Bernadette Wallis: A Woman of Vision
In January 1965 Bernadette left her home and family in Berrigan NSW for Hobart where she joined the Missionary Sisters of Service. It was the year Vatican II ended and a time of transition and great upheaval in the church and in the world. It was also a time that opened up great opportunities for renewal and growth.
After completing her novitiate and ministry formation, Bernadette commenced working in catechetical and pastoral service, initially in parish missions in rural and outback areas of Tasmania and NSW – literally on the highways and byways, travelling hundreds of thousands of miles seeking out people wherever they were. Though no one was excluded from her pastoral outreach, she took a particular interest in working with youth.
We know Bernadette as a woman of vision, passion and unbounded energy for the mission entrusted to the Congregation. One expression of this is her commitment to her life of prayer and continuing formation, extending her understanding and skills in leadership, pastoral counselling and spiritual direction. A year of study in Spokane USA was a great broadening experience for her.
Her move to Melbourne in the early 1980s, brought further opportunities for ministry. Bernadette was formation director in the congregation and served for a time as co-chaplain to students and staff at Yarra Theological Union. For many years she worked in the Deaf Community through the John Pierce Centre for Deaf Ministry in Victoria.
Bernadette has spent almost half her years with MSS on the Leadership Team of the Congregation, six of those years as Congregational Leader. As a member of the current team and involved in developing a new structure of governance that will serve the Congregation and its mission into the future.
Presently, she is writing a book based it on the story of two Deaf people in Victoria, her parents, who are educated through Australian Irish Sign Language in the Catholic national schools for Deaf children in the 1920’s. She says: “Wait for news of the launch!”