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Sr Sheela farewelled on feast of St Thomas

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After nine years serving in the Adelaide Archdiocese, Sr Sheela Thomas SSAM has returned to India with fond memories of connecting with people from many different cultures and faiths through her work in the Multicultural Office.

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Fittingly, her last official duty was helping to organise the celebration of the feast of St Thomas, patron saint of India, which was held in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on June 29.

“I always organise the St Thomas feast and it is wonderful because it brings all the Indian community together, with their costumes, culture and creativity,” Sr Sheela told The Southern Cross before her departure in early July.

“I will always remember the Archdiocese celebrations and connecting with the many people from different cultures and faiths. I am going to miss the generosity of the people, especially my work with refugees and asylum seekers – that was overwhelming to me.”

Following the invitation of Archbishop Wilson, the Sisters of the Society of St Anne-Madras arrived in Adelaide in December 2008 to establish the Congregation’s first house in the Pacific region.

Wearing their beautiful pink saris, Sisters Sheela, Mercy and Elizabeth, quickly became easy to identify at Archdiocese events and they were soon busy living the charism of the Congregation which is to work with the ‘poorest of the poor’.

Sr Sheela served at the Pennington parish and later at Hectorville, where she was in charge of the liturgy, family counselling and the sacramental program.

She was involved with school communities through support teaching at Mount Carmel, Nazareth and briefly St Aloysius colleges.

Appointed to the Archdiocese’s Multicultural Office, Sr Sheela’s work extended to support the Adelaide Tamil Catholic community, Youth Council and she was a member of the ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking of Humans) committee and Catholic Religious Association.

Despite her hectic schedule, Sr Sheela always emphasised the importance of attending retreats and forums to “discern the voice of God” and “strengthen my calling to religious life”.

Sr Sheela said the St Anne’s Sisters left several legacies for the Adelaide Catholic community, with one initiative being the annual celebration of the St Thomas feast.

“They have also left an indelible mark in the life of the Adelaide Tamil Catholic community where they were instrumental in inaugurating the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Good Health,” she said.

“They will also be remembered for their contributions to the opening of a St Anne’s house in Port Augusta and the planned opening of one in Ceduna in the near future.”

As she said her farewells in the Archdiocese, Sr Sheela expressed her sincere thanks to Archbishop Wilson and Bishop O’Kelly for their support. She also thanked Sr Ruth Egar and Sr Marie Ralph for their help when the Sisters arrived and support over the past decade, and paid special mention to the parish communities for their “great sense of welcome”.

Moving to Calcutta to take up ministry in St Xavier’s University, Sr Sheela said her departure meant the Congregation currently did not have a presence in the Archdiocese but it was only a “temporary winding down”.

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