National Vocations Awareness Week


As I sit and attempt to put into words what “attracted me to Josephite life”, I find myself being drawn back to our Chapter

“….one with creation we are drawn into the new communion within
an endlessly dynamic symphony of three movements:
allurement, relationship and emergence.”

It is precisely these words that have been loved into my life upon this journey which I believe began when I met my first Josephite in Port Pirie. The late Sr Pam Patterson, lead us in a prayer workshop in the early 80’s at the ‘Chapter’ Hall, at St Mark’s Cathedral. Sr Pam, taught me, prayer is more than words.

After moving to Mount Gambier in 1983, I had the privilege of meeting socially and prayerfully many of the Sisters in Penola. Josephites in Penola and the Sister who travelled the 4 ½ hours from Adelaide, numerous times, spent many hours educating engaged adults in the South East of South Australia. Our education, ranged from theological topics, Church history, prayer, basic counselling skills and massage to name but a few. The witness of the Sisters in Penola, their Ministries and their presence was and still is a great blessing to all.

Not that I realised it at the time, but my ‘relationship’ with the Congregation had begun!
I observed their service, dedication, earthiness and willingness to ‘roll up their sleeves’, meeting the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of all people, without hesitation or discrimination.

Reflecting now, I can see that the Charism of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, fertilised the allurement of God in, in my life.

In 2008, I moved to Murray Bridge, for work. I recall flippantly (as is my way) passing a comment to one of the resident ‘Joeys’, “oh to be a Sister of St Joseph!” Her response: “You can”. After she left my home, I consulted Mr Google and was lead to ‘Join the Melody’ within the website.

A couple of years later, I honoured the inner ‘poundings’ of the Spirit and asked the question. The question? To begin the Covenant journey towards a more formal relationship with the Sisters of St Joseph. On 30th March 2012, I first met with my intentional Community of Sisters, again in the South East.

Four Sisters within a radius of 380 km’s, and two women (of whom I am one) discerning the call to the Covenant path of affiliation, gathered in Community for prayer and socialising, over a weekend. The welcome we received was overwhelming. I sensed an immediate belonging, so much so in November of the same year I gathered the courage to honour the spiritual nagging, and asked to be considered for full membership.

The process began. On 6th December 2015, I emerged, making my first Profession taking the Vows of Poverty, Chasity and Obedience.

I believe this is the rhythm in all our lives: “allurement, relationship and emergence”. We can observe it in Jesus’ life, the blessing is to recognise and experience it in our own lives.


Sr Denise MacKay rsj


What are you so afraid of?

As I began my Emmaus Journey (commonly known as Novitiate) in August I met with my new spiritual director; our eyes locked, her eyebrow raised and she wisely asked me “What are you so afraid of?” “What are you so afraid of?” has been stuck to my consciousness like melting honey onto my daily fresh toast. I knew that as I left New Zealand, gave up my design business and entered into the Emmaus Journey that I was walking a path with an unknown end point. This path is counter-cultural, it requires courage, trust and a kind of blind faith.

Fear is an emotion we all feel. But where does being afraid come from?
When I think about my spiritual relationship with God I remember that when I am really loving, living in the moment and trusting, that fear somehow takes a leave of absence. Fear seems to show up like an uninvited guest if I focus on how the future will go, if I plan, or view things solely from my perspective. If I lose trust and faith then fear is there as a swift uninvited replacement.

As I move into a deeper commitment I need to remember daily to press ‘Ctrl Z’ on fear; to step back, breathe in, trust in God, let go, live in the present, one day, one step, one bad joke at a time… If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans!

In this first year of my Emmaus Journey I give time for reading and reflection on scripture and spirituality. Also practicing an examen prayer daily really helps me to discern and know my spirit well. It is a way I check in daily to see if I need to Ctrl Z on fear. Laughter has been an essential element too, the ability to see the funny side of things always helps to push Ctrl Z!

On the 19th March we celebrated 150years of the Sisters of St Joseph. “Listening to the heartbeat of the world” is the theme. Mary MacKillop would have most certainly felt a sense of fear, but thank God she listened to the need, listened to her spirit, to the heartbeat. She pushed Ctrl Z on fear; she trusted her discerning heart and providence guided her steps.

This journey is one that will most probably never make sense to my thinking mind.

But, the inner peace I feel flowing through me like an awe inspiring natural river is the ‘heartbeat’ that I listen to and trust as I walk this path one step, one day at a time…

“Believe in the whisperings of God in your own heart” – Mary MacKillop

I hope and pray that we can live lives where unnecessary fear has a leave of absence. Please pray for me – I pray we will journey with embracing hearts, trust in God who is Love and push Ctrl Z on our fears together…

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not
mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know
nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

- Thomas Merton

Sr Jane Maisey rsj



5 Steps to finding your vocation

By Brother David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B. is a Benedictine monk, an author and lecturer, and the cofounder of

It’s as simple as ask, trust, stop, listen, and respond.

DID YOU KNOW THAT THE WORD VOCATION is related to the term “vocal cords” and means “a calling”? 

More precisely it means spending your life doing what your innermost heart feels called to do.  To follow a vocation means living your own unique life.  That’s of course what all of us would like to accomplish, but how shall we do it?

If we ask people who are doing what they really love to do, “How did you get to where you are?” we find that many of them started by asking themselves some basic questions.  1.  What would I really like to do?  2. What am I good at doing or learning?  3. What opportunity is life offering me, right now, for doing what makes me come joyfully alive?  Thus they started with themselves, with their own gifts and preferences.


