Renowned Australian journalist and commentator Geraldine Doogue explored the unique and enduring leadership and contributions by women of faith over the last 75 years as part of the 2019 John Wallis Memorial Lecture.
More than 100 people gathered at Genazzano FCJ College in Kew on 13 August 2019 for the lecture titled ‘Women of Faith Leading the Way’, which saw Geraldine Doogue lead a conversation with Stancea Vichie MSS, congregational leader of the Missionary Sisters of Service and Zuleyha Keskin from the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation.
We are excited that this new book, published by Coventry Press, is now available (see Melbourne launch photos below). In it, ‘Bernadette Wallis has provided the contemporary reader with a lovingly familiar insight into the development and vision of one of Australia’s great pioneer priests…’ (Fr Frank Brennan SJ).
Born in Victoria, Fr John Wallis (1910-2001), Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Hobart, founded the Australian Religious Order, the Missionary Sisters of Service, in Tasmania, in 1944. The Sisters were to be available to go into the highways and byways; and flexible to meet the pastoral needs of isolated communities throughout Australia.
This series of letters to John’s parents and family gives us a rare and precious insight into his life as a seminarian and young priest. They also reflect the growing development of his piety and spirituality, the seeds that would develop into his deep concern for people, especially the poor and the marginalised in rural and outback areas of Australia, and for ways to meet their pastoral and social needs.
The letters have been arranged in ten chapters, with a general introduction about that period in John’s life. Each letter itself has a commentary that contextualises the letter, providing biographical and other details that make the entire series come to life, tracing his experiences, development, misgivings and plans. They anticipate his enthusiasm for the changes that followed the Second Vatican Council and played such a part in his priestly ministry.
The series of letters in each chapter close with insightful reflections from eminent Australians who consider John’s character and spiritual growth as well as applying his insights into contemporary Church life in Australia.
Bernadette Therese Wallis MSS, was born in Melbourne. She joined the Missionary Sisters of Service in 1965 and worked pastorally in rural and outback parish settings of Tasmania and New South Wales before commencing ministry with the Catholic Deaf organisation in Victoria.
Dear Mother Dear Father is available from the Missionary Sisters of Service, Coventry Press, Garratt Publishing and other bookshops. Download the order form here for Dear Mother Dear Father.
Bernadette is the author of The Silent Book: A Deaf Family and the Disappearing Australian-Irish Sign Language, the engrossing story, both deeply personal and historical, of the disappearing Australian-Irish sign language told through the experience of Bernadette’s own Deaf family. The story is embedded in the Australian landscape and its Aboriginal past. In writing this multi-layered story, Bernadette invites the reader into the vibrantly alert and alive silent world of her Deaf parents. Click here for The Silent Book order form.
The 2019 John Wallis Memorial Lecture in Melbourne
Date: Tuesday 13th August 2019
Venue: The Madeleine Centre, Genazzano FCJ College,
301 Cotham Road Kew
2019 marks the 75th year of the Missionary Sisters of Service. Renowned Australian journalist and broadcaster Geraldine Doogue, in conversation with Stancea Vichie, Congregational Leader of the Missionary Sisters of Service, and Zuleyha Keskin, Centre of Islamic Studies and Civilization, will explore the unique and enduring leadership and contribution by women of faith over the last 75 years – and where to from here?
Joy and gratitude has marked the 75-year anniversary celebrations in Melbourne for the Missionary Sisters of Service, which took place yesterday on Sunday 7 July.
8 July officially marks 75 years since the founding of the Missionary Sisters of Service by Fr John Wallis, in Tasmania, with an initial four women (Gwen Morse, Monica Carroll, Joyce O’Brien, Kath Moore) who said ‘yes’ to his call. Founded in Launceston, Tasmania, this pioneering group of women set out into the highways and byways of Australia and beyond, called to be living signs of the gospel among those on the margins.
Archbishop Peter Comensoli led the anniversary mass at St Thomas the Apostle church, together with parish priest, Fr Terry Bowman MSC. Applause broke out among the congregation following words of thanks spoken by Archbishop Peter during his homily.
‘Certainly this work of bringing Christ into the lives of all people, by going out to them, has been at the heart of the apostolic charism of the Missionary Sisters of Service over these past 75 years,’ Archbishop Peter said.
