Home' The Southern Cross : May 2015 Contents Loreto Sister Denise Desmarchelier
is starting a social justice program to
help Adelaide parishes respond to the
immediate needs of the most vulnerable
locally and to cast an eye wider to social
injustice on a national and global scale.
Sr Denise last month began contacting
several parishes to help set up social
justice groups, or support those already
established, and begin to identify the
needs of their communities.
“I’m hoping to help parishes interested in
issues affecting their community to think
through the prism of social justice and
then to think about how they can take
action,” she said.
“It may be an action to compassionate
prayer – all of us can pray, or it might be
the action of becoming informed about a
social justice issue like human trafficking
or asylum seekers – all of us can gain
knowledge and share information with
other people,” she said.
“Some parishes will be able to contribute
time and money and some will be able to
take direct action,” she said.
Sr Denise said the social justice needs
of each parish community would vary
significantly as would the parish’s
She hoped the parish-based social justice
groups would form a network across
the diocese and become connected to
Catholic agencies like Caritas Australia,
Catholic Charities and Catholic Mission.
“The aim is to help people form a social
conscience and to understand that
compassionate prayer and being informed
are ways of participating in social justice
ministry,” she said.
The first groups could be up and running
by the end of the year.
“I’ve always had a passion for social
justice,” said Sr Denise.
Sr Denise arrived in Adelaide eight months
ago and soon after offered to serve the
Adelaide Archdiocese in a social justice
capacity. She is an active member of the
Chancellor Heather Carey said the diocese
was “very supportive” of Sr Denise’s
initiative and would offer her assistance
through Catholic Communities and the
Before arriving in Adelaide, Sr Denise
spent six months helping Loreto Sisters in
Mauritius develop governance structures
for seven Loreto schools.
She became a school principal at the age
of 28 and has spent more than 30 years
leading Catholic schools in Victoria, New
South Wales and Western Australia. She
is author of Voices of Women: women
and the Catholic Church (2000) and was
a member of the Catholic Education
Commission in both Victoria and WA. She
is a member of: the Provincial Council of
the Loreto Sisters, Catholic Religious SA,
and Australian Catholic Religious Against
Trafficking of Humans.
Sr Denise says she fist felt the call to a
religious life as a teenager. After her final
year at Loreto Kirribilli, Sydney, she joined
the Loreto Sisters to follow the three
founding virtues of foundress Mary Ward:
freedom, justice and sincerity.
“Justice is embodied in those three
founding virtues – it is fundamental to my
charism as a Loreto Sister and it’s also
what I grew up with,” said Sr Denise.
Parishes wishing to set up a social
justice group or initiatives, or those
wanting support for an established
group, can contact Sr Denise
Desmarchelier on 8364 4135 or email
Architect Mariella Mascitelli designs her
buildings using a unique creed: objects of
beauty help the spirit find the Lord, who is
Mariella is a Sister of the Disciples of the
She is an Australian-born religious
woman with architectural qualifications
specialising in Church and liturgical
design. She has worked with her fellow
sisters on church renovations and building
churches from the ground up in Australia
and across the globe.
“When I enter a church, if I were looking
at it as a lay architect I would be
concerned with the architectural and
aesthetic features of the building, but as a
consecrated woman the first thing I see is
whether Jesus is perceived in this church –
when a person enters can they see Jesus
is alive in this church; is it drawing me to
prayer,” she says.
Sr Mariella was in Adelaide in March
visiting St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral,
which is undergoing renovations
associated with the installation of a 1927
Casavant Frères pipe organ.
She was born in Sydney to Italian migrants
who returned to Italy when she was 14
years old. After completing secondary
school in Italy, she studied economics and
by age 24 had joined the Sister Disciples
of the Divine Master, based in Rome.
Soon after joining, Sr Mariella completed
a degree in architecture and engineering.
From there her vocation flourished.
“I am an architect that works with the
needs of the liturgy always foremost in
my mind,” says Sr Mariella. “The building
needs to be functional and beautiful to
enhance the liturgy,” she says. “So the
architecture is the servant of the liturgy.”
Her order is one of the 10 congregations
founded by Blessed James Alberione,
including the Daughters of St Paul and the
Pastorelle Sisters which have a presence
in Adelaide. The work of the Sister
Disciples of the Divine Master is to offer
perpetual adoration before the Blessed
Sacrament, the design of liturgical spaces
to enhance worship and prayer, and the
care of priests.
Sr Mariella spends four hours of adoration
before the Blessed Sacrament each day.
It’s how she gains inspiration, she says.
“For us disciples of the divine master,
everything is born to us from adoration of
the Blessed Sacrament,” she says. “The
Lord draws us to him and what comes
from our hands is informed by His love for
The religious order runs the world’s only
all-in-one workshop, lab and consultancy
agency from Rome for the building,
furnishing and decoration of churches and
places of worship. Just south of Rome,
lay people and sisters are among the
dozens of artisans working on sculptures,
architectural design, mosaics, stained
glass windows, furniture and all matter of
Last year Sr Mariella was the chief
architect involved in renovating St Francis
Church in Mill Park, Melbourne. She is
currently working on conservation works
at St Carthage’s Cathedral in Lismore,
New South Wales, and a parish church in
Celebrating consecrated life
May 2015 Page 9
to divine design
READY FOR ACTION: Sr Denise Desmarchelier ibvm has started a parish-based
social justice plan to help inspire acts of compassion and solidarity for the
disadvantaged across Adelaide parish communities.
Social justice passion ignites parish plan
By Rebecca DiGirolamo
CREATING SACRED SPACES: Sister Mariella Mascitelli pddm is an Australian-born
liturgical architect who recently visited Adelaide’s St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral,
which will close for restoration work this month.
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