There has only been one religious order founded in Tasmania – the Missionary Sisters of Service. It was founded by the late Fr John Wallis who wrote:
With zeal kindled by prayer and reflection… they go forth along the highways of the plains and byways of the mountains and valleys, seeking out children beyond the reach of the Catholic schools…
The order started with four women at 1 Frederick Street, Launceston, on July 8, 1944. It was a response to the needs of rural families for connection with the Church and the sisters have always gone into the ‘highways and byways’ responding to peoples’ needs at the time. They continue to minister wherever they are today and have established the John Wallis Foundation to ensure the future of their work.
The 70th anniversary of their founding is being celebrated around Australia this year with several events. On Sunday July 13, Archbishop Julian Porteous was the principal celebrant at a special Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Hobart. He was joined by concelebrants Frs Graeme Howard, John Williams, Frank Bertagnolli and Bob Curmi.
The Cathedral was packed with friends and family of the sisters from far and wide, as well as many Cathedral parishioners.
Symbols of the Sisters’ ministry were processed at the beginning of the Mass. A container of seeds symbolised the seed planted in the hearts of Fr John and the original sisters and those who have followed them; a container of soil symbolised the dusty roads and vast plains of Australia covered by the sisters; a set of worksheets represented the correspondence lessons and adult faith formation provided by the sisters over the seventy years and a candle embodied the Light of Christ carried by the Sisters and shared wherever they see the need.
The initial request for help came from Mrs Kit Hawkins of Bruny Island who asked Fr John for someone to teach the faith to the children of the island. In light of that, the 70th Anniversary celebrations will continue with a pilgrimage to Bruny Island in November.
To read the Archbishop's Homily