Encouraging and Supporting Parishioners
Sr Ellen Shanahan
As I celebrate sixty years as a professed Sister of St Joseph of Lochinvar, I am compelled to ask myself how I came to this point in my life, where I now live as the only Sister of St Joseph in the Manning Valley. It is well over a hundred years since the Sisters began ministering in this area, and I sometimes find it quite overwhelming that I should be here in this beautiful part of Australia trying to live out Father Julian Tenison Woods’ challenge to us all, to be “but instruments in the hand of God, and never act as if we were more.” I have always loved this image, and as I begin each day it is foremost in my mind. So as I reflect on my many years spent in Catholic Education, in Parishes as a Pastoral Associate, in supporting our Sisters mainly in Aged Care, I am so grateful to God, to all the Sisters, and to everyone with whom it has been my privilege to love and serve others.
Now my role as a Sister of St Joseph is very different in some ways, but my purpose for living this life is the same – to respond to whatever God’s call is for me each day. Every day differs. I have a sense that this is what God wants of me – to respond to His call, whatever it might be, with love and generosity.
On a practical level I am very committed to encouraging and supporting our parishioners who give themselves wholeheartedly as they lead parents and children in Sacraments of Initiation programmes, and adults in the RCIA process. Along with the Sisters from Forster/Tuncurry I respond to all invitations from our Catholic Schools – St Joseph’s Taree and Wingham and St Clare’s High School. It is always a pleasure and an eye-opener to be in the presence of the staffs and students from these schools. The Sisters of St Joseph are always remembered and honoured at these events for their dedication in setting up these local schools.
Each day I say that I wait for God to give me a call, which may come in the form of a phone call, meeting someone when I’m at Mass, or just shopping or walking along the street. There’s always someone to visit in hospital or one of the five Aged Care facilities in the area, or an ill person at home who would like a visit and I love being able to do this.
I am very fortunate to be supported in turn by our parishioners who include me in all events – Parish Family groups, fund-raising events, lots of coffee afternoons, etc, and I thank them for their care and love. I pray that I can continue to live a rich and meaningful life among God’s people for many years to come.