Religious life is a vocation. It offers a way of life, blessed and authorised by the Church, for men and women who wish to dedicate their lives completely to a deepening relationship with God, and to the mission of Jesus among the People of God. There are many congregations and orders of religious life within the Church: contemplative orders, monastic orders, apostolic congregations and secular institutes to name just a few. Over the centuries, expressions of religious life have emerged in response to contemporary situations.
At the core of religious life are vows or promises – usually of chastity, poverty and obedience – prayer, and a commitment to some form of community living and service.
Religious Life in the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst
In addition to the Diocesan clergy, the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst has been blessed with the presence and ministry of many congregations of religious men and women since its beginnings in 1865. These orders and congregations established and ran Catholic institutions providing education, health and social welfare. Most of their members were originally from Ireland and France, then from local parishes across the Diocese.
- Brigidines (education)
- Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (priests in parishes)
- Daughters of Charity (education and orphanage)
- De la Salle Brothers (education)
- Dominican Sisters (education and boarding school)
- Jesuits (spirituality and social justice)
- Sisters of St Joseph (education and boarding schools)
- Missionaries of Charity (outreach to marginalised people)
- Patrician Brothers (education and orphanage)
- Sisters of Charity (hospital and nurse education)
- Sisters of Mercy (from 1866 education, boarding schools, orphanages)
- Vincentian Priests and Brothers (education and boarding school)
Some young men and women from the Diocese of Bathurst also joined religious orders in other parts of Australia, such as the Contemplative Carmelites, Cabrini Sisters, Daughters of Charity and the Jesuits. All of them are committed to the Catholic faith and to social justice values, expressed according to the needs of the time.
After the Second Vatican Council, Catholic institutions in the Diocese began to be handed over to the laity and the work of religious in the Diocese of Bathurst diversified and expanded to other parts of Australia and the world. Some aspects of the lifestyle of religious also changed at this time, such as wearing the habit and residence.
Members of the Society of Jesus are known as Jesuits. They were founded by Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th Century and can be found all over the world. Jesuits combine both a contemplative and active spirit – their prayer informs their work and their work leads them back to prayer. As well as the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Jesuits take a vow of obedience to the Pope. This reflects their readiness to go wherever sent and wherever greater good can be done. Jesuits have been noted educators, spiritual guides and missionaries.
For further information, see:
jss.org.au (Jesuit Social Services)
Sisters of Mercy
The Sisters of Mercy came to the Diocese of Bathurst from Charleville, Ireland with Bishop Matthew Quinn in 1866. They immediately set about establishing a convent, a school, a boarding school, an orphanage and, soon after, a novitiate on the site adjacent to the Cathedral of St Michael and John. Over the next few years, they opened convents and schools all along the Western line: Orange, Wellington, Dubbo, Narromine, Trangie, Bourke, as well as Mudgee, Forbes, Glen Davis, Carcoar and Binnaway.
After the Second Vatican Council’s call to religious to update and renew in the early 1960s, the ministries of the Sisters diversified, focusing more on the needs of marginalised people and working for changes to unjust social structures. Some Sisters also moved into teaching in secular and Catholic tertiary institutions.
The Bathurst Sisters of Mercy were one of 17 independent Mercy Congregations in Australia until 2011, when they joined in the formation of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea, comprising 900 Sisters. They continue to work in ministries that make visible the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and are responding to Pope John Paul II’s call to ecological conversion.
Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Perthville
The Sisters of St Joseph were founded by Fr Julian Tenison Woods and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, 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 the vast Diocese of Bathurst, 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, the Congregation had increased to over 30 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. 60 foundations were made during the years 1872 to 1992, including foundations in Papua New Guinea.
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 alongside the education 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 merge/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 the Josephite’s patron, St Joseph, authorised the fusion. From this date, the Perthville Congregation became one with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, with whom they were originally founded.
Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians)
The Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian Fathers and Brothers) is a Society of Apostolic life ‘born’ during a homily of St Vincent de Paul in 1617.
The ‘Vins’ came to Bathurst, from Ireland in 1889 to run St Charles’ Seminary and St Stanislaus’ College. By then, both were located in the towered ‘Stannies’ building on Brilliant Street, overlooking Bathurst.
The Seminary closed in 1891 but the College remains, the latter having begun in 1867 near the Cathedral. Among the first Vincentians to arrive was Deacon Joseph Slattery CM, who completed his studies at St Charles’ before being ordained to the priesthood. He was a gifted scientist, a pioneer in radiography who took the first medical X-Ray image in Australia.
A Vincentian, Michael O’Farrell CM, was Bishop of Bathurst from 1920-28. Many ‘old boys’ of the College have served as Diocesan clergy or as priests and brothers in Vincentian or in other communities. A host of Vincentian priests and brothers have devoted themselves to the College apostolate over 125 years.
Currently, Fr Peter Reedy CM is resident Chaplain at St Stanislaus’ College, the current link in a long chain. Other apostolates in the Diocese engaged in by the Vincentians have included parish ministry and prison chaplaincy, with Father Greg Walsh CM now posted at Bathurst Correctional Centre.
The Province to which the Vincentians in Bathurst belong was, until recently, called “The Australian Province” but now it is named “The Oceania Province”, a recognition of the presence of the Vins in several Pacific nations, especially Fiji.
International website: cmglobal.org
Australian website: vincentians.org.au