The Southern Cross : August 2012
vocations week august 5 -- 12 Page 12 August 2012 www.thesoutherncross.org.au My father was a policeman, so as a family we lived in different places. My primary schooling was in a public State school in the bush in Central Queensland, as the nearest Catholic school and church were 100 miles away. We only saw a priest once a month, and Confession and Mass were in the local dance hall. When it was time for secondary schooling, we moved to a regional city and I went to a Catholic girls college run by the Sisters of Mercy, but it wasn't until I had left school and was working in a bank that the first inkling of a religious vocation came to me. I had attended a "vocation weekend" and went home on "a high", telling my parents I wanted to enter then. They said a definite NO as I was too young. So I joined the WRAAF (Womens' Royal Australian Air Force) and left home for the first time. I think it was a good move as it meant I had to grow up fast! I travelled overseas; I learned to fly; I had a boyfriend; I lived in womens' barracks and so learned discipline, which helped me later when I had to live in a religious community. In fact the whole idea of a religious vocation had left me until I was nearly ready to leave the WRAAF, and then I found myself looking to the Lord for inspiration as to what to do next with my life. I felt I needed to get away from family and friends to think, so I went to Perth, Western Australia and back to secretarial work, did some travelling within Australia and found myself going to daily Mass in my lunch breaks. You see this "niggling" thought of vocation was back, but I had no attraction to any particular congregation or type of work. I spoke to a priest about it and he suggested I look around at different types of congregations, which I think was a good first move. A girlfriend of mine then told me she was going on a vocation weekend and invited me along. I met a Sister of Nazareth and everything about her I liked -- that was it! She invited me to visit Nazareth House in Perth and as soon as I walked through the door I felt at home. I then went back home and had to tell my parents I wanted to enter a congregation they had never heard of, and this time they agreed. Even when I asked to enter I still was not 100 percent sure it was the right decision, but I felt I would never know unless I tried. Although my father said I would be back home in 12 months, it is now 31 years and this is my new home, presently in Nazareth House, Camberwell, Melbourne. You see it is God's call, and His way is not our way! Sr Ruth Egar, a Sister of Mercy, is retiring after almost seven years of serving as the Archbishop's Delegate for Religious within the Adelaide Archdiocese. Ruth says it has been a great privilege for her to come to know and enjoy so many of the women and men religious in Adelaide and beyond. "The call to leadership in the Church heralded by the second Vatican Council has been taken up by committed women and men, able and highly qualified laity who have created a new Catholic leadership in these, and so many other areas of pastoral life," she says. "We might be less visible because we do not now staff large institutions, but there is a great spiritual energy and zest for Gospel life in the 300 Sisters and Brothers in this diocese." Ruth says handing over to the laity the responsibility for many of our Catholic institutions has enabled the Religious to choose ministries to those others who 'live on the edge' of our society. "You will find many religious committed to, for example, the refugees, the intellectually disabled, the homeless, prisoners and all those suffering discrimination of some sort or other. This is where we are meant to be today," she says. "We are not there serving on our own -- we serve with countless others who share our love for the poorest." Ruth sites the many and varied religious communities living and working in Adelaide: "You will find two different communities of Franciscan Sisters in Adelaide today serving the elderly in nursing homes. Beyond the nursing homes their lives are a witness to the Italian families in nearby parishes." She says one small Croatian community in North Adelaide 'The Adorers of the Blood of Christ', have for many years received Government grants to cater for the needs of Croatian families in their homes. They gather the families for prayer and assist in their celebration of Mass in St Patrick's church. "We are also witnessing the emergence of new forms of religious life particularly with the Sisters of St Joseph who have a resurgence of interest in religious life," she says. "The recent canonisation of our first Australian Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop has emboldened the desire of some to live the charism of Mary in new and exciting ways. "You will find Mary MacKillop's Sisters with the deaf, touring the country in a bus to invite us all to a living mission of hope, in supported living for adults with intellectual disabilities, caring for aged and infirm and in may other areas of spiritual and pastoral support for our Catholic communities." Sr Ruth says other Religious Congregations have educated thousands of us here in South Australia - the Dominicans, Mercies, Loreto Sisters, Good Samaritans and St Joseph Sisters, as well as the Christian, Marist and Salesian and Jesuit Brothers and Priests engaged in new ways of influencing the formation of both adults and children. One powerful example of this, she says, is the 'Edmund Rice' camps that have been a source of salvation for children from many under-resourced families and homes. The Ignatian method of retreats and spiritual direction, a specialist method of Jesuit origin has led to the formation and training of many religious and laity. This influences the faith life and commitment of hundreds of Catholics and people of other Christian faiths. "My own Congregation, the Sisters of Mercy, continues to discover ways to support those on the edge. Catherine House in the city, has been a haven for hundreds of homeless women over two or more decades. Sr Janet Mead and the Romero Community in Moore Street feed and house the hungry across Adelaide. There have been many Sisters formerly involved in aboriginal education -- now a younger Sister will work with Centacare in the support of aboriginal families in a far flung part of South Australia." Archbishop Philip Wilson four years ago invited a new Congregation, the Sisters of St Anne of Chennai to begin a foundation here in Adelaide. Sr Mercy has been welcomed by Fr Roderick O'Brien, Parish Priest of Salisbury to work with Indian families. Sister Sheela is engaged with African families, women and children who lead lively programmes for catechetics and prayer groups. The preparation of beautiful liturgies celebrated for Indian families are testament to the gift of the Indian Sisters' presence in our diocese. Sr Ruth says that Sr Marie Ralph RSM, her successor, appointed recently by Archbishop Philip Wilson, has expressed her wish to continue to encourage the women and men of the various Congregations in their outreach to all whom they serve. Pictured above at Sr Ruth's farewell are from left Sr Candida De Angelis SJBP, Sr Ruth, Sr Anna Genovese SJBP, Sr Mercy Markose SSA, Sr Sheela Thomas SSA and Sr Slavica Turcic ASC. Spiritual energy Following God's call Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart talks about her decision to join the Sisters of Nazareth.