On the shoulders of giants

In mid-October, five Sacred Heart College staff members took part in a Josephite pilgrimage through the Tasmanian midlands.  The pilgrimage included some of the first sites that Fr Julian Tenison Woods and the Sisters of St Joseph served in Tasmania.  We started at Oatlands and visited the original convent and school house where the Sisters worked and lived in the late 19th Century.  The Sisters achieved a lot despite having next to nothing.  Fr Julian Tenison Woods, co-founder of the Sisters of St Joseph, was Parish Priest of Oatlands for six months in 1876.  

From Oatlands we went to Tunnack where two Sisters of St Joseph commenced school with 30 local students.  In visiting Tunnack we were reminded how the Sisters went to remote places to provide a Catholic education that may not have otherwise taken place.  A key part of visiting Tunnack was to pay our respects at the grave of Sr Mary Vincent Bowler.  Sr Vincent was the first to enter the Tasmanian Sisters of St Joseph, and died in Tunnack in 1919 after spending her Josephite life teaching in the midlands of Tasmania.  Curiously, her grave faces in a different direction to all of the other graves in the Churchyard. 

We truly stand on the shoulders of giants at our Josephite schools. 

Our final stop was at Colebrook, where the Sisters laboured for 71 years from 1894.  I was amazed to go inside St Patrick’s Church, which was designed by Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-1852).  Pugin is perhaps most well-known for designing much of the detail of the English Houses of Parliament, but his passion was medieval church architecture. Pugin was a close friend of Robert Wilson, the first Bishop of Hobart.   Bishop Wilson arrived in Hobart with designs and models of churches and their furnishings, received as a gift from Pugin.  It was truly remarkable to sit in a church that looked exactly as a church would have in 1350.   We were very fortunate to hear from Brian Andrews, Heritage Officer of the Archdiocese, who had a wealth of knowledge to pass on about the church. 

Myself and the other participants on the pilgrimage are very grateful to the Sisters who led us on this journey.  There are some rare individuals so generous that they give their life to a cause.  It might be for their children, for political freedom, for the right to vote and so forth.  The Sisters of St Joseph have given their lives to God, in the service of Catholic education.  While their ministries have changed in more recent decades, we were reminded that there were many Sisters who worked quietly with very few resources to educate children often in remote places.  We truly stand on the shoulders of giants at our Josephite schools.   

Eamonn Pollard: Sacred Heart College


Exploring the Josephite heartland 1 Exploring the Josephite heartland 2