Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Jamestown nun the wiser, as last of the flock -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Jamestown nun the wiser, as last of the flock flies

The World Today - Wednesday, 17 December , 2008 12:54:00

Reporter: Loukas Founten

ELEANOR HALL: Fewer Australians are taking up a career in the church, and that's hurting country
towns which rely on their clergy for more than just Sunday preaching.

In the South Australian outback community of Jamestown, the impact of this national trend is
particularly stark.

For more than 120 years the Sisters of St Joseph have served the town in the South Flinders Ranges.

But now Jamestown's last nun is leaving.

Loukas Founten has our report.

(Sound of school bell and children playing)

LOUKAS FOUNTEN: School's out for another day at St Joseph's School and Sister Eunice Barry opens
her door to let out a cheeky-faced six-year-old.

Sister Eunice has worked with hundreds, maybe thousands of children in her time.

Like other Josephite nuns, she travels around to local schools to help those most at need.

Sister Eunice Barry made her commitment to God 65 years ago.

EUNICE BARRY: I had a strong call to be a religious because of reading catholic periodicals. My
sister entered the convent and my brother became a missionary of the Sacred Heart. So it was quite
easy for me really to follow my religious vocation.

LOUKAS FOUNTEN: The Sisters of St Joseph were the first religious order to be founded by an
Australian. Mary MacKillop, a teacher from the south east of South Australia wrote up the rules of
the sisterhood in the 1860s with Father Julian Edmund Tenison-Woods, a Parish priest also from the

The sisters emphasis educating the children of the poor, and more importantly go wherever they're

Sister Eunice has spent the majority of her life travelling around South Australia working in a
number of schools.

But now after 16 years in Jamestown, Sister Eunice has decided to move back to Adelaide.

The Principal of St Joseph's Parish School at Gladstone, Ros Oates, says after working with Sister
Eunice for ten years, her presence in both the school and community will be missed.

ROS OATES: We talk about Mary McKillop a lot, but to actually have a Josephite nun that comes in
once a week and is a living example of, I suppose of what we epitomise in regards to Mary McKillop,
is really important. And that's something we're really going to miss.

LOUKAS FOUNTEN: Sister Eunice's departure from Jamestown has highlighted the shortage of sisters
across the nation.

In days gone by, up to four sisters were posted in Jamestown, those numbers slowly dwindling until
Sister Eunice was left as the lone sister more than ten years ago.

EUNICE BARRY: Yes, it's a sad fact that there are no sisters able to come back to Jamestown. There
will be sisters around, but not actually in Jamestown. Which is a sad reflection that not many now
are entering religious life.

LOUKAS FOUNTEN: Sister Ruth Egar from the Sisters of Mercy facilitates the office of Vicar in the
Archdiocese of Adelaide.

She says only two sisters have joined the Sisters of Mercy in Adelaide in the past ten years.

RUTH EGAR: The Sisters of Mercy in Adelaide about 25 years ago at least, we started withdrawing
from the country places. So, we saw the writing on the wall much, much earlier, and have no country
places at all now.

But the Sisters of St Joseph have tried to honour their great commitment to rural life. But, I
guess they're just at the stage now where they perhaps can't fill the gaps.

LOUKAS FOUNTEN: Sister Ruth says the orders are now less visible due to less institutional
involvement and relaxed dress standards, but she doesn't think the move away from religious life is
a cause to panic.

RUTH EGAR: Strangely I don't. I think that the Holy Spirit works in great ways, always has in the
Church, and the Church goes through many, many changes in its lifetime. But, always there are very
committed, faithful people with great love who'll rise to the fore and take the Church into another
new place.

LOUKAS FOUNTEN: Sister Eunice is also optimistic.

EUNICE BARRY: Yes, it is a challenge to recruit people. There are some very wonderful young people
out there, and I'm sure God is calling some of them. But, maybe we have to wait a while to see
where the Holy Spirit is leading them.

LOUKAS FOUNTEN: After Christmas, Jamestown will be served by nuns from surrounding areas, but
Sister Eunice won't be letting up, she'll be visiting the sick in an Adelaide hospital.

As in the rules of the Josephite sisterhood, she's going where she's needed.

EUNICE BARRY: I hope it all goes well and there will be a blessed future for you and for me.

ELEANOR HALL: Jamestown's last nun, Sister Eunice Barry, speaking to our reporter, Loukas Founten.