Admitting it was a shock to be asked to fill the position which became vacant after Sr Enid Wood OP completed her two-year appointment, Sr Liz took the request to prayer at a retreat she made before Christmas and came to the conclusion that this was a “call from God” she couldn’t ignore.
Since settling into retirement in 2018, Sr Liz has turned her attention to writing a book about the Josephites’ Motor Mission in South Australia. Established in 1956, this ministry saw the Sisters of St Joseph driving throughout regional South Australia and in the metropolitan area taking religious education to State schools and after 1973 to Catholic families and their children.
“I’ve never written a book before – I’ve written plenty of essays for examinations and assignments in my study – so one of the things I learnt early in the process was that to write a history you really had to do the hard work of research and cross check your facts. I also learnt that you really needed to be in touch with the people’s stories if you could,” she said.
“That was a challenge. Some of the Sisters had some good anecdotes; I had a few myself…I had some wonderful experiences especially between 1977 and 1982 in the Booleroo Centre parish.”
Now juggling the part-time Vicar for Religious role while continuing to write the book, Sr Liz said she would need to be “very disciplined with my time”.
Announcing her appointment at the start of March, Archbishop Patrick O’Regan said the Vicar for Religious plays an important role in “supporting and collaborating with Religious in the Archdiocese” and was a “conduit” between the Religious and the Archbishop.
He said Sr Liz brought a “wealth of knowledge and experience” having obtained a Teaching degree and a Theology degree, and working previously in the Archdiocese as a member of the Catholic Adult Education Service and as pastoral director in the parish of Bordertown, Keith and Kingston.
With 208 Sisters, 34 Brothers, 68 clergy and six lay people who have taken private vows of consecration now under her care, Sr Liz said her priority was to talk to as many as possible and discuss any needs they may have.
She said some of the 36 congregations within the Archdiocese were quite small – with groups such as the Pastorelle Sisters and Adorers of the Blood of Christ Sisters each having only three members – so she was aware they could feel isolated.
“I’ve spent a good bit of time trying to get my head around the number of congregations. The biggest challenge is to connect the congregations with each other if possible,” she said.
“Quite a few of the Religious may not have met the Archbishop yet so we are keen that whatever gathering we set up this year, Bishop O’Regan will play a big part in it.”
Another issue is the generally ageing demographic of the Religious which has resulted in changes to their ministry and living situations. Like her, Sr Liz said, many retired Sisters were now living within parishes and involved in a voluntary capacity, taking communion to the sick and visiting parishioners. Others suffering ill health were residing in aged care homes.
“I see this mainly as a pastoral role and I hope I will have more and more face-to-face connection with people. I don’t want to be sitting in an office and just communicating via email.”
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