Joy and gratitude mark 75-year anniversary

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.’








Anniversary Mass and Celebration, 7 July

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!



Catholic Religious Australia expresses condolences to Sri Lankan communities

We are deeply shocked and saddened by the horrific bombings that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, 21 April. In response to these tragic events, a letter of condolence from our Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) President, Monica Cavanagh rsj, has been sent to the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Ranjith. A similar letter has also been sent to the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, along with messages of condolence being sent to five Sri Lankan communities in different states in Australia. We will continue to lift you all up in prayer.

Commemorative Cookbook

In 2019 we celebrate our 75-year anniversary! To mark this special year, we have a number of events throughout the year. We have also released a special commemorative cookbook that contains photos and stories of the MSS over 75 years, plus more than 30 recipes.

MSS Cookbook_Cover

Food for the Highways and Byways is our brand new commemorative cookbook that celebrates 75 years of the Missionary Sisters of Service.

It’s full of recipes – 35 in total – that range from soups and starters, to main dishes and desserts. However, it’s more than a cookbook! It contains an array of photographs showcasing our work over 75 years. There is a page dedicated to prayers, which can be shared around the dinner table, a map of Australia that marks out where we’ve lived and worked. We share with you our milestones, we remember our Sisters who’ve died, and take you through the evolving nature of our mission in Australia and beyond. Each of the recipes, which have been provided by the Sisters and friends of the congregation, have an accompanying story as well! This really is a collector’s item, and would be an ideal gift for anyone you hold dear to your heart.

The Launch of Food for the Highways and Byways was a wonderful celebration of friendship and food.   Our  hosts, Edwina and Brendan Ricci, welcomed more than 80 guests to their property set high in the hills of Toolangi.   Brendan had built a huge campfire to warm us on the chilly day and Edwina made lots of pizzas baked in the spot in their woodfired pizza oven.

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The book was launched by Marcus Godinho, CEO of Fair Share, an organisation that annually provides two million freshly cooked meals to homeless people in Melbourne and Brisbane, and also sent truckloads of meals to the Townsville area during their flood disaster earlier this year.   He was an appropriate choice for launching the Cookbook and made new Fare Share fans among his audience.


Continue reading Commemorative Cookbook

Upcoming Events


Throughout 2019 we are celebrating our 75-year anniversary! There are a range of upcoming events in honour of this special milestone.



The Melbourne book launch will take place on Wednesday 2 October, 6pm for 6.30pm start at Yarra Theological Union Study Centre, 99 Albion Street, Box Hill (enter from Bedford Street)

Dear Mother Dear Father Letters Home from John Corcoran Wallis 1927 – 1949 by Bernadette Wallis MSS contains a series of letters written by Fr John Wallis to his parents and family, which give us a rare and precious insight into his life as a seminarian and young priest. They also reflect a growing development of his piety and spirituality. The letters have been arranged into 10 chapters, with each chapter featuring a reflection written by an eminent Australian who considers John’s character and spiritual growth as well as applying his insights into contemporary Church life in Australia.


Download the Melbourne Launch flyer, here.

Download the Launceston Launch (17 November) flyer, here.

Download the Hobart Launch (19 November) flyer, here.

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.

Read more about the book, and author, here.


YarcktoYea2019We’d love you to join us for our annual Yarck to Yea – Walk, Ride or Run on Saturday 12 October, on the Great Victorian Rail Trail. All proceeds go to our mission entity Highways and Byways – A Community of Service, helping rural and remote communities to thrive!

Cost: Adults, $30; Student/ Concession, $12; Family, $50 (and there are package deals available with our cosy H&H socks!!!)

This is a beautiful day where gather in community to walk, run, ride, talk and laugh, AND it finishes at the Old Yea Railway Station where everyone is invited to enjoy the country hospitality of the Yea Catholic community with a BBQ.

Download flyer, here:


MSS Chapter /Assembly: Wednesday 23 to Sunday 27 October, Holy Cross Templestowe.

MSS Consultations, Hobart: Saturday 14 September.

John Wallis Memorial Lecture and Cookbook Launch, Hobart: Thursday 12 September, Guilford Young College, 94 Barrack St, Hobart, Tasmania, at 7pm.

MSS Consultations, Melbourne: Thursday 22 August.

John Wallis Memorial Lecture and Cookbook Launch, Melbourne: Tuesday 13 August, Genazzano FCJ College, 301 Cotham Road, Kew, 7pm, featuring renowned journalist and broadcaster, Geraldine Doogue.

MSS Graveside Celebrations: Monday 5 August, Drayton Toowoomba Cemetery; Saturday 26 October, Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Melbourne; Monday 25 November, Cornelian Bay Cemetery, Hobart.

MSS 75-Year Anniversary Mass, Toowoomba: Sunday 4 August, St Anthony’s Church, 3 Memory St, Harristown, 2pm. Celebrant: Bishop Bill Morris. Afternoon tea will follow in the community centre.

