Video News: Local nuns on SBS
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Vicar for Religious in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Sister Ailsa Mackinnon RSM and the Missionary Sisters of BV Mary, Queen of the World in Granville have featured in a SBS story on the future of the sisterhood and the Church in Australia.
Sisters Clare Dang and Lucy Vo from Missionary Sisters of BV Mary, Queen of the World joined Sr Ailsa in taking part in the news story, as did Josephite Sister Hun Do.
The SBS story reported the number of Catholic nuns in Australia peaked in the 1960s, and has been in decline ever since. There are fewer than 6,000 left in Australia, and with an average age of 74, the church is at risk of losing one of its most devout populations.
Sr Ailsa told SBS she attributes the decline of the sisterhood in part, to rising affluence.
“Life in Australia is pretty easy, and we have a very middle-class type of an existence. So the desire to enter into this search isn’t as urgent as [it is among] people who have had a lot of hardship in their lives.”
Sr Alisa said the future of the Church lied in recognising diversity. In Australia, more than 22 per cent of the wider Catholic population were born overseas.
“Certainly the church has tried to accommodate the waves of migrants who have come to Australia,” Sr Ailsa said. “It’s only going to become more multicultural.”
A calling from God fulfilling happiness
|Extended interviews with Srs Clare Dang, Lucy Vo and Hun Do.|
Sr Clare Dang told SBS that she'd never met a nun before she decided to become one.
Vietnamese-born, Sr Clare was still in high school when she found the number of a convent in a magazine, and made the call.
"I think it's just a calling from God, just to do something to fulfil your happiness," Sr Clare said.
For Sr Lucy Vo, an early experience boarding with nuns at a convent lead her to aspire to become one.
"Going to high school outside, I had two alternatives to choose from. I could choose the pathway of religious life, or the other way. But obviously the call was very strong," she says.
Aged 34 and 33 respectively, SBS said Srs Clare and Vo are among the rare few choosing to enter a life of religious devotion in modern Australia.
Although the two women had not met before entering the convent, they have similar backgrounds. Both were born in Vietnam, and moved with their families to Hong Kong before boarding a boat to Australia.
It's an experience both women said drew them closer to their faith.
"Many of the boat people do think they owe God something when they are saved," Sr Clare said.
She can recall a particular moment that helped define the course of her life.
Her family had just left Vietnam when she was ten years old. They were on board a tiny boat for 11 days, when tragedy struck.
"The boat was crushed into this hidden rock under the sea. Everybody was held tight together, and not just Catholic, but all religious. Even those who don't have any religion. There was praying...they were leaning back and the promise was coming out. They were saying, 'if you do this for me, God, or heaven, or whatever they believed in, I would do this for you.'"
Sister Lucy, whose family left Vietnam when she was two, may not remember the journey but she recognises the affect it had on her family. "That journey, just fleeing Vietnam and the hardships that my family has faced, it certainly has strengthened my faith."
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