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Sisters of Today

Adrienne Smith (On Journey of Discernment )

Profiled April 2013Adrienne_Smith

Whanganui is my home town, growing up in the beachside suburb of Castlecliff.  I am the middle child in a family of six and was educated by the Sisters of St Joseph at St Anthony’s Primary School. After a State secondary education followed by Secretarial College I left home at 18 and travelled extensively throughout Australia and the United Kingdom for a number of years. My time in Western Australia brought me in contact with injustices suffered by the indigenous people both in the North West and the city of Perth and left an indelible mark on my social conscience.

Widowed at 36 I returned to Whanganui in 1992 to raise two young sons in the company of my extended family. Being connected to the local Montessori pre-school in the mid 1990s led to a teachers’ aide position with the intention of pursuing Montessori teacher training. However my life at the time was also punctuated by regular retreat and ‘time out for women’ days focusing on my spiritual life. Taking up a part-time administrative position at St Mary’s Parish at the end of 1998 I soon became absorbed into many areas of parish life - 

  • Leading a weekly contemplative prayer group
  • Facilitating Advent and Easter reflection days
  • Co-leading Reconciliation Services
  • Co-convening a public forum on Euthanasia
  • Coordinating the Faith Formation team
  • as a member of Liturgy and Pastoral Planning committees

During the decade that followed the ‘spiritual journey’ became a priority and I embraced the opportunity for further study -

  • completing the 3 year Walk By Faith Diploma offered by National Centre of Religious Studies, Wellington 
  • graduating in the Pastoral Leadership Programme of Palmerston North Diocese
  • studying theology extramurally at Otago University completing papers in Ethics, Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament
  • gaining a certificate in Te Reo Maori through Te Wananga o Aoteoroa
  • and a certificate in Celebrant Studies with the Celebrant School in Auckland.

A deep affection for and great admiration of the Sisters of St Joseph and the extended Josephite whanau developed during these years, as I observed the quiet enthusiasm for Josephite life that was fuelled by a love of the spirit of the Founders. My connections eventually led to being part of the team at Mt St Joseph as Josephite Retreat Centre Promoter/Manager and the Core-Group Co-ordinator of Josephite Affiliates, a group of women and men who resonated with the Josephite Spirit.  As part of the JRC Programmes Group I drew up the Retreat Centre Programme from suggestions put forward from members and interested others.  The programme engages with the ‘big’ questions concerning cosmology, ecology, justice, physical health, spirituality and religion and ministers across the Region to large numbers of people seeking spiritual nurturing and nourishment.

A pilgrimage in 2009 retracing the development of the Josephite Sisters in parts of eastern Australia became for me a journey as intimate as that of my own family.  The gatherings and reflections around the time of Mary MacKillop’s canonization in 2010 further cemented the relationship and I began to feel very much ‘at home’ with the Josephites.  After a process of discernment and with a deep sense of gratitude and inner joy I accepted the invitation in 2011 to consider becoming a vowed member of the community. I am now in the 2nd year of my Discernment of God’s Call to Membership in the Josephite Congregation, and I am participating in a two year Spiritual Directors’ Formation Programme as part of my preparation for ministry.

Being widowed relatively young, accompanying both my parents through their journey of illness and dying and the sense of injustice towards God’s ‘anawim’ stirred up by earlier experiences has over the course of time evolved into a desire to be with others as they look to center their lives in the mystery we call God. My sons are young men making their way in the world with their own aspirations and dreams and have given me their blessing to do the same. I remain open to the Divine Spirit as the future unfolds and carry in my heart the essence of the whakatauki, Maori proverb:

Whaia  koe ki te kahurangi:
ki te tuohu koe, me maunga teitei’
‘Seek the treasure you value most dearly:
If you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.’

Gallery / Whakaahua

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