Sisters of St John of God celebrated for 150 years care for sick and poor

21 Oct 2021

By Amanda Murthy

sjog sisters
Answering the call from Bishop Matthew Gibney to help the sick, poor and needy who were facing a Typhoid epidemic in the goldfields of Western Australia, eight pioneering sisters would eventually dock in Albany, WA on 23 November 1895. Pictured are the WA Sisters of St John of God who celebrated 150 years of their foundation on 14 October at the Subiaco Convent Chapel. Photo: Supplied.

The congregation of the Sisters of St John of God were joined by Western Australian Bishops, stakeholders, and partners in mission on 14 October to celebrate the past 150 years of the Congregations presence which began in Wexford, Ireland, on 7 October 1871.

The events began at the Sisters of St John of God Subiaco Convent Chapel with a Mass celebrated by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB. Concelebrants for the Mass included Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, Bunbury Bishop Gerard Holohan, Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey, and Bishop Emeritus of Geraldton Justin Bianchini.

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB (fourth from left) celebrated a Mass for 150 year foundation anniversary celebrations of the congregation of the Sisters of St John of God on 14 October at the Subiaco Convent Chapel. Photo: Supplied.

In his homily, Archbishop Costelloe spoke about the significance of submitting to the ‘will of God’ and to give thanks to Him for the great gift of religious life.

“As you, the Sisters of Saint John of God, celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of your Congregation, I have found myself drawn to invite you to reflect on God’s will for you as individual sisters and for your religious family at this particular time in your history.”

“…The gift of religious life is one that continues to animate and ground all the ministries which you have so wisely and generously handed over to St John of God Health Care.

“It is a gift which all of you, including those among you who are no longer able to be fully engaged in apostolic activity, continue to offer the Church as you “live contemplatively in attitude as well as in action,” Archbishop Costelloe added.

“It is a gift which, as you courageously and trustingly walk the journey of completion, will continue to speak to the whole Church of the Eucharistic heart of Jesus, who was willing to give up everything in obedience for a new life to flourish.

(Left to Right) SJGHC Governing Board Chair Kerry Sanderson, SSJG Ministry Initiatives Advisory Committee Chair Clive Macknay, St John of God Subiaco Hospital Chief Executive Officer Professor Shirley Bowen, SJG Convent Subiaco Services Manager Shirley Phillips, SSJG Ministries General Manager Mark Murphy, St John of God Australia Limited and advisor to the SJG Sisters member Don Good, Sisters of St John of God Regional Executive Officer Sandy Busio, and SJGHC Chief Executive Officer Shane Kelly at the 150 year foundation anniversary celebrations of the congregation of the Sisters of St John of God on 14 October. Photo: Supplied.

“…..Your Congregation, and Religious Life in general, is very well placed at this time to model for the whole Church what it means to respond with fidelity, courage and initiative, to the Lord.”

At the beginning of Mass, Sisters of St John of God Australian Regional Leader Sister Isobel Moran briefly recounted the history of the Congregation, paid tribute to Congregational co-founder former Wexford Bishop Thomas Furlong, whose vision to address the needs of the sick and poor in his diocese and sincere desires of several young women, birthed the Religious Order on 7 October 1871.

“Bishop Furlong was known for his deep spirituality including the development of a diocesan seminary, the completion of the cathedral Church, introduction of six convents of Sisters to educate girls, founding of a missionary order of priests.”

“And what of the women who came together? We can presume that they came with a deep faith in the Gospel, a conviction of responding to the promptings of the Spirit and the desire to set their own direction, unhampered by customs and regulations from the culture of France. Sr Visitation Clancy, co-founder of the Congregation, emerged amongst this group of Sisters as their trusted leader, Sr Moran cited.

“They were not well off, but were rich in faith and courage, and a readiness to respond to needs. I would postulate that these and their other personal qualities can be seen reflected in the John of God women who followed, and so in our Sisters of today.

“We can call this charism or identity, and I can say for myself – it was the qualities of the Sisters I came to know that attracted me to the Sisters of St John of God – as I discerned my own vocation,” she added.

Sr Moran concluded her speech with a special appreciation for the continued link to Bishops as part of the ongoing story of the Congregation.

“We have been invited to our missions by Bishops, who have been unstinting in their support and encouragement. I thank again the Bishops of the Province of Perth, who worked so willingly with us to ensure the continuity of one of the most visible of our ministries – St John of God Health Care – in the establishment of the public Juridical person St John of God Australia.”