by Sr ELEANOR CAPPER

The thought of a New Zealand winter did not deter 22 principals, from Josephite secondary schools across Australia and New Zealand from attending a conference in Christchurch in mid-June. The conference, celebrating the special place of schools that embrace the charism of St Mary of the Cross Mackillop, was held at Marian College.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Sisters of St Joseph, with the conference theme being “walking together with a Josephite heart”.

The keynote address, by Sr Eleanor Capper, RSJ (who was the first principal of Marian College), focused on the history of the Sisters of St Joseph in New Zealand and in South Canterbury in particular, because a pilgrimage to Temuka, the first foundation outside Australia, was planned for the following day.

The participants learned about the early New Zealand sisters, many of whom had spent much time in ministry in South Australia and elsewhere.

On the pilgrimage to South Canterbury the principals met Sr Frances Gaffaney, whose aunt, Miss Susan Gaffaney, had been one of Fr Fauvell’s companions, who went to meet the first sisters to arrive in Temuka in 1883. Susan was the youngest in a family of 10, while
Sr Frances’s father was the eldest.

The principals were photographed outside the church in Temuka, which has still to be repaired following the Christchurch earthquake, when the steeple cone was damaged.

The visiting party also visited the grave of Mary MacKillop’s brother, John MacKillop.

For homework the group had been asked to read  various chapters discussing the virtues practised by St Mary of the Cross, including faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude and the cross.

Seven groups shared their findings and how each one of the virtues might be used by them in leadership. So the conference ended on a high note in that the principals, as leaders,
were in tune with one another and had shared at some depth.

Marian College principal Mary-Lou Davidson’s presentation focused on her journey since the Christchurch earthquakes. The Josephite charism of “perseverance” was highlighted as a guiding baton for the school.

The hospitality experienced in New Zealand was noted and the principal of Marian College, her colleagues and students were thanked for the openness with which they had shared their post-earthquake situation, and the resilience they continued to show. The group left a generous donation to “warm our Josephite heart”.

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