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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
The Merriwa community celebr ated 129
year s of special blessings and unwavering
suppor t from a wonderful, br ave and
inspiring group of religious women who
had ser ved this isolated r ural town for
gener ations, as they bade farewell to the
Sister s of St Joseph.
The day wa s tinged with a touch of sadness
especially as their most recently resident
and much-loved Sister s, Mary Jackson and
Brigid Linehan, could not be present due
to ill health. However, this was overcome
by the very real sense of the ama zing
achievement and legacy of ser vice the
order has bestowed upon the community,
one that St Anne's parish will now be
proud to ensure continues into the future.
Following a Mass of celebration,
concelebr ated by Bishop Bill Wright,
Mer riwa parish priest, Father John
Tobin and for mer parish priest, Fr John
McEnear ney, St Joseph's Congregational
Leader, Sr Megan Brock, thanked the
Mer riwa community for its welcoming
spirit and the kindness shown to the many
sisters who called Merriwa "home" over
Fr John Tobin was truly humbled when
Sr Megan asked for the Sisters to be
given leave to go. With the consent of
Bishop Bill, this leave wa s gr anted with an
over whelming flood of gr atitude, emotion
and suppor t from the whole community.
Mer riwa is indeed a stronger, caring and
better community for the invaluable
educational and loving suppor t of the
Sister s, from the first Josephites who
ar rived in the isolated village of Mer riwa in
a horse and buggy in 1885, to the present
By 1886, those first Sisters were teaching
80 students. The imposing sandstone
convent on the nor thern entr ance to the
town, built as a gift to the Order by local
families in 1918, is testimony to the high
esteem in which they were held.
Many Sister s who have taught and lived
in Mer riwa returned for the celebration,
including three local women who found
their Josephite vocation there
-- Sisters Jenny Riley, Patricia Egan and
Sr Patricia said, "While this is a sad day, we
are confident that the Sisters' effor ts over
the year s will be seen now in the capacity
of the parishioners to continue Jesus'
Three gener ations of Ed Shannon's family
have been educated at St Joseph's, and
he spoke at the farewell. He recalled the
loving guidance and suppor t of the local
Sister s, forever r emembered in family
folklore, when his aunts lef t rur al Mer riwa
last century to become some of the first
female graduates of Sydney Univer sity and
the Conser vatorium of Music.
Parishioner, parent and student, Marie
Scott, paid tribute to the Sisters'
educational suppor t in Merriwa and
Lochinvar, which has no doubt inspired her
to dedicate many year s of her own time
to assist current students with reading
More recently, the Sister s have been
a wonderful suppor t, counselling local
families through times of drought and grief,
teaching religious education at the Mer riwa
Centr al School, assisting at St Joseph's
Primary in innumer able tasks, Sr Brigid
preparing many young children for their
sacr aments and Sr Mary's famous street
stall cooking, book-covering skills and
Sr Brigid celebr ated her Golden Jubilee
in September and it wa s wonder ful that
in her absence, the Mer riwa community
could welcome her brother, Denis Linehan,
from County Cork in Ireland.
St Anne's Parish is focusing now on
the passion for, and confidence in, the
community that remains the legacy of
the Sister s' 129 years of love and guiding
presence in Merriwa. They have truly
achieved the mission of the founder s, St
Mary of the Cross MacKillop and Father
Julian Tenison Woods , of love for those
who labour in isolated places. The
Mer riwa community is indeed privileged to
have r eceived their lasting gift.
Maria Cameron is a Merriwa parishioner.
SO LONG, FAREWELL,
Bishop Bill with Sisters of St Joseph.
(l-r) Parishioner, Mark Smith welcomed Sr Brigid Linehan's brother, Denis, from
Ireland with Mark and Helen Whale (St Joseph's school principal).
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