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Friday, 05 August 2011 00:08

Faithful Daughters of Charity

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Sister Rosalie Griffin and Sister Val Cullen both entered the Daughters of Charity in 1950.  During their 60 years as Religious they have given their hearts and lives to God and to some of the poorest people in various parts of Australia and New Zealand.

Both women experienced the loss of their mother at an early age. Queensland-born Sister Rosalie was only 11 days old when her mother died. For Sister Val, who hails from Beckom, about 80 km east of Griffith in NSW, her mother died when she was 12.  Soon after, Val went to boarding school in Goulburn where she was educated by the Sisters of St Joseph. Aged 10 Rosalie also went to boarding school.

After finishing school, Val got a job in Sydney. She lived in the parish of St Francis Xavier, Lavender Bay where she came under the influence of the Jesuits. As she took part in parish and social activities, Val slowly became conscious she was being called to Religious life. She searched for a community that served the poor and eventually found the Daughters of Charity, where she began her life of service and love.

Inspired by a close friend who joined a religious order, Rosalie contemplated making a similar choice. As President of the Sodality of the Children of Mary in Bundaberg, she came into contact with Sister Patricia Lyons, an Irish Daughter of Charity. Through correspondence with Sister Patricia, Rosalie was led by God to the Daughters of Charity.

Over the past 60 years both women have played a vital role in a variety of ministries working with children with intellectual disabilities, homeless people, single pregnant women and older people living in aged care.

In her early years, Sister Rosalie cared for young boys in the Croagh Patrick Home for Boys in Orange. This work appealed to her sensitive heart knowing as she did how difficult it is to grow up away from one's parents. After working for some time in Orange, Rosalie moved to Sydney where the homeless poor of the CBD found in her a great friend, as she turned up regularly on the St Vincent de Paul Night Patrol van with a hot and nourishing meal.

Later Rosalie transferred to St Joseph's Home for the Aged in Sandgate, NSW where she spent 25 years working as a nurse's aide.  In this role she was among the first of the Sisters in the Order to undertake training in a new approach to rehabilitation of ageing people being introduced by the Department of Health.

Sister Val spent her initial years in Marillac, Brighton East in Melbourne where the Daughters of Charity had a residential care facility for children with an intellectual disability. Later on Val was transferred to Fullerton in South Australia where the Sisters had units and support services for young, single women preparing for the birth of their child. Val fondly remembers a young mother who, feeling she could not raise her child, went off four times to sign the adoption papers and four times she came home in tears to Val's listening heart. "I cannot do it", the young mother cried as she was supported by the compassion of Val and the Sisters.

Sister Val sums up her life's journey in the community of the Daughters of Charity as "falling head-over-heels in love with God". As she ponders her life in the order she sometimes finds herself wondering, "Why me, God?" "Why am I chosen?"

For Rosalie, joining the Daughters of Charity meant leaving behind her beloved Queensland where she felt there was "much more friendliness and mateship".

On her rare visits to Sydney, she found that NSW residents were just a "little stiff and proper" until one day Sister Val burst into her life when they met up at St Joseph's.

"That changed everything for me and I realised that people down here can also be friendly, welcoming and joyous," says Rosalie.

Both Sisters are now retired but use every opportunity for small acts of service. No longer driving, Val welcomes occasions to give a listening ear to a fellow traveller on public transport allowing her to continue her ministry.
"We are very proud of Sister Rosalie and Sister Val and the witness they have given to so many by their lives of dedicated service," says Sister Marie Cantwell.

"What a privilege for us to know and live beside two such faithful Daughters of Charity."

The Diamond Jubilees of Sister Rosalie and Sister Val were celebrated in August and September respectively with Eucharist offered by Provincial Director Father Kevin Canty SM at St Catherine's Chapel where the Sisters live at Marsfield in Sydney. Following Mass, Sisters, friends and relatives gathered with the Jubilarians to share some wonderful moments at Elizabeth House, Marsfield.

Pathways October 2010


Have your say...

 
"What a joy to see two women with such happy faces after 60 years of commitment. Congratulations Rosalie and Val. May you continue to be blessed!"
  - Pauline, 26-10-2010

"I worked at St. Joseph's at Sandgate from 1974 to 1977 and loved every minute of it and felt very privileged to study and work with these wonderful Sisters."
  - Pam Tobin, 26-10-2010

"It is beautiful to see your lovely faces, I think that once a daughter of Charity always one, the spirit of St Vincent lives on within us, I never forget those gone to their resting place. "
  - Kathleen, 15-01-2011

"It is beautiful to see these 2 Sisters faces once again, even us who left the community the spirit of St Vincent lives on within us, in other words once a Daughter of Charity always one. "
  - Kathleen, 15-01-2011