MSS Consultations, Toowoomba: Thursday 1 August.

MSS Rosary House Day: Monday 8 July, with celebrations taking place locally, with scones!

MSS 75-Year Anniversary Celebrations, Melbourne: All are warmly invited to join in our 75-year anniversary celebrations on Sunday 7 July at the 10.30am Mass (with Archbishop Peter A Comensoli presiding) at St Thomas the Apostle Church, 57 Central Road, Blackburn, Victoria. Refreshments will be served afterwards in the parish hall.  For catering purposes, PLEASE RSVP by 28 June 2019. Call (03) 9873 5520 or email


If you have any enquiries about any of these events, please email mssadmin@missionarysisters or call (03) 9837 5520.

Celebrating our Past – Energising our Present – Open to the Future

July 2018 marked the beginning of the 75th year since the beginning of the Missionary Sisters of Service (MSS).   The celebrations began in November with a pilgrimage to Bruny Island where it all began. A busload of pilgrims, thirteen Sisters and fifteen friends and associates, gathered in Launceston where the founding members of the community first came together in July 1944.  Their house, loaned to them by St Vincent’s Hospital, has gone.   In its place are extensions to the Hospital.


Pioneering Women
Our pioneering women at their Frederick Street home in 1944


While the original house has long gone, the oak trees along the street front still harbour that early history.   The Pilgrims gathered under its branches for a photo.


The group was welcomed to Calvary St Vincent’s by Ed van Galen, Director of Mission.  After celebrating a ritual in the chapel, we were treated to a delicious morning tea and met a number of other staff members.


Ed van Galen with pilgrims Bernadette Wallis mss and Stancea Vichie mss.

The pilgrims then journeyed to Scottsdale and Derby, the first parish visited by our early sisters.   The parish priest, Fr Edwin, celebrated Mass, which was followed by a lunch of hot soup and finger food, all lovingly prepared by the small parish community.  Much meeting and greeting and renewing of old friendships accompanied the meal.


Over the following days the pilgrim bus worked its way south, via Longford, Oatlands, Richmond and Hobart.   In each place Pilgrims were welcomed by people among whom the sisters had lived and worked.   After a brief ritual in the parish church, they were treated to a home-cooked lunch or a cuppa, according to the time of day.   It was heart-warming to experience the love people retain for the Sisters they had known over the years.  Each place evoked treasured memories and stories of the years the Sisters worked there.

Pat Quinn mss thanking the people of Longford for their warm welcome.
At Oatlands, Nancy Doyle mss read a moving tribute to her, written by Vera Fisher when she left that parish in 1989 after five years as Parish Leader.   When appointed in 1984, Nancy became the first woman Parish Leader in Australia.
Fr Graeme Howard
At Richmond, Fr Graeme Howard, a long-time friend of Fr John Wallis, shared some of his memories of him with the pilgrims.

On Sunday 25th November the pilgrims journeyed to Alonnah, Bruny Island, joined by another busload and many others who came in their own vehicles.   After a meet and greet opportunity, they were treated to lunch, prepared by the local CWA.

The 75th anniversary celebration cake was cut by two nieces of founding members of the Missionary Sisters of Service: Josephine Dare, niece of Teresa Morse and Elizabeth Jordan, great niece of Monica Carroll; the third person is Stancea Vichie mss leader.

The climax of the pilgrimage came when everyone gathered outside St Brendan’s church for the blessing and dedication of a memorial to Father John Wallis, the Founder of the Missionary Sisters of Service, the women who came together in 1944 to begin what became the MSS  community, and those who followed them into the highways and byway of Australia and beyond, seeking out people on the margins, whether geographically, socially, economically, culturally or because of their faith, sharing their lives in love, friendship, support and hope.     

Emeritus Archbishop of Hobart, Adrian Doyle, blessed the memorial

The memorial situated in the grounds of St Brendan’s church, comprises two interpretative panels (pictured below) telling the story of the beginnings and development of the Missionary Sisters of Service.   Between them is a sandstone feature with a silhouette of Father John on his bicycle visiting people on Bruny Island, as he first did in 1933.  On one of those visits – to the Hawkins family – the mother, Kit, challenged Father John with a question that started it all:  Why can’t we have Sisters to help us…..  

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The panels that tell the story of Father John, the Missionary Sisters of Service and their mission.

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Angela and Dennis Derrick. While many people were involved in the design and content of the memorial, Dennis undertook its creation and installation. The centre-piece depicts Father John on his bike – his mode of transport on his early visits to Bruny Island.
MSS Sisters Betty McManus, Bernadette Madden, Lorraine Groves, Bernadette Wallis and Stancea Vichie around the centre piece of the Bruny Island Memorial.

Continue reading Celebrating our Past – Energising our Present – Open to the Future