Aussie Sisters enjoy mission trip down under

By Catherine Sheehan

True-blue Aussies, Sr Rose Patrick SV and Sr Mary Grace SV, travelled from the US to Tasmania, for the Life to the Full conference in Ulverstone. Both were born and raised in Australia, Sr Rose Parick in Toowoomba, and Sr Mary Grace in Sydney.

“It’s really a beautiful gift to be here in Tasmania,” Sr Rose Patrick said. “I keep telling the Sisters, ‘This is the most beautiful part of Australia’.”

“It’s so beautiful. God has been lavish with the little island of Tasmania.”

Sr Mary Grace concurred saying, “Australia is beautiful and I love it. I actually think I’m falling more and more in love with Australia the more I come back.”

For both young women World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney was a major turning point in their lives. Both first encountered the Sisters of Life at the Sydney event which was attended by half a million young people from around the world.

Aussies-born Sr Mary Grace (left) and Sr Rose Patrick, with Archbishop Julian Porteous. Photo: Jazz Chalouhi

“I just remember the moment when a Sister handed me one of the little brochures,” Sr Rose Patrick said. “And it had a picture of a Sister and it said, ‘To lay down one’s life that others may live’. And something in that really resonated with me, and I just knew, wow, this is something that is so beautiful, and this is a beauty that is worth my life.”

Sr Mary Grace was only 18 at the time and was contemplating many career options including athletics, teaching and journalism. Growing up on Sydney’s northern beaches, enjoying the sun and surf, religious life was the last thing on her mind.

“Meeting the Sisters helped me to see actually I’m made for love. And that’s the one thing that’s going to satisfy me.

“I was a practising Catholic, super involved with the Catholic scene in Sydney, but there was something missing in my heart. I was doing a lot for God, but I didn’t know God.

“Once I met the Sisters, I actually just started praying for the first time in my life and asking Jesus about my desires and what he’s made me for. And the more I asked him, the more he showed me that in my own heart I wanted totally to belong to him.”

The Sisters of Life were founded by Cardinal John O’Connor in 1991 in New York. They are dedicated to serving women vulnerable to abortion, hosting retreats, evangelisation, outreach to college students, and helping women suffering after abortion to encounter the mercy and healing of Christ.

Sr Rose Patrick uses music as part of her ministry. Photo: Jazz Chalouhi

Sr Rose Patrick has been a Sister of Life for six years and currently she serves on the Sisters’ mission in Toronto, Canada, where they seek to accompany women experiencing pregnancy in crisis situations.  

“When the women come to us, they’re often very afraid, very overwhelmed, there’s a lot of pressures, a lot of unexpected things that have happened. And so just to be with them and say, ‘Okay, you’re safe, you’re loved, you have dignity, and you’re good’.

“And then to watch those simple truths really disarm all the fears and all the lies, and to see them really be able to then move in a place of peace, a place of freedom. It’s such a gift to really watch them come alive and to see the power of the love of Jesus. It’s literally life-changing.”

Sr Rose Patrick has played the violin since she was a child and music has become part of her ministry with the Sisters.

“I’ve seen the gift of music really deepen in my own heart and in my own life just through this special consecration of just being close to Jesus. He is the truth, he is goodness, he is beauty itself.”

Sr Mary Grace grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches. She now serves on the Sisters’ Evangelisation Mission in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Jazz Chalouhi

Sr Mary Grace joined the Sisters of Life 11 years ago, and said it was difficult to leave Australia for the US.

“It was horrible… It was a big sacrifice.

“I had dreams of being a professional athlete, then retiring with a big family on the beach.

“But honestly, when I started to take my relationship with Jesus seriously, he began to show me how much deeper and greater were my desires that actually no beach could satisfy, that no country could satisfy.”

Now based in Denver, Colorado, Sr Mary Grace currently serves on the Sisters’ Evangelisation mission which involves harnessing the media, the internet, and opportunities to speak publicly, to “proclaim the truth that life is good”.

“And not only good but sacred. And that God is interested in us, interested in the details and not put off by the mess and shame that we might carry. That he has a plan for every one of us every moment.”

Even though she gave up all her worldly dreams when she entered religious life, Sr Mary Grace says she gained so much more.

“I’ve gained everything. I’ve gained the love that I have been desiring for my whole life long. I’ve gained the community and friendship in religious life in ways that I never thought possible.

“I’ve gained the gift it is to speak about Jesus, that I had no idea how much I wanted to do that. I’ve gained so much more than I ever thought I’d need.”

Tags: Front Page News, News, Northern Deanery, Southern Deanery, Vocations, Youth Evangelisation