The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle continues to mark 150 years since Bishop James Murray arrived in Maitland and claimed St John's Church as his cathedral.
One significant feature of diocesan life over all those years has been the constant presence and varied ministries of congregations of sisters, brothers and nuns, collectively called "religious".
Some 30 congregations of men and women have been part of the diocesan story, with 18 ministering currently in various capacities.
Several congregations were invited personally by Bishop Murray, including the Dominicans, who arrived in 1867; the Sisters of Mercy (1875) and the Sisters of St Joseph (1883).
The good works of those who have been present in the diocese, and the ongoing ministries of those who maintain a presence, will be acknowledged in prayer, music, conversation and celebration on Wednesday 21 September at St Mary's Campus, All Saints College, Maitland.
Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries, Teresa Brierley, reflecting on the role of religious, said:
"These religious men and women listened attentively to God's call for them to serve and they did so, often in the harshest of conditions. However, there was a mutuality of relationships between those who were called and sent and the communities in which they found themselves."
"The communities welcomed them and cared for them, giving them lodgings and food and making sure they were safe. I have no doubt that those who went experienced the harshness of the Australian bush and yet made a home among those who were trying to make a life for themselves and their families."
"I am looking forward to acknowledging my own debt of gratitude to the many religious women who helped form me as a woman of faith, and also a woman who valued education and intentionally responded to my baptismal call to be and to serve. I was blessed to have great witnesses who challenged me to imagine my gifts and to pursue my dreams."
A feature of the event will be the first public singing of a new diocesan song composed for this 150th year by Basil Morrow of Medowie. The song is titled, 'Take Heart, God is Among Us' and owns the diocesan story in its richness, its scope and its failures. It says, 'To commemorate a century and a half of living faith, every person's treasured story is acclaimed. Whether city, town or village, in our broad community, every member of the body makes it whole.'
While education is perhaps the most visible way in which religious have served, establishing schools across the length and breadth of the diocese, their ministries include chaplaincy, nursing, counselling, adult faith formation, parish pastoral work, liturgy, spiritual direction, homes of hospitality, ministry to those with a disability, support for refugees and asylum seekers and many, many more.
St Mary's was the first school established by the Dominican Sisters very soon after their arrival in Maitland so it's a fitting setting for the celebration.
What: Celebration of the contribution of religious to the life and mission of the Diocese
When: Wednesday 21 September 2016, from 10.30am
Where: All Saints College, St Mary's Campus 16 Grant Street MAITLAND 2320
Who: Bishop Bill Wright, Religious orders of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and diocesan leaders.