The Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters have elected and installed a new Provincial and leadership team for their Australia Province.
Sr Shalini Philomina Mathew SSpS (Sr Philo), who had most recently been pastoral associate at St Mark’s Parish, Inala, has taken on the leadership role, following the completion of Sr Sarita Kurikattil’s term as Provincial.
Sr Philo was born to a devout Catholic family in the district of Calicut, Kerala, in India.
“At my baptism, I was given the name Philomina, which means beloved, and at my religious profession, I took another name, ‘Shalini’, which means graceful,” she says.
“To keep matters simple here in Australia, you can call me Philo or Philomina.”
Sr Philo began her life as a Holy Spirit Missionary Sister at a young age and says her religious life has been “varied, fulfilling and fruitful’ over many years.
“After the initial formation, I spent a few years studying. Since then, I have been a Jill-of-all-trades, appointed wherever the need was and willing to go wherever I was sent,” she says.
“I have served in many ministries without any training or experience, including socio-pastoral work, teaching and accounting.”
After completing professional studies in India and the USA, Sr Philo was involved in the formation ministry in India for 12 years, followed by eight years in leadership, and then back to formation ministry in Sydney in 2012.
“For the past two years, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work as a Pastoral Associate at St Mark’s Parish, Inala,” she says.
“Working with lay people, being involved with the young people and journeying closely with the elderly and dying were truly life-giving and fruitful moments for me as a religious missionary.
“However, this time was short-lived, and I am now called to move on and take up the ministry of Leadership in the Province. The journey continues ….”
The SSpS Sisters were founded by St Arnold Janssen in Steyl, The Netherlands, in 1889, with co-foundresses, Mother Maria Helena Stollenwerk and Mother Josepha Hendrina Stenmanns. Fr Arnold had founded a Society for men, the Divine Word Missionaries, in 1875. Recognising the important role played by women in missionary outreach, Arnold founded the SSpS worldwide women’s Missionary Congregation in 1889.
Today, there are about 3000 Holy Spirit Sisters from 48 nationalities continuing God’s mission in 51 countries.
The Sisters’ history in Australia began in May 1944, when 18 Holy Spirit Sisters, survivors of the Japanese prison camps and death ships in Papua New Guinea, arrived in Brisbane. They joined five others who had come earlier, as refugees, after trekking for months across the mountains and valleys of PNG. Fifty-four of their Sisters had died tragically during the WWII years in PNG.
The Archbishop of Brisbane at that time, James Duhig, invited them to stay and open a novitiate house and they set up their first Holy Spirit Convent in Australia.
Over the years, the Sisters have been involved with many ministries here, including: with Aboriginal people; with refugees and migrants; prisoners; pastoral assistants in parishes; hospitals and aged care; youth; Catholic psychiatric pastoral care; with trafficked women; inter-faith; retreats and spirituality ministry.
They currently have communities in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Townsville and Palm Island and their community represents 11 different nationalities.