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When Sister Rose Mary Mangalanathan
decided on a religious life with the Sisters
of St Anne in Chennai, India, the last place
she expected to end up was Australia.
Coming from a middle class family in the
southern Indian capital of Tamil Nadu,
Rose Mary was sure her mission would
be helping people in the slums of her own
To her surprise, after three years of
novitiate she was sent to a remote region
in Ethiopia where she was forced to adapt
to a life without basic necessities such
as electricity, telecommunication and
“I was only 23 and had been brought up in
the city and had a very sophisticated life,”
“I was teaching in one of the Jesuit
schools in northern India when they
selected me to go to a convent in Ethiopia.
“I didn’t want to go; why go to serve in
another country when my country needs a
lot. But under obedience I said ‘yes’.”
But a few months into her three-year
mission, she realised it was “God’s call”
and she found the Ethiopians to be a
deeply “spiritual, peaceful and loving”
people. After facing difficulty teaching
students in their national language, the
locals went to great lengths to teach her
their Amharic language.
“I learnt a lot, they were so good to me
and the love of the people helped me to
face any difficulty,” Sr Rosemary said.
She returned to India to complete her final
vows preparation training while working
in a social work centre and then in a
secondary school and was expecting to
remain there or perhaps have the chance
to return to Africa but was told she was
being sent to Australia.
“I thought ‘how can I be a missionary in
Australia’,” Sr Rose Mary said.
But she soon realised that every place
lacks something: “for some places it might
be money and education, for others it is
Her former Mother General Sr Leema
Rozario put it this way: “Missionaries
came to our country and served our
people and now we have to go to their
country”. This helped her to say “yes”
However, Sr Rose Mary quickly came
to understand that for Indigenous
Australians, it was not only their souls that
Working as a social worker for Centacare
in Port Augusta, Sr Rose Mary was
shocked to find that many Aboriginal
people were deprived and faced issues
such as domestic violence, mental illness
and substance abuse.
She spent eight months in Port Augusta
and has recently moved to Adelaide where
she is working at the Otherway Centre,
part of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry.
Sr Rose Mary said she was enjoying
being able to mix with Indigenous people,
particularly the elders, in a relaxed
atmosphere while hearing their stories and
sharing her faith.
She has also enjoyed getting to know
about their history and culture which, she
said, had many similarities with her own
“The way they treat their elders with
respect and listen to their words – it’s the
same as us,” she said.
“Some of their ritual practices and values
they hold on to surprised me.”
She said even the Aboriginal smoking
ceremony reminded her of the incense
burning in new homes which was
practised by Hindus but pre-dated any of
the religious practices in her country.
She is unsure how long her mission will be
here in Adelaide but is happy to leave it up
follows God’s call
By Jenny Brinkworth
VOCATION OF LOVE: Sister Rose Mary Mangalanathan was among the Religious
attending the closing of the Year of Consecrated Life at St Francis Xavier’s
Cathedral last month.
Mercedes College is committed to the education of the
whole person. We nurture and inspire each student to
discover their potential, plan for their future and embrace
the many opportunities life presents.
Join us on an Orientation Walk and discover how our
environment can help realise your child’s potential.
To register your interest please telephone or visit
540 Fullarton Road, Springfield SA Telephone 08 8372 3200
Mercedes College is a co-educational, Reception to Year 12
Catholic school in the Mercy tradition, providing a caring
and supportive learning environment.
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