1.  Ask what makes you come alive

Does starting with yourself sound selfish to you?  If so you are most likely concerned with serving the world.  That is certainly a worthwhile goal, and a most important one.  But do you have the right approach?  Howard Thurman, an outstanding civil rights activist, author of Jesus and the Disinherited, and a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave this advice: “Don’t ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

So what is it that makes you come alive?  Whatever your answer it will point toward that way of serving the world for which you are best suited.  When you do that, you express your unique personality – with all your talents and all your limitations and shortcomings and your struggle to overcome them – which makes you who you are, and this uniqueness is what the world needs.

Maybe you have heard about Helen Keller or have seen the film about her, The Miracle Worker.  Keller was born with a brilliant mind, but when she was not yet 2 she lost forever both her eyesight and hearing.  In spite of that, and with the help of her gifted and dedicated teacher Anne Sullivan, she learned to speak and write.  She also became the first blind and deaf student to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, got married, and distinguished herself as a social activist, lecturer, and writer.

There were even great saints – John Vianney for example – who struggled with school and found it extremely hard to study.  They may have failed their exams but they didn’t give up, and in the end they changed the world by their love and courageous service.

Examples of this kind can help you see that even your challenges and the way you deal with them are part of coming alive and thus serving the world.  Yet, examples are given us for inspiration, not for limitation.  There is a Jewish story about a rabbi who wanted to imitate Abraham, the father of faith.  “Make me like Abraham,” he prayed, “make me like Abraham!”  But God said to him – so the story says – “Look, I have already an Abraham.  I want you.”  Anyone you admire has already played her or his part; now it is up to you to play your own.

When you think of coming alive and playing your part, the image of a jazz band may help you see it is not selfish at all.  How the members of a band play will depend not only on their skill as musicians but on how well they listen to each other.  That is where we come to the third question that people who found their true vocation had asked themselves.  After they wondered, “What would I really like to do?” and “What am I good at?” they listened to all the other players and asked, “What opportunity is life offering me – right now?”


2.  Trust the opportunities life and God are offering

Once you know what gives your heart deep and lasting joy, go for it!  Trust life to provide every moment with exactly what you need (this courageous trust is called faith).  If you truly trust in life, you can let go of your wishful daydreams and open yourself to reality with all its surprises (this openness for surprise is called hope).  Going forward with trust and openness is like shouting a joyful “yes!” into the strong wind of life that meets you.  Suddenly you realise: We all belong together.  Life is a network of mutual belonging (and your “yes” to belonging is called love).

We sometimes get that wrong; we think that faith means believing something.  But that is belief.  Faith is courageous trust in life – trust in that mysterious source of life and aliveness that is called “God.”  And often we confuse hope with our hopes.  But our hopes are for things and events we imagine; hope is openness for the unimaginable, for surprise; in fact surprise is a good name for God because it doesn’t box God in.  Love, too, is often misunderstood; we tend to confuse it with preference.  But what makes love to be love is not preference but the sense of mutual belonging.  And because everything in the universe belongs inseparably together with everything else, love in the full sense is your “yes” to limitless belonging – a “yes” that is expressed not by words but by the way we live.

To live in faith and hope and love means finding your true vocations.  It means to experience life with trust and openness and an all-embracing “yes” and so to come alive with the divine life within you.  In the biblical story of creation we are given a beautiful image: As human beings we come alive when God breathes life into us.  To use an image closer to us, we are like so many different soap bubbles, all filled with one and the same divine life-breath.  To remind myself of that I like to blow soap bubbles on my birthday every year.  If you remember that truth, you look differently at others – and not only at others; you look differently at yourself and at your relationship to that source, fullness, and dynamism of life that we call God.  Then you understand why Saint Paul said: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Is there a simple method to put all this into practice?  There is.  But remember, simple doesn’t mean easy; you’ll have to give it all you have.  The method has three parts: Stop, listen, respond.


3.  Stop

Stop, or you will zoom right past the opportunity life is offering you this very moment.  Unless you learn to stop, you are driving on automatic.  You need to build stop signs into your daily life.  Before you open your eyes in the morning, before you put the key into the ignition, before you open your computer, these beginnings invite you to stop for a split second.  So do moments when something makes you stop – a traffic light, a line at the checkout counter, or someone arriving late.  Endings, too, make good stopping points: As you get up from table, close your book, or turn off the light, stop ever so briefly.  By stopping, you practice faith: You trust that life, and the Giver of Life, has a message for you, an invitation.


4.  Listen

And then you listen – with the ears of your heart.  To what does life invite you, right now?  Most of the time life invites you to enjoy – what you see, taste, smell, touch or hear.  Stopping and listening makes you come alive with all your senses.  Otherwise you miss these pleasures by rushing past them.  But sometimes life invites you to learn something- for instance patience (that’s not so pleasant) – or to move beyond what you are used to (that can also be challenging).  At other times life may invite you to share – your time, your experience, your resources – or to stand up and be counted or to clean up a mess.  Whatever it might be it wall always be surprising if you only listen deeply enough.  For this kind of listening is an exercise in hope.  It makes you more and more open for surprise.


5.  Respond

The greatest surprise will be to discover how by stopping and listening you come to interact lovingly with others if you practice the next step and respond to life’s invitation at a given moment.  That response is an exercise in love, your lived “yes!” to belonging.  It is your answer to a very personal calling, and it turns whatever you are doing onto a vocation, your unique vocation – for no other person can listen and respond with your heart.  The joy you will find on this path, no matter how rough it may be at times, will prove to you that it is the right path for you.  Then you will realise what it means when Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Reprinted with permission from VISION Vocation Guide, 
Re-printed from VocNET article Issue 18.1

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