Three Sisters at the Three Sisters

By Jordan Grantham, 8 May 2018
Three Sisters at the Three Sisters. Photo: Ben Pearse Photography

The beauty of God’s creation shines in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, to the appreciation of some unlikely regular visitors, the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia from Nashville, Tennessee.

Full white habits, black veils, American as apple pie accents, and faces shining with joy make the sisters easy to spot. Just speaking with them briefly can give you a glowing feeling.

Four sisters currently live in Sydney, at St Joseph Convent in Regents Park, working in their teaching apostolate at Trinity Catholic College, Regents Park/Auburn and at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney.

Sr Cecilia Joseph, Sr Mary Helen, Sr Susanna and Sr Elena Marie are currently in Sydney.

The Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Australia. Photo: Supplied.

Millions visit the Blue Mountains each year, especially visiting the large rock formation of the Three Sisters.

Little did the sisters know that one day they would become part of the iconic view, when Blue Mountains photographer Ben Pearse captured Three Sisters at Three Sisters.

Gallery ONE88 recently exhibited Ben’s artworks, prominently displaying the candid photograph of the Dominican Sisters in its front window on Katoomba Street.

Sr Mary Rachel is pictured in the artwork and is currently the Superior of the new Melbourne convent of Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia.

It was a great surprise for the sisters to discover they were featured in an artwork in the Blue Mountains.

Sr Cecilia Joseph, the Sydney Superior, also visits the Blue Mountains regularly.

“Australia is a beautiful country,” Sr Cecilia Joseph said. “We often send photos home to the sisters in Nashville to show them the places we visit so that they can share in our life and work in Australia.”

“Needless to say, after seeing the photos and hearing our stories, many sisters have expressed their desire to come Down Under for a visit,” she said.

“We have been visiting the Blue Mountains since we first arrived in Sydney. The silence and stillness, especially as the sun is rising or setting, is a sight to behold, one that cannot but lift your heart to God. How great is our God!”

Ben was amazed when Catholic Outlook identified the sisters years later. He is glad to know their story and be able to tell more people the photograph’s backstory.

The Three Sisters, the Blue Mountains. Image: Wikipedia Commons.

“All the disbelievers think it’s photo-shopped,” Ben said with a laugh.

“This is by far the most iconic photo I’ve captured over the years,” he said.

He described the serendipitous moment from June 2012 on his website.

“I was at the adjacent lookout at Echo Point capturing some images of the Jamison Valley as the sun was setting. As I looked over to my left I noticed three very real nuns standing at the lookout taking in the sunset of the three ‘sandstone sisters’,” Ben wrote.

“I could tell they were getting ready to leave as it was a freezing cold winter’s afternoon, so I moved quicker.”

“As soon as I took the shot the scene changed as the sisters (nuns) moved hurriedly away, no doubt in search of a warmer location. I guess it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

The Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia have been in Australia for over ten years, after fellow Dominican and former Bishop of Parramatta, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP invited them to assist with World Youth Day 2008.

RELATED COVERAGE: Sisters are doin’ it for sake of others (SMH)

Numerous Australian women have joined the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia since their arrival in Australia and interested women can contact Sr Mary Rachel OP at melbourne@op-tn.org

They run multiple women’s nights and retreat events throughout the year and can be followed on Facebook.

To learn more about the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, visit www.nashvilledominican.org

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