Sisters of St. Joseph to Merge

The Sisters of St Joseph, Perthville have received authorisation from the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome, to proceed with ‘fusion’, or merger, with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. 

Congregational Leader, Sister Therese McGarry said, “We are thrilled to receive this news. It brings us another step forward in the process of ‘strengthening our unity as Sisters of St Joseph'”.

Sister Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart said, “We are delighted that the Sisters of St Joseph, Perthville and the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart will now be one again, as we were when Mary MacKillop and Julian Woods first sent the Sisters to The Vale. Although our participation in the Mission of God asked that we journey separately for these 141 years, we are grateful to God to be together again”. 

The Decree authorising the fusion is dated 19th March, 2014 - the Feast of St Joseph. In his letter accompanying the Decree, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, Secretary of the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, wrote: “Be assured of our prayers for you and all the Sisters of St Joseph of Perthville, as you bring this new reality into being”.

In practice, after the merger, the Perthville Congregation will cease to exist as a separate Institute. However, the Sisters will continue predominantly to live and minister within the Diocese of Bathurst.

"Most of the Sisters will continue to live in the Bathurst Diocese and continue their long and faithful relationships with the people, the priests and the Bishop of the Diocese", said Sister Monica. “Now we have the official approval from Rome I am delighted to extend a very warm welcome to our Perthville Sisters and appreciate their willingness to welcome us into their lives".

Commenting on the fusion, Bishop Michael McKenna said, “While I share the sadness of many in our Diocese that this local Congregation, which has contributed so much to our journey of faith, will no longer formally exist, I am confident that the generosity of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart will be blessed and the heritage of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and Fr Julian Tenison Woods will continue its presence in our local church".

A celebration of the historic transition is planned for Saturday 3rd May 2014 at Perthville.

Bishop McKenna and Sister Therese McGarry after receiving the Decree

A History of Separation and Reunion

The story of ‘separation and gradual re-union’ is one spanning 138 years.

Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart were the original group founded by Mary MacKillop and Julian Woods in Penola SA.  Emanating from this group, the Perthville Community of Sisters became the first foundation made in New South Wales in 1872. With the intervention of Bishop Matthew Quinn (Bishop of Bathurst), Perthville separated from the original group in 1876 and became a Diocesan Congregation.

From Perthville, four other Diocesan groups were founded (New Zealand, Goulburn, Lochinvar, Tasmania) and they later became the Australian-New Zealand Federation of Sisters of St Joseph. Sisters from three of these Congregations (Tasmania, Goulburn and New Zealand) have previously fused/merged with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

Sister Therese commented, “Over many years, the Perthville Sisters have expressed a desire for greater unity among the Sisters of St Joseph and we have steadily re-ignited our connections through the sharing of our founding stories, retreats, pilgrimages, publications, ministries, gatherings and endeavours of many kinds.  In particular our passion for God’s mission as it has come to be expressed today in the spirit of our co-founders St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and Father Julian Tenison Woods has drawn us all closer.  For us, the approval for fusion affirms our desire to be reunited with our Sisters of origin, and to be true to our Founders St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and Father Julian Tenison Woods.  We wish to honour the movement of the Holy Spirit in the long journey towards unity, combining our strengths for God’s mission”.


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