Sister Carmel Doherty, who belongs to the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration congregation in Brisbane, is currently working towards establishing a new Australian religious order. She is on special leave from her own congregation, with the approval of Archbishop Bathersby, "to make arrangements for the founding of a new congregation titled, 'The Daughters of Mary, Mother of the Church'."
The order identifies itself with Pope John Paul II's framework for religious as set out in The Consecrated Life (1996). In addition, says Sr Carmel, "The example of our witness as religious will reflect our obedience to, and respect for, the Magisterium. As proclaimed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we will sincerely adhere to decisions made by the reigning Pontiff and, indeed, we will be seen to do so."
The new congregation will also reflect the thinking of Fr Julian Tenison Woods, who founded the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. "Five years of prayer, study and research," said Sr Carmel, "have made clear that it is timely to bring forth in this country Fr Woods' missionary idea of service to especially honour Our Lady among priests and people, thus completing his own broad vision of loving service to Australia."
Father Woods, who was a priest in the Australian colonies in the second half of the 19th century, had always wanted to establish an order of religious sisters to especially honour the Blessed Virgin in her life among the Apostles in the period between the Ascension of her Son and her own Assumption into Heaven.
The first step in the process of setting up this new religious congregation has been to form a voluntary association of women which is currently carrying out its apostolate at Corpus Christi parish, Nundah, under the guidance and encouragement of the parish priest, Fr John Sullivan.
Sr Carmel told the Catholic Leader (23 July 2000) that she and like- minded women envisaged their life as a community who pray, study and exercise "the charity of helpfulness," working "alongside the many willing helpers in the vineyards of the parishes. Our goal would be loving co- operation with the priest and his people."
If a new congregation is formed, members would take a fourth vow of "charity of helpfulness," in addition to the usual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. As well as community prayer, the association would maintain the holy hour celebrated in the Nundah parish church and focus on the study of Scripture and its application in the life of the Church.
Members of the new order will "share in the carrying out of others' burdens, sacrificing themselves and their personal comforts in the service of Christ." The visitation aspect of the mission of Our Lady, who helped her cousin Elizabeth in time of need, is an important motivation: "In all humility and love, the aim is to help our busy priests in today's extending parish boundaries."
Sr Carmel Doherty can be contacted at "Balamara", 6 Scott Street, Northgate, Queensland 4013, tel (07) 3256 6931.