Jewels in the Diocese – Sometimes hidden, always present
Do you know that there are more than 250 men and women in the Diocese who live a consecrated life? Those in consecrated life belong to religious orders, societies of apostolic life or to the order of consecrated virgins. All in all there are more than 50 groups whose charisms permeate the fabric of the communities and parishes.
You see some consecrated people every week as they go about their daily lives. Many of our parishes are served by priests belonging to religious orders – the Augustinians, the Dominicans, the Camillians, the La Salettes, the Carmelites, the Franciscans, the Salesians, the Jesuits and the Pauline Fathers. Those of you who live in those parishes are well aware of the particular gift they bring to the Church.
An impressive network of schools built on the founding work done by religious orders such as the Sisters of Mercy, the Marist Brothers, the Josephite Sisters, the Christian Brothers, the Marist Sisters, the De La Salle Brothers, the Patrician Brothers, the Sisters of Charity, the Holy Faith Sisters, the Poor Clares, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, the Presentation Sisters, the Holy Family of Nazareth Sisters, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the Ursulines. When you go into these schools you see religious symbols associated with these orders. You could ask your children what they know about the charism and they could tell you many interesting stories. You don’t see many of these religious brothers or sisters in the schools these days but they are still in the communities being a presence, visiting the sick and frail, doing many of the works of mercy, often in hidden ways.
You may have had the good fortune of spending time in reflection and prayer at Marymount Centre Castle Hill, St Joseph’s Centre for Reflective Living, Baulkham Hills, Mount Schoenstatt Spirituality Centre, Mulgoa, or the Edmund Rice Retreat and Conference Centre, Mulgoa. Your elderly relatives may be cared for at the Holy Family Services Centre Marayong, Our Lady of Consolation Home Rooty Hill, St Dominic’s Hostel Blacktown, St Elizabeth Aged Care Facility Dean Park or St Hedwig Village Blacktown. All these facilities have been established by religious orders and their charisms are alive in them.
Do you know that the first religious to be established in Australia came to Parramatta? The Sisters of Charity began their ministry in a Convent opposite the present Cathedral in 1839 and visited the Female Factory where many women convicts lived and worked for the colonial government. Their ministry in its various forms continues to today in the Diocese.
Women and men in consecrated life have continued to be established in the Diocese ever since those early days. The latest has been the consecration of a Virgin, the first to serve in the Parramatta Diocese.
Just like the laity, there are religious from every continent. Some specifically serve the people from the countries from which they came – Malta, Croatia, the Philippines, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Vietnam – while others bring the richness of their ethnic background to their ministry.
St Paul says in his First Letter to the Corinthians that there is a variety of gifts given to us by the same Spirit, just as there is a variety of service to be done, but always to the same Lord. Such is the gift that consecrated people offer to our world.
By Sr Ailsa Mackinnon RSM, Vicar for Consecrated Life
This article first appeared in the December 2017 print edition of Catholic Outlook.
At the request of Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Catholic Outlook was printed in December 2017 to connect the Diocese and showcase the good works across the Diocese’s many agencies and ministries.