What drew me to the Society of the Sacred Heart and still holds me is the contemplative dimension of our lives. This is foundational whatever changes occur over the years. A couple of quotations from the 1982 Constitutions of the Society of the Sacred Heart express this for me and are continually a source of wonder, reflection and surprise:
Through the Eucharist we enter into the mystery of the open side of Jesus. (5)
The pierced Heart of Jesus opens our being to the depths of God
and to the anguish of humankind. (8)
In the mid 1980s I listened to a talk during which the priest asked the question along the lines of ‘where will you meet Christ when you go into the city streets?’ At that time I was involved in a school and parish at Braybrook, a disadvantaged part of Melbourne so I was already face-to-face with some disadvantage, but that talk disturbed me profoundly and eventually, some 15 years later, led me to Redfern where I have been meeting disadvantage among those who are Aboriginal. In this part of Sydney as in many other parts of Australia there is much disadvantage among them but now we are seeing changes for the better. Our involvement at Redfern is a very simple one – that of welcome and hospitality basically but we also attend meetings where people are engaged in trying to effect change with and for Aboriginal people. I am just beginning my 13th year at Redfern. A sister of the congregation, Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (FDNSC), and I share life at Redfern.
I am the eldest of 7 surviving children, having 3 sisters and 3 brothers. I grew up in Melbourne where I was educated by the Sisters of St Joseph, founded by St Mary MacKillop, and by the Faithful Companions of Jesus. In 1958 when I was 16 my family moved to Sydney and I found myself completing my schooling at Kincoppal, a Sacred Heart school. When I left school I had no idea that I might one day be a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart! For three years after leaving school I worked in libraries and, eventually, found myself drawn to the Society in spite of some prejudices!
Ministries in the Society have included librarianship and some teaching in schools, living and working with our elderly sisters at Karlaminda (Sydney), membership of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) committee in our province and liaison with our United Nations representative; in 2007 I had the privilege of attending the NGO conference on climate change at the UN in New York along with several other Religious of the Sacred Heart from other provinces as well as Cecile Meijer. Involvement with people who are refugees has also enriched me. Currently I am a member of the Provincial Council of the Australia-New Zealand Province.
An enormous privilege was that of attending as a delegate of the Australia-New Zealand Province the General Chapter in Peru in 2008. It gave me a very rich experience of the Society at the international level, there being religious from every province of the Society and so many cultures. The opportunity of contributing to the life of the Society at such a level was a privilege as well as a responsibility. There was also the enrichment of experiencing something of the people of Peru.
In 1987 I had the opportunity of doing a renewal programme in missiology; without at the time knowing what was ahead this programme prepared me for experiences such as that I now have at Redfern as also for the time in Peru; earlier on I had an unexpected involvement in Kiribati where I saw how people live on a tiny coral atoll in the Central Pacific Ocean, just on the Equator. Life was simple but western ways were creeping in, and now sea-level rises are impacting on the people very seriously.
While the missiology course was very rich and life-changing I came to realize that however much I may learn about another’s culture there were always going to be elements that I would never know or understand. I learnt to understand that I only ever understand another person, another culture, another situation partially.
Every involvement that I have had has been enormously enriching and I am truly grateful for the opportunities I have received and the experiences that I have had in each ministry and situation.