History and Spirit

The land on which St Joseph's Centre is located was originally part of the property belonging to Alexander MacDougall. Alexander had received a share of the extensive Macarthur holdings in the district of Parramatta, when the government of the day realised that such large extensive grants as Macarthur had received were not feasible, given the size of the increased population. The property then passed to Susanna Matilda Ward who was granted part of the five hundred acres in the re-apportioning of Macarthur's Seven Hills farm. Susanna's land was situated on Windsor Road south of Barina Downs.

In 1866 Mother Mary MacKillop founded the Sisters of St Joseph in Penola, South Australia. Central to her vision was service to the people of outback Australia, the poor and the marginalised wherever they may be. The Sisters worked in spirituality, education, health and culture. The order grew rapidly and sisters were soon ministering throughout Australia. Mary moved to North Sydney in 1884 and established the Novitiate there. North Sydney was established as the site of the Mother House at the 1889 Chapter.

In 1952 Mother Leone Ryan, then Superior General of the Sisters of St Joseph, purchased the property on which our Centre now stands. Her purpose was to move the crowded Novitiate from the Mother House of the Sisters at Mount Street, North Sydney to this 47 hectare (116 acre) property.

Building commenced soon after the purchase was made and the novitiate opened on the 14th April, 1956. A small community moved in immediately and the first novices were settled in their new novitiate by 13th June of the same year.

In the early years the novitiate was self-sufficient, providing its own milk, bread and vegetables. It also kept a piggery, turkeys, fowls and ducks. Over the years this aspect of life diminished as the number of novices decreased.

The 1977 General Chapter saw the need for a Spirituality Centre to assist in the on-going renewal of the Sisters. As a result part of the Novitiate was re-furbished and the first "Emmaus" Programme commenced in 1978. By 1988 the sisters had sold a significant portion of the land, retaining 18 hectares. The memory of the early Sisters lives on in the surrounding district as the Baulkham Hills Shire Council has named many streets after some of these Sisters – MacKillop Drive, Leone Place and Delaney Crescent.

In August 1995 the Novitiate moved from the Baulkham Hills site to Quakers Hill. At this time thought was being given to the possibilities of further developing the Novitiate buildings on Baulkham Hills site. By the later 1990s plans were drawn and the refurbishment of the Novitiate buildings began. The Centre for Reflective Living was born. This new focus in ministry continues today.

The memory of the early Novices and the Sister lives on in the present building with Conference Rooms and accommodation wings being named in memory of these Sisters. Many of the trees and shrubs that surround the building have been planted in memory of Sisters who trained at St Josephs and so their memory also lives on.

The Sisters of St Joseph Today

The Sisters of St Joseph now work in many parts of the world continuing the vision of Mary MacKillop. The sisters have taken on different ministries as they strive to meet new challenges in Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, Ireland, Peru and various developing communities. They seek to respond to the new needs of the time which continually emerge in society. In their ministries they show that, in practical, ordinary ways, they can make God's compassionate love 'real' for those around them.

The Sisters today are still involved in:

  • Education in its many facets: pre-school, infants, primary, secondary, tertiary and adult in both Catholic and State schools.
  • Health care ministries, which include serving the needs of people in hospital and aged-care facilities.
  • Social welfare ministries, which reach out to the homeless, refugees, the unemployed and the seafarers.
  • Pastoral ministries, which extend to those in hospitals and the many families encountered in parish ministries in both city and rural areas.
  • Retreat work and other expressions of spiritual formation.
  • The needs of the Congregation in a variety of administrative and hospitality services.

We serve in a variety of ministries:
Of being and presence,
Of suffering and healing,
Of educating and caring.

Constitutions of Sisters of St Joseph.

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