Drawing strength from Mary's spirit


Sr Naomi Smith RSJ Aboriginal Catholic Social Services
'Never see a need without trying to do something about it'...Sr Naomi Smith RSJ was inspired by Mary MacKillop to undertake her journey with Aboriginal Catholic Social Services.

Sr Naomi Smith RSJ reflects on the role Blessed Mary MacKillop has played in her journey with Aboriginal Catholic Social Services in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta.

From her earliest years, Mary MacKillop was impelled and guided by the love of the God. In the ceremony of Canonisation on 17 October in Rome, the life and spirituality of our Australian “Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop” will be officially acclaimed by the Universal Church. Her experiences and her many letters have inspired many to reflect on Mary and to follow her vision. As we remember her final words, “Go on!” we are proud that her spirit is truly alive today, and her work continues.

Her motto was “Never see a need without trying to do something about it.” As a Sister of St Joseph, I see that one need is to stand in solidarity with and respond to the cries of Aboriginal people of Australia. In my present ministry, I have the great privilege of walking alongside these people in Sydney’s Western Suburbs. They have invited me to be part of their struggle especially for recognition of who they are as Australia’s first people. My first and most important work is to listen to them, and to learn from them.

Mary MacKillop influenced my decision to undertake this journey. She longed to join her Jesuit brother Donald in his work at Daly River but circumstances prevented her going to the Northern Territory. Mary recognised the privilege of being with Aboriginal people and so offered hospitality to the boys who came to Sydney from Daly River for further education. My journey, which began in the Kimberleys, has brought both sadness and joy, but the greater of these is the joy of being part of the Aboriginal ‘family’.

Mary was a woman of great compassion and love. There are many stories of her kindness, of forgetting herself in order to travel great distances, and of her forgiveness even of those who hurt her deeply. I am constantly reminded of these stories about Mary when in some circumstances I recognise my lack of ability to respond with anything like her big-heartedness.

'God will take care of us all'

Sr Naomi Smith RSJ Aboriginal Catholic Social Services
Sr Naomi Smith RSJ with members of the Aboriginal Catholic Social Services Team.
As well as a woman of great compassion and love, she was also very strong willed. Her standing up for what she believed in often this brought her into conflict with others. Her strength has inspired me to speak up when, as I walk closely with Aboriginal people, I am sometimes confronted by a lack of understanding of their story since colonisation, and the results of the years of grief and loss in their lives.

“God will take care of us all” was a constant theme in Mary’s life. These words reveal a deep trust in God.  When the Congregation was in a particular crisis Mary wrote to her Sisters, “I am not a bit discouraged, and what is more, so clearly see the hand of God in all that is now happening to us.  I do not pray more, nor indeed as much as I did, but feel calm and tranquil and so near our dear good God. I give myself into His hands and am perfectly confident that God will both guide and direct us all in as far as we may have to act....”  When serious crises arise within my ministry and all seems lost, I believe I need to follow Mary’s example and to hold a deep personal trust in God and to encourage this trust in others.

Mary acknowledged that many others shared her vision and was always grateful for the assistance she received. “See how God’s ways are worked out.  I had not a friend here when I left Adelaide but I knew that God would raise one. I knew that I could not do anything, but I knew at the same time that our dear Lord would not let His work want for a friend to advance its interests.” I too acknowledge that there are many who share the ministry with Aboriginal people and it is good to work in partnership with many friends who love and support the work.

In all aspects of my Josephite life and ministry I am regularly encouraged by Mary’s last words: “Go on!”

A part of Centacare Catholic Social Services, Aboriginal Catholic Social Services works to ensure justice and equality for Aboriginal People in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta.

Visit Aboriginal Catholic Social Services at Centacare Catholic Social Services

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