From vows to now: Brown Joeys Class of '61 celebrates 50 years


Sisters of St Joseph News Story
The ‘class of 1961’ after making their life vows as Sisters in 1967...

Sisters of St Joseph News Story
...and the class of 1961 gathered for their Golden Jubilee in the Mary MacKillop Chapel at North Sydney this week. (Photo courtesy of The Mosman Daily)

They may come from far flung parts of the world but a group of women gathering in Sydney this week has a unique bond - celebrating 50 years as members of the Sisters of St Joseph, the religious congregation co-founded by Australia’s first Saint, Mary MacKillop.

In January 1961, 40 young women took their first vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience as Sisters of Saint Joseph, affectionately known as the Brown Joeys. This week, 37 members of the group have gathered at Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney, where they did their teacher training.

One member of the group, Sr Maria Casey, has become a familiar face in her role as the Postulator for the Cause of Canonisation of Mary MacKillop.

“While most Sisters have been Australian, many also came from New Zealand and Ireland. I came from County Clare in Ireland after I finished secondary school. We travelled to London to join the SS Stratheden, a huge P&O liner. I remember the voyage to Australia taking five weeks and two days,” Sr Maria said.

“Our first sight of Australia was a hot, sunny Perth. The Stratheden was a migrant ship, so we sailed on to Adelaide and Melbourne and finally to Sydney. We began our new life at Baulkham Hills in a heat wave with everything so brown; a great contrast to the green of Ireland.”

The ‘class of 1961’ has used the occasion of their Golden Jubilee to reflect on their lives, celebrate the journey so far and the people who have made the journey with them.

“The brown habit that the Sisters wore is no longer part of our image but the message of St Mary MacKillop to ‘never see a need without doing something about it’ is as strong as it always was,” Sr Maria said.

“My life has certainly led me in unexpected directions over the past 50 years. I think every Sister in our group can say the same thing.”

The Sisters celebrating their Golden Jubilee have no intention of putting their feet up just yet. Most are actively engaged in a range of jobs and community projects in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

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