Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.
Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.
We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.
We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.
- Published: Tuesday, 04 June 2019 22:33
SIGNIFICANT OLSH MINISTRY AND CONTRIBUTION TO PNG CATHOLIC HISTORY, RIP, SISTERS JOSEPH AND RITA FDNSC
The eulogies not only pay tribute to the Sisters who have died but are solid reminders of the FDNSC in PNG Ministry and PNG Catholic history, women's ministry rather than clerical ministry.
Eulogy: Sr Joseph Murray fdnsc (13.05.1923 - 8.05.2019)
- May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!
The Lord brought out his people with joy,
his chosen ones with shouts of rejoicing, alleluia. Ps 104:43
Mary Ellen Murray, known as Nell, was born in Emmaville NSW on 13th May, 1923. She had
an older brother George and a younger brother John, both of whom have pre-deceased her. Her childhood was happy within a loving family and members of the extended family.
Due to the Depression the family had to leave Emmaville and move to Sydney, settling in Mortlake where she attended St Patrick’s Primary school and then onto St Mary’s Concord until the Intermediate class. Her final two years of schooling were at Bethlehem College, Ashfield, where she gained the Leaving Certificate.
Nell’s father, William, died in 1939, aged 56, in her final year of schooling. A week before he died, he was baptised a Catholic. Nell’s father always supported the desire of her mother, Margaret, that the children be baptised and educated in Catholic schools. The family moved to Randwick and Nell, using the secretarial skills she had learnt in school, did office work at MLC Insurance from 1940 to 1947 – this however, she found very boring!
Sometime after her mother’s death, Nell began to think of religious life. An MSC priest suggested she contact the Daughters so she talked to Mother Concepta at Kensington Convent. As she said “This interview went well and I was accepted “to try it out” and the rest is history”
Nell, aged 24, commenced her formation at Hartzer Park, Burradoo, in November 1947, taking the name Sr Mary St Joseph. She made her first vows on 2nd July 1947 and two years later made her perpetual profession. In later years she changed her religious name to Sr Mary Joseph and was affectionately called Jo.
Before going to Papua New Guinea in January, 1953, Jo completed her teacher training and taught in primary schools at Bentleigh, Victoria and Moonah in Tasmania. She arrived in Papua New Guinea in pre-independence time when the Australian Government played a prominent role in the country. Jo taught at St Joseph’s International Primary School for nine years, mainly in the infants’ section, in downtown Port Moresby. She was renowned for her artistic ability and when the mothers came to pick up their children after school they would call into Sister’s classroom to see the beautiful blackboards with the illustrations of the stories and subjects taught that day. To supplement community funds, the Sisters used to teach after school and Jo’s speciality was shorthand while others taught music and business principles.
Jo spent 1962 in Daio, Milne Bay which was a small mission station tucked into the southern arm of Milne Bay. One day Jo asked her Grade 5 class if they had seen a big ship and with no hesitation they said that they had seen the largest mission boat the “Morning Star” which was a four bunk, one cabin cargo mission boat! So Jo contacted the Australian Navy headquarters in Port Moresby and asked for a visit of a navy ship to Daio – especially considering the part Milne Bay had played in World War 2. Sr Helen Warman was there and she vividly remembers the day with all the children on the beach at 4 am and their amazement when HMAS Voyager, a huge naval ship lit up like a city, turned the Cape of the north eastern point into the Bay. What followed is still talked about at Daio as the children had “the works” including a trip up the Bay when the usual four hour trip was covered in half an hour.
In 1963 Jo moved to New Britain where she taught in Rabaul and Vunapope. She spent twenty-six years in this area. She is still fondly remembered by her Chinese students living in Australia whom she taught at Sacred Heart School, Rabaul. One of our sisters who was a lay missionary teaching at Vunapope High School with Jo, remembers when she used to bring her ice cream from the convent when Elizabeth was supervising the students at the weekend. This was much appreciated.
In 1988 Jo was appointed to Boroko Convent in Port Moresby assisting with the general needs of the community, including driving. She stayed there until 1993 when she moved to Milne Bay and lived at Sideia and Alotau. When in Alotau she designed the glass windows for the new Cathedral as well as decorating the walls and this was much appreciated by Bishop Moore and the parishioners.
During her forty-six years in PNG, Sr Mary Joseph was well-known for her kindness to the poor and needy. It has been said that needy people melted her heart. They were a priority for her as she lived the spirituality of