Sisters of St. Joseph, Perthville
The Sisters of St Joseph were founded by Fr Julian Tenison Woods and Mary MacKillop, (later to become the first canonised saint of Australia) in Penola in South Australia in 1866. This was an Australian Religious Congregation especially suited to Australian conditions.
In 1872, after a request from Bishop Matthew Quinn, the first Bishop of Bathurst for the sisters to open schools in his vast diocese, the sisters made a foundation at The Vale (later renamed Perthville).This was the first Josephite foundation in NSW. Mother Mary MacKillop, as Superior General, visited the Sisters there twice during 1875. By 1876 when the congregation had increased to over thirty sisters. There were convents and schools established in six centres in the Diocese. However, Bishop Quinn did not agree with centralised government under the authority of the Superior General. The Bishop gave the sisters the choice of returning to Adelaide or remaining at the Vale under his jurisdiction. Consequently, in February 1876, 17 sisters returned to Adelaide while 14 women remained at The Vale under the authority of Bishop Quinn. This was the beginning of the Diocesan Sisters of St Joseph, with their Motherhouse at Perthville. The Novitiate was established on this site along with a boarding school for girls.
In the main, the Perthville Sisters taught in the smaller centres in the Bathurst Diocese conducting primary and secondary schools. They lived simply in small isolated communities, supported by community prayer and the generosity of the local people. Many communities had Mass only once a week. With dedication and generosity and frequently with few resources and in trying conditions, the sisters gave extraordinary service to the people of this inland Diocese. Sixty foundations were made during the years 1872 to 1992, including foundations in PNG.
After the Second Vatican Council, the sisters were exhorted to return to the original charism of their founding and to make a preferential option for the poor. New ministries developed along side the school ministry and some sisters moved into more marginalised ministries. The present work of the sisters covers a diversity of ministry including adult faith education, caring for the aged, operation of a retreat and conference centre, pastoral work in parishes and aged care facilities, visitation of the sick, aged and bereaved, ministry to refugees, administration of congregational affairs and Catholic education. The facilitation of the Josephite Foundation No Interest Loans Scheme has also become a priority of the Congregation.
The decision to seek merger/fusion with the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart came after many years of engaging in shared endeavours. The Vatican Decree dated 19th March 2014, the feast of our patron St Joseph, authorised our fusion. From this date, the Perthville Congregation became one with the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, from whom we were originally founded. A celebration ceremony to mark this fusion was held on 3rd May 2014.