From young apostle to joyful cook

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Home > Media > News > From young apostle to joyful cook
From young apostle to joyful cook

Sr Mary Josepha Aiken RSJ, who this year is celebrating 70 years of religious profession, says she might not have been perfect in her service of God, but “I always did what I felt was right and what He was calling me to do”.

Baptised at St Michael’s Church in Campbell Town, Sr Mary Josepha moved several times as a child, as her family followed her policeman father through various station transfers.

A very young Sr Mary Josepha encountered the Sisters of St Joseph for the first time in New Town.

“While I was living in Hope Street, my grandmother was caring for children of the state. One of the children of the state used to come around on Saturday morning to play with us, and then she’d walk us back to Grandma’s, but always on the way she called in to see Sr Dominic,” Sr Mary Josepha said.

“[Sr Dominic] made a good impression on me, she struck me as being very kind.”

When the family transferred to Fitzgerald (now, Maydena), her father was involved in organising to build a local Catholic church.

The family returned to Hobart and Sr Mary Josepha attended the Glenorchy State School before studying at Ogilvie High School.

At the time, the Sisters of St Joseph would often walk to Glenorchy to give catechism classes to those preparing for Confirmation. Sr Mary Josepha was confirmed there in a group of 12 children and says that Archbishop Simmons’ call to them “to be 12 apostles” has had a significant impact on her life.

Later, she would meet with another Josephite, Sr Mary Francis for catechism classes while studying at Ogilvie.
Finishing school during the war, she went to work for the war organisation of industry at the wharf, typing, posting mail and looking after morning teas.

When the war ended, she was transferred to the main Hobart post office, but would periodically visit the Josephite Sisters in New Town.

She says she occasionally visited the new Calvary hospital to do small jobs for the Little Company of Mary sisters there, but it “didn’t click”.

“I could see the work that the Sisters [of St Joseph] were doing with the young children, and I felt that was what God was calling me to do: to care for and teach little children about Him.”

Her religious name of Sr Mary Josepha is very important to her.

“I have a strong devotion to St Joseph. If anything goes wrong: ‘Good St Joseph, come to my aid!’”

A teacher in many locations around Tasmania, including Newstead, Smithton, Franklin, Colebrook, Cygnet and New Town, her other great love has been cooking and hospitality. When the school in Newstead closed due to an epidemic of scarlet fever, Sr Mary Josepha spent an extra month in the kitchen.

She also describes “four lovely years” cooking for Dean Vincent Green and Fr Terry Yard in New Town, and 10 years cooking meals and making people feel welcome at the Emmanuel Centre in Launceston.

When Sr Mary Josepha, Sr Veronica Dillon and two other sisters celebrated jubilees earlier this year, she made the Jubilee cake.

“Creating something, and putting your whole heart into it, creating something that you’re giving to others. To be able to do that is a great gift,” she says, of cooking.

She now pours her creative talents into knitting bears for the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas boxes (she has made 60 since November), as well as crocheting and doing tatting to raise money for the MacKillop Foundation.

She says that her faith has grown over the years.

“I always feel that He’s there, that He’s listening, that He’s the builder. He’s the one that is building the foundation,” she said.

Sr Mary Josepha says she is grateful for God calling her to serve His people in Tasmania.

“He’s always filling me up.”