Journeying Together…and Embracing our Differences

Sister Mel With Her Fellow Canossian Sisters

Greetings from Rome, Italy!  It’s been three months since I left Brisbane to begin a new ministry role in the International Leadership Team for my Religious congregation, the Canossian Daughters of Charity.

I’m only at the start of my six-year journey here but feel struck by the importance of the shared diversity in our world today, something I experienced through my service within Ozcare.

For the past three months I’ve been living in the centre of Rome, as part of a group of five Sisters called to servant leadership of over 2000 Canossian Sisters in 32 countries around the world.  It has surely been an interesting beginning.

One of the most striking things has been the diversity that exists among us.  We come from all five continents of the world – one Sister is from Italy, one from India, one from Argentina, one from San Tome (West Africa) and me from Australia.

One of the biggest challenges has been communication because we don’t all speak the same language.  Our daily interactions are all in Italian, which has been tough to learn, yet essential so I can understand what’s happening.

We are also different ages and come from very different backgrounds.  And yet what I have discovered in these past months is that, despite our differences, one thing unites us – our common mission of journeying together with our Sisters and helping them, wherever they are in the world, to deepen their relationship with God so as to be able to make a difference to those in need.

The Italian culture has a wonderful history and a richness that comes from many of the ancient structures that fill the cities.  And yet in the midst of this extensive history, I have observed in the Italian people a real sense of caring for the elderly.  The family unit is so important and families make every effort to care for people as they get older, often within their own homes.

In Italy, we have over 350 Canossian Sisters over the age of 75.  Recently I was blessed to visit one of our 13 Canossian aged care houses in Poiano.  It was beautiful to meet some of our elderly Sisters, which St Magdalene of Canossa our Foundress called ‘mountains of gems’, and to simply take time to listen to their stories.

The care provided in our Italian aged care homes is often by staff from many different countries who come to Italy to experience a different way of life to their own lands.  This diversity adds richness to the experiences of aged care provided to the Italian people.

As I write this I’m in an aeroplane on my way to India.  I will be in India for the next month, sharing life with my Canossian Sisters in that part of the world.  Surely this will be another experience of diversity; diversity of languages (I’m excited to get to speak English for a while!), diversity of foods, diversity of experiences.

Yet I look forward to encountering new Canossian Sisters who despite our differences share a common mission of making Jesus known and loved in the various corners of the world.

As I reflect on this theme of ‘diversity’ it reminds me a lot of Ozcare.  Within the Ozcare family we have different facilities, different services and different geographical locations throughout Queensland.  Our clients and staff are all different and come from different life experiences.

And yet despite this diversity, Ozcare is led by its common mission and values, striving to live integrity, respect, empathy and compassion, while supporting our clients to live their best lives.  When we focus on this mission, diversity becomes a gift. When we stay true to our values, we ensure that Ozcare truly remains a place that feels like home.

Written by Sister Melissa Dwyer – Pictured (second from right) with her fellow Canossian Sisters in Rome


Sr Mel Dwyer is a member of the Congregational Leadership Team of the Canossian Daughters of Charity and Spiritual Advisor at Ozcare. She is living a radical life for Jesus as a Canossian Sister with a passion for mission to the poor.