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Driving force in SE prepares for retirement


When she officially retires as the pastoral director of the Bordertown parish at the end of the year, Sr Liz Morris RSJ will miss many things about her role, particularly the people. But she won’t miss the endless hours of driving on country roads which has been a prominent feature of her life as a Josephite.

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“I clock up about 30,000 kilometres every year. It’s 114km to Kingston SE (one way), a 100km round trip to Keith and then there are the trips to Adelaide, so it all adds up,” she told The Southern Cross.

Luckily for parishioners in the South East, Sr Liz is “not afraid to drive”, one of the many positive outcomes from her 20 years on the road with the Motor Mission and parish-based work.

Started by the Josephites in 1956, the Motor Mission saw the Sisters driving many kilometres each week through regional South Australia to take religious education to State schools, and later to Catholic families and children.

Sr Liz has many fond memories from her time with the mission, which began for her in the Adelaide Hills where she learnt to drive. When she was based at Port Augusta in 1971 she and another Sister would drive 1600km each week visiting schools as far away as Yunta.

Not only were they adept at negotiating all the potholes on the dirt roads, they could also change a tyre within 10 minutes! Visitation of the families was an integral part of this outreach, which became even more important when the weekly school-based RE ended in South Australia.

“My 18 years of working full-time in the field of Adult Faith Education also involved a lot of country outreach and we taught courses throughout the South East, in the Mallee and in Yorke Peninsula as well as in the metropolitan area. So you might say I was a seasoned road traveller,” she said.

Sr Liz Morris RSJ

One of seven children (her brother Richard is parish priest of Mount Barker-Strathalbyn), Sr Liz was educated at Catholic schools where the Josephites and for a short time the Mercy Sisters had a significant influence on her.

“Our family’s social life really centred on Church life. There was a local tennis club, YCW, National Catholic Girls Movement,” she recalled.

Two significant events led to her joining the Order – developing “a real love” for the Mass which was instilled in her especially by Sr Gertrude RSM; and an invitation from a Josephite, Sister Charlotte, for the young Elizabeth to consider joining their community.

“She said she thought I would make a good Sister and I had been thinking about it, but I was resisting saying yes and Mum said I was too young. So I thought I would go to work after school and the idea might go away.”

However, the thought persisted and she entered the convent straight from school at age 16, going on to be professed in 1962.

In the ensuing 55 years, Saint Mary MacKillop has been a constant source of inspiration for Sr Liz.

“Over the years she has grown stronger in my heart. I’ve always liked what she wrote to the Sisters: ‘there, where you are you will find God’.

“One of the highlights of coming to Bordertown was to be here in 2010 the year of the canonisation of Mary MacKillop and being involved in the celebrations at Penola,” she said.

Sr Liz said the 50th anniversary of St James’ Church at Keith was also a highlight during her past eight years in the parish, as well as being part of the joy of families celebrating the Sacraments, and other special occasions such as wedding anniversaries and significant birthdays.

“What I will take away especially, is the memory of being able to share people’s lives. It’s been a privilege and I will always treasure the generosity of the people who throughout the parish have kept our three communities viable, alive and welcoming.

“Mary MacKillop and the early Sisters modelled a ministry we call ‘around the kitchen table’. It’s always been important to me since my early days of Motor Mission work, and I believe it’s also highly valued by the people,” she said.

Retiring to Adelaide, Sr Liz said her plans for next year would include documenting the history of the Motor Mission in SA, so the stories of the Sisters involved are not forgotten.


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