MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS
HART AT SAINT CATHERINE’S HOSTEL, BALWYN, ON WEDNESDAY, 29TH OCTOBER 2014 AT
2.30 P.M., TO CELEBRATE THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF ENTRY INTO RELIGIOUS LIFE OF SISTER KATHLEEN RYAN, N.D.S.
Sister Kathleen has brought us here to
thank God for his wonderful providence over the seventy years of her religious
life, which has kept her as a faithful, gifted and articulate witness in the
ministries in which she has been involved.
Since the foundation of the Order in
1843 by the Ratisbonne brothers, the Order’s purpose is: 'To witness in the Church and in the world
that God continues to be faithful in his love for the Jewish people and to
hasten the fulfilment of the promises concerning the Jews and the Gentiles.'
The story of the Order of course is
quite remarkable. Theodore Ratisbonne
had been baptised in 1826 and was ordained a priest in 1830. Alphonse, the other brother, was more
reluctant to believe in Christ and in 1842 in the course of a trip to Rome,
just prior to his planned wedding, he went to the church of Saint Andrea
Delefrate, where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him. Both Theodore and Alphonse believed that this
was a sign from God, not only for Alphonse’s personal conversion, but of their
common call to bring their fellow Jews to accept the Christian faith.
To this end, Alphonse was baptised and
soon entered the Society of Jesus, where he spent several years. In 1843 Theodore founded a small community of
women who wished to collaborate with him in the education of Jewish children,
starting with two Jewish sisters who had come to him for guidance and later
converted to Christianity.
In 1850 Alphonse left the Society and
together the two brothers established the Congregation of the Fathers of Our
Lady of Sion in 1852.
1855 Alphonse had moved to the Holy Land, where in 1958 he established the
Convent of the Ecco Homo on the site of a ruined church of that name on the Via
Dolorosa and this was entrusted to the Sisters.
There was an orphanage and a vocational school run by the Sisters; their
Institutions were open to all children regardless of Creed.
For many years most of the Sisters
were teachers in Sion schools in France and the Holy Land and later expanded to
the British Isles and here in Australia.
The Sisters have been here since 1890.
In the wide of variety of ministries since the Second Vatican Council
the Sisters describe themselves as working to improve Catholic/Jewish relations
and to witness to God’s faithful love for the Jewish people.
Sister Kathleen has been a part of the
strong educational endeavour in Sale and in Melbourne and for many years worked
as a Sister in Saint Joseph’s Parish, West Brunswick, where I became parish
priest in 1987. Her experience in
education, her gifted initiatives in caring for the aged people in Mount Royal
Hospital, her work in the music and pastoral life of the parish stands as
testimony to her prayer for the peace of Jerusalem and her example as a woman
of God’s Church in faithfulness and love, serving where she was asked to serve.
Today Sisters of Our Lady of Sion are
involved in many apostolates, including the Ecce Homo Convent in Jerusalem, the
teaching of Scripture, Jewish/Christian dialogue and relationships, and the
continuing work in education through their collaborators in Sion College, Box
As Archbishop, I pay tribute to the
Sisters and I thank Sister Kathleen for her friendship and great personal
kindness and service to me as a parish priest and prayerful support to me as
Today we thank God for his purposes
shown in Sister’s life, 'for he the Almighty has done great things for me and
holy is his name'.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.