St Joseph’s Centre for Reflective Living - the spirit of St Mary nourishing body and soul


St Joseph's Centre for Reflective Living Director Sr Annie Bond RSJ
St Joseph's Centre for Reflective Living Director, Sr Annie Bond RSJ, at the grotto. Photo: Virginia Knight

By Virginia Knight

The spirit and legacy of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop has long run deep in throughout the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta. Since 1953, St Joseph’s Centre for Reflective Living at Baulkham Hills provides formation in the areas of spirituality, professional and personal development.

Director Sr Annie Bond RSJ said the centre is a place where people can come for nourishment of body, soul and spirit.

“It is a place for individuals to have time to reflect on their life and their relationship to God, others and creation; who we are, what are we doing, what is the meaning of it.”

The centre was originally established as a novitiate in April 1953, accommodating between 60 and 80 women in both first and second year novitiate. Mother Leone Ryan purchased a significant tract of land, which was largely bushland, bounded by Barina Downs Rd on the north and Windsor Rd to the east. Today, St Joseph’s Centre is set in 16ha of land.

While the purpose-built buildings of the main complex date to 1953, the cottage at the main entrance is heritage listed to the 1920s.

As novitiate numbers declined over the years, the sisters offered long-term renewal courses for religious. Later, a decision was taken to refurbish the novitiate and to establish the Centre for Reflective Living. The refurbishment took place in sections over the past decade.

The centre is open to a wide variety of groups including schools and parishes for retreats, inservices and conferences. Other guests include individuals seeking quiet time, health care groups, and groups from other Christian denominations and other faith traditions.

A stroll about the grounds reveals a grotto and labyrinth, while a number of the trees on the property bear plaques, planted in memory of deceased sisters who completed their novitiate here, and groups who have come to stay.

Hidden away in the grounds is a historic stone that marks the site of a huge outdoor Mass celebrated by Cardinal Gilroy in 1966 on the centenary of the founding of the Josephite Congregation by Mary MacKillop and Fr Julian Tenison Woods. Of particular interest is the statue of Mary MacKillop in the chapel.

In July and October each year, the centre offers two retreat programs for individuals. A six-week sabbatical/renewal program called “New Voices” is offered each year from the end of October. This program is offered to religious and lay people.

The centre is also the venue for the Cross-culture Summer School, a joint project of the Columbans and the Josephites, held in January each year. The Summer School assists in preparing people to live/work in cross-cultural situations either in their own homeland or overseas.

(Adapted from Virginia Knight's original Catholic Outlook article, February 2010)

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