader Anne Derwin and SA Province Leader Marion Gambin.

The following two days were days of Enrichment for the visiting Sisters and all travelled by buses to significant places in the Tasmanian Sisters’ history. Memorable stops were made at McKillop Hill Centre for Spirituality in Forth, and the Catholic School at Ulverstone where all were welcomed by ‘Young Joeys’ to the Primary School.

A trip out of Launceston to the Great Western Tiers brought an opportunity to experience time in a rainforest environment. Hardier ones took the hike into the trees while others enjoyed learning of the area from media in the local eco-lodge. On all these excursion days, there were constant references to Julian Tenison Woods works as priest, geologist and botanist.

The annual Federation Meeting took place on 28 May at Emmanuel Centre in Launceston. This proved to be a bitter-sweet experience for all as the last in which Tasmanian Sisters would participate. A time of prayerful and grateful reminiscence took place before Sisters Jill Dance, Sue McGuinness, Joan Cowmeadow and Jo Brady left the gathering. The NZ Sisters had prepared the final prayer, and during this presented the Tasmanian team with a small glass koru each, symbolizing life and new beginnings and ‘the way in which life both changes and remains the same’.


Catherine Shelton, President of the ANZ Federation of Sisters of St Joseph with Jill Dance, last Sister Guardian for the Tasmanian Sisters of St Joseph, with a multi coloured hand crafted glass dish, a gift from the Federation.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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