Bernadette Madden: Looking Back and Forward
10th March 1974 I made the journey to Hobart to join Missionary Sisters of Service. The story starts a few years earlier in my home in Queensland. As with many rural families of the time, Mass once a month, and religious correspondence lessons from Sisters of St Joseph were all part of life. The call to do something ‘different’ with my life began in my family. In spite of training as a teacher, I did not want to teach school – but do something with people beyond.
In 1975 novitiate was in Hobart and I spent the first 5 years in Tasmania between Hobart and Launceston – firstly in novitiate and then working in parishes around the state. I have great memories of life in the ‘hydro’ villages during these years.
In the early 80’s I returned to Queensland – to work in parishes in the western region of Toowoomba diocese. As well as travelling thousands of kilometres, I met amazing people living and working in small towns or on isolated properties.
My second stint in Tasmania was several years later when I worked in parishes as part of Catholic Education office staff working with children and families in state schools.
From Tasmania I moved to a very different experience – both geographically and ministry when I went to Moree to work with children excluded from school, home work centres, and lots of involvement with the local Aboriginal community and sisters of Daughters if Charity. The next 10 years proved full of variety – child protection, women’s refuge, youth justice and throughout all of it the leaders of the local Aboriginal community of Charity were there with their millennia of wisdom often expressed in comment or a word – never a long conversation! This time included an opportunity to travel to Alice Springs with a group to Aboriginal women to attend the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Conference celebrating the 20th anniversary visit of Pope John Paul 2 to Alice Springs. This period of time began a new phase in ministry as I moved out of some of the roles traditionally associated with MSS but found myself still working with those beyond – but in different ways.
My experience in Moree and Armidate has flowed into my current role in family services in the Yarra Valley, Victoria. During this time I also spent 5 years as part of the MSS leadership team.
In all the places where I have lived and worked I have enjoyed the local environment – especially in my two great loves of bushwalking and photography . As a member of local bushwalking clubs I have also had the opportunity to meet many others with similar interests and at times been able to do my little bit to contribute to make a difference to our planet.
Since 2008 I have lived in Melbourne working with family services and also become involved in the establishment of John Wallis Foundation which is very much the future of MSS. As I look to the next 20 years (I think another 40 is rather ambitious!!) I look forward to many new ways of expressing the call to go beyond to those in need.