In 1980 three Verbum Dei Missionaries – Anita Moranta, Delia Flores and Francisca Alos – made a special trip to Australia to prepare a future foundation for the Verbum Dei Missionary Community in Sydney.
On the 26th December, 1980 as a result of these missionary efforts, four Verbum Dei Missionaries – Magdalena Bennasar, Maureen Blackburn, Vicky Ochoa and Lucia Herrerias – arrived in Sydney to establish the first Verbum Dei Missionary Community. They stayed with the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent in St. Therese’s Parish, Mascot until they established their first home in Harris St, Mascot.
Greg Morgan, the first Australian Verbum Dei male vocation entered the community in 1986.
Subsequently, two of the missionaries were transferred to the Philippines and the others were recalled to Spain to continue their Theology studies. Therefore, from 1986-1990 the Verbum Dei Community was temporarily absent in Sydney, Australia.
On October 12th, 1990 Juana Crespi re-established the Verbum Dei Community in Sydney, soon joined by Maria Pineda, another Verbum Dei Missionary. Their first home was in Barker Street, Kingsford alongside the University of New South Wales, which was a most appropriate location to re-initiate the Verbum Dei Charism and Mission.
Shortly afterwards, in 1991, two female vocations, Nadia Pavich and Angela Ng entered the Community. They were sent to Spain to undertake their initial Formation.
Within a short period of time, the Verbum Dei Missionaries began conducting: Schools of the Word with students, young adults, and married couples, Day Encounters, School of Apostles (for those who want to learn to share the Word with others), Christian Formation Groups, Guided Silent Retreats, Life and Love Retreat Weekends, Preparation for the Sacraments, and various other activities.
For the Verbum Dei Missionaries, all of these are core activities for our Mission of Evangelization.
With the need for a bigger house, the missionaries moved to Doncaster Ave, Kensington in 1992, where they lived up until 1999 when a freak hailstorm hit the area of Kingsford/Kensington. The missionary house received considerable hail damage which lead the missionaries to search for a new home.
In 2000, Fr. Christopher Sheehy, from St. Joseph’s Parish, Rosebery, invited the missionaries to reside in our current home at 74 Rosebery Ave, Rosebery.
Also on the parish grounds, was an old primary school building. With Father Chris’ approval, we renovated it and we now have a beautiful large chapel and a small dormitory style room for retreatants.
We also participate regularly in the parish life of St Joseph’s through the Sunday children’s liturgy, we provide the music for Saturday evening Mass and we offer our weekly School of the Word to the parishioners of St. Joseph. The Christmas and Easter celebrations are an important part of our yearly calendar where we celebrate with the whole parish community and with members of Verbum Dei groups.
After our move to Rosebery, we felt the need to expand and offer our mission to other places. So in 2001, we approached Bishop Wilson in the diocese of Wollongong. Guided by the Holy Spirit, our interview with the Vice-chancellor of the diocese took on a different route and instead hinted to us the need of chaplains for the University of Wollongong. Taking the hint we offered ourselves for this service and the bishop appointed Maria Pineda (VDMF) as chaplain to UOW. Till this day, we still serve as chaplains to UOW.
Working on campus is always exciting because we have the possibility to reach out to many young people. There is a weekly Mass on campus and Schools of the Word too. The chaplaincy team take opportunities to share the Word one on one with people. We also support the Catholic Society and assist them in their day retreats.
The study of Theology is also an integral part of our missionary formation. Some of the missionaries are also completing their degrees at the Catholic Institute of Sydney. This also is a beautiful experience of being a part of the Church in Sydney. Our classmates will be the future diocesan priests of different parishes in the Sydney diocese. We hope to be able to work with them and also support them in their priestly ministry.