Sr Monica Cavanagh rsj, the incoming congregational leader of almost all the Josephite Sisters around Australia, lists ‘tomb duty’ for St Mary MacKillop during World Youth Day in 2008 as a highlight of the last six years, reports The Catholic Weekly.
For Sr Anne Derwin rsj, the outgoing leader, the happy memories include welcoming Pope Benedict to the Josephite national headquarters in North Sydney (he was later to canonise the foundress of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart); and being at Mary MacKillop’s canonisation in Rome in October 2010.
Happy memories and milestones in the congregation’s life were to the fore last week as the Josephite leadership transitioned; Sr Monica is the 15th successor as leader of the Josephites to Australia’s first official saint following the congregation’s general chapter from 7-25 November last year.
She and her team of six fellow Josephite sisters will lead the congregation for six years until 2020, commencing officially on 1 March.
She told The Catholic Weekly she was hoping, among other things, to come to better know the sisters across the congregation.
There are approximately 870 Josephites located in all States of Australia, but also working in New Zealand, Peru, Brazil, East Timor, Scotland and Ireland.
Among the milestones of the last six years has been the ‘fusion’ or re-merging of the much larger congregation headed by Sr Anne and now Sr Monica with smaller congregations of Josephites also founded by St Mary MacKillop and Fr Julian Tenison Woods, but separated almost from the beginning from the main body by time and – often - the politics of the Church and individual bishops.
After nearly a century and a half apart, individual Josephite congregations in Tasmania, Goulburn and Whanganui in New Zealand have re-joined the main congregation in the past six years; one based at Lochinvar near Newcastle remains a separate body.
Photo: from left, Sr Annette Arnold, Sr Ann Gilroy, Sr Eileen Lenihan, Sr Anne Derwin and Sr Sheila McCreanor
Thoughts of the new head of the Josephites (The Catholic Weekly)