‘As their mission states, “We are a community of women called to be bearers of hope in our world. To bring the good news of justice, compassion and peace to all creation. That all may be transformed by the power of the gospel. We have a particular concern for people in the margins, geographically, culturally, spiritually, or socially”.’
‘In quite unique ways, using dare I say quite unique modes of transport, you Missionary Sisters of Service have been the travelling presence of Jesus into some of the most far flung and challenging locations in our country. You women of God have gone where others would not, and have brought the joy and the care of the gospel to people who would otherwise have never known of their dignity and worth in Jesus Christ. So thank you. Thank you.’
Twelve of the 26 sisters attended the Melbourne celebration, including one who had travelled from Whyalla, South Australia. Anniversary celebrations will take place in other locations where the sisters live – Toowoomba, Mackay and Bribie Island in Queensland and Hobart, Tasmania on.
In reflecting on their 75-year milestone, MSS Congregational Leader, Stancea Vichie, marvelled at the foresight of the order’s young founder, Fr John Wallis, and the courageous women who said yes.
‘I wondered what was going through the mind of the young John Wallis, the Diocesan priest, who was still young in his 30s when the order commenced in 1944. It was his dream and vision, through a woman on Bruny island, Kit Hawkins, who had challenged him in 1933 saying, “Father, why can’t we have sisters coming here in the bush? That got John thinking and 11 years later we came into being.’
‘The first four women who came together in Launceston were very mature, wise women, who left very responsible jobs in order to reach out into the deep, even at a time when World War II was still raging. They had very little in the way of economic resources, but what they did have was a great strength in the inner resources of faith, trust and courage.’
‘I’m sure there were moments of doubt on this very day, 75 years ago, wondering if they were doing the right thing or not. But they did. They took out into the deep, in their boats, and within six months there were two other women who had joined them.’
Stancea said it has been a special gift for the MSS to know their founder and also the pioneering women; to be part of this continuing story of reaching out to people on the margins.
‘Sometimes when we were working in those rural and outback areas some people would say, “Why on earth are you traveling 150km to see one family or two people?” But the whole essence of our spirit has always been that each and every person is important no matter who they are or where they are.’
Stancea said, ‘We’ve also been very much shaped by the land. We are extremely fortunate and grateful that we have lived and worked on the lands of so many of our First Nation’s peoples in this land, across this country, from Cape York to Hobart, all down the eastern part of Australia, across three quarters of South Australia, right up to the southern part of the Northern Territory.’
The sisters’ commemorative cookbook, Food for the Highways and Byways, which features many photographs over the 75 years, stories and recipes, also features a large map of Australia, which shows the many locations where the sisters have lived and worked.
On behalf of the sisters, Stancea thanked everyone gathered at the parish for the anniversary celebrations, as well as those who had been in touch from afar.
‘We are grateful to our God and to the spirit for gifting us with his charism,’ Stancea said. ‘It’s not ours. It’s been gifted to us. Our gratitude also extends to our Stewardship Council, to all who are part of the Highways and Byways: A Community of Service, our new entity which will continue the work of the sisters well into the future, and to all our wonderful staff.’
‘There are many tens of thousands of people that we really need to thank today across this country, and outside of Australia as well because we’ve been gifted with so much hospitality on the part of so many people.’
‘So a very big thank you to everybody for everything, and let’s continue to party and celebrate.’
It is with great excitement and joy that we, the Missionary Sisters of Service (MSS), an Australian grown congregation of Religious women impacting the lives of people living on the margins, celebrate our 75-year anniversary this Sunday 7 July at St Thomas the Apostle Parish, Blackburn. Archbishop Peter Comensoli will celebrate the Mass at 10.30am followed by a celebration for all in the parish hall.
We look forward to joining with everyone in celebrating this special occasion on Sunday and at other events and locations scheduled throughout the year! To mark this special year, we’ve prepared this special 7-minute photo slideshow presentation. Enjoy!
“We are celebrating 75 years of story, of history and of being immersed in people’s lives right across this nation,” stated Stancea Vichie, congregational leader of the Missionary Sisters of Service, at the recent launch of the MSS’ commemorative cookbook, Food for the Highways and Byways.Continue reading Commemorative cookbook launched in Victoria