Bishop's Homily - Josephite Fusion - May 2014
Mass for the Fusion of the Sisters of St Joseph Perthville
with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart
Saturday 3rd May 2014
MacKillop College Hall, Gorman's Hill Road, Bathurst
Homily by Bishop Michael McKenna
Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid (Mt.1:20)
Joseph, do not be afraid! Sisters of St Joseph, do not be afraid!
When the discussions about fusion began to get serious, one of the questions most often asked by the Bathurst Sisters was “will it still be possible for me to be buried at Perthville?” For those of us who know the graveyard at Perthville and all it means, that question seemed perfectly reasonable: and the affirmative answer it received was consoling. That graveyard is a place of pilgrimage for the Sisters and those who love them now, just as it will be the final stop on their earthly pilgrimage to God.
Over the past five years, I have had the privilege of celebrating the Mass of Christian Burial at Perthville for many Sisters. These have been occasions of thanksgiving to God for lives of loving service: and gatherings full of hope for future glory. At these funerals, our Christian joy has made it possible to be honest about our grief, not running away from it or trying to cover it up, but accepting it and placing it among the other realities: of gratitude for the gift and the promise of life changed not ended.
I hope you will understand me when I say that today is like a Christian funeral. There is thanksgiving for the past, whose goodness will endure. There is grief at saying goodbye. There is hope that God is doing something new. In all of it, there is the offer to let go of fear and to trust our Father who loves us. Joseph, do not be afraid! Sisters of St Joseph, do not be afraid!
The first reading today, from the First Letter of St Peter, has special resonance. Father Julian chose it as “the Epistle of the Institute.” It sets before us a pattern of Christian living that, in human frailty, we sometimes fall short of, but a blessing we never give up hoping to receive. “Never repay one wrong with another…repay with a blessing.”
In the early days of the Institute, the troubles from without and within, the misunderstandings and divisions, could not defeat the strong and gentle action of the Spirit that kept freeing Sisters to unite, be sympathetic, love, have compassion and humility. The same Spirit is moving among you today, if only you will say yes.
Bad weather has driven us to shelter here at MacKillop College. We are grateful for the hospitality and for reminding us of an important part of the Perthville Sisters story. It is the link with the Sisters of Mercy. The Mercies gave welcome and practical help to the Josephites on many occasions in Ireland and Australia, notably in Bathurst, in those early struggling days.
Then, half a century ago, Father Hugh Delaney, Diocesan Inspector of Schools, initiated a plan to amalgamate the two Josephite and Mercy Colleges into the school that hosts us today. Incredibly, the union succeeded, but we can only imagine what that demanded of the two groups of women, with different histories and cultures, charged with making it work, and learning to work together. It had to be a triumph of that spirit of unity, sympathy, compassion and humility St Peter spoke about.
Do not be afraid – to say yes to that blessing today. Joseph, do not be afraid! Sisters of St Joseph, do not be afraid!