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Bernadette commits to the love of God


Former Adelaide marketing graduate and youth minister Bernadette Toohey has taken her final vows as a Sister of the Missionaries of God’s Love (MGL).

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More than 200 friends, family and fellow Religious gathered in Canberra for the celebration of her perpetual vows.

Bernadette began discerning the call to religious life in her mid-twenties and joined the Missionaries of God in 2012.

“Happily single for many years, it wasn’t until I attended a bunch of weddings in a short space of time that I realised I needed to discern my vocation,” she said.

On a retreat at Jamberoo Abbey in New South Wales, she was “flooded with joy at the prospect of living with other women and proclaiming the gospel as a missionary Sister”.

She became attracted to the MGL after reading the book, Radical Way of Love, by the order’s founder Fr Ken Barker.

“As I read about the life of poverty, chastity, obedience and prayer, sisterhood and mission, my heart was on fire and I knew this was the life I wanted to live,” she said.

Over the past nine years Bernadette has lived in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, as well as being a part of a team led by the Sisters during the Year of Youth that travelled to Townsville, Darwin and Port Pirie dioceses.

Recently, Bernadette and the Sydney Sisters have taken up residence in the former monastery of the Carmelite Sisters in Varroville, in Sydney’s south-eastern suburbs, where they will work with a focus on youth and the poor, in line with the MGL charism.

Speaking at her vows ceremony, Bernadette said joining the order had enabled her to use all her gifts and “really be open to the Holy Spirit”.

She said her life with the other Sisters had brought her “much joy and excitement”.

Another Adelaide woman, Sarah-Jane Hollitt took her initial vows at the same time, while Darwin’s Angela Uybarreta made her promises.

Bernadette said the community was at its largest ever, with 17 Sisters living in their three houses in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne and more young women discerning their vocation.

“It’s such a joy to live this life of intimacy with Jesus and there is such a uniqueness to our charism in the support we receive by being members of Disciples of Jesus as well as Sisters within MGL – I couldn’t imagine our life without the chance to live and evangelise alongside lay couples, singles and families as we do,” she said.

“It’s nerve-wracking to open up to the Lord and say ‘yes I’m open to religious life’, but if it’s where you’re meant to be, it’s honestly the best thing you can do!”

Bernadette’s parents, Denis and Margaret, of the Henley Beach parish, her five siblings and other relatives travelled from around Australia to attend the ceremony.

Denis and Margaret told the gathering they were happy Bernadette had joined a “wonderful group of faith-filled women”.

Denis said that he and Margaret’s love for each other had grown into “our love for our children and, beyond them, into the love for and service to others”.

“So to you Berna (sic), on this day of your perpetual vows as you commit yourself to the love of God, we can promise you that you too will be changed for the better by the love and support of the Sisters around you and by the challenges God will place before you to help you grow,” he said.

“And you can be assured that, during all of this, the love of God will shine on you and through you.”

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