TENISON HOUSE, Hobart Campus
FR JULIAN TENISON WOODS, founder of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart
Fr Julian Tenison Woods, with Mary MacKillop, founded the religious congregation, the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, in Penola, South Australia, in 1866.
Julian Edmund Tenison Woods was born in Southwark, England, on 15 November 1832. He was the fifth surviving child in a family that encouraged a love of learning, nature and the outdoors.
In 1855, Julian arrived in Tasmania as a teacher and lay chaplain to convicts. In 1857, he was ordained a priest in Adelaide. The zealous young pastor was sent to Penola, a parish of 57,000 square kilometres of country, more than half of which was desert and the remainder given to sheep and cattle runs. Into this land came a friend of leading Establishment figures, a gifted missionary priest, scientist, writer, musician and popular lecturer.
In 1861, Julian met Mary MacKillop and five years later, in Penola, they founded the Sisters of St Joseph, a group of women dedicated to the Catholic education of the children of the poor and to improving or alleviating other pressing social needs.
Also in 1866, Julian became the first Director of Catholic Education in Australia (Adelaide). He asked Mary to assist him in developing an organised system of Catholic education with schools staffed by the Sisters of St Joseph.
In the early 1870s, after Sisters went to Perthville in the Diocese of Bathurst, the local Bishop changed the charter from one governed by central authority to a diocesan institute. Some Sisters returned to South Australia (to the central group which would become known as the “Brown” Josephites) and some remained (the “Black” Josephites – under the guidance of Julian and the local bishop). It was from Perthville that Sisters came to Westbury, Tasmania, on 24 May 1887. On 24 May 2012, 125 years later, the Tasmanian Sisters “fused” with their congregation of origin, in an historic and moving ceremony, at Westbury. AT some stage, there was also a split in the personal Woods-MacKillop relationship that never really healed.
After four years, Julian moved on to work as a scientist and missionary priest in New South Wales, Tasmania (1874-1876) and Queensland. In 1874 he founded the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (Brisbane).
In 1883 he left for Asia, spending the next three years travelling, exploring and reporting on the mineral and coal deposits of the Malayan Peninsula and other nearby countries. He returned to Sydney in 1886 in poor health. In 1888, he was awarded the prestigious Clarke Medal for distinguished contribution to Natural Science.
He died in Sydney on 7 October 1889, aged 56.
Today, most of the “Black” Josephite congregations, inspired by the Tasmanian Sisters, have fused with the “Brown” Josephites. The congregation ministers throughout Australia and through an international aid and development organisation that has strong links to Peru and Timor-Leste.
Links with GYC:
the then SISTERS OF ST JOSEPH (Tasmania) is a founding congregation of GYC
TENISON HOUSE (Hobart Campus)
SACRED HEART COLLEGE, New Town, founded by the Sisters of St Joseph, is one of GYC’s Association Colleges.
ST JAMES CATHOLIC COLLEGE, at Cygnet, was formed by the amalgamation in 1973 of St Mary’s School (Tasmanian Sisters of St Joseph) and Lourdes Hill Agricultural College (Christian Brothers). St James has been known by its current name since 2009.
A Josephite Sister was a member of the GYC staff in its early years.
The value that Fr Tenison Woods gave to education and his great scientific work invite us to treasure the educational opportunities offered by the College and to appreciate and preserve the wonders of our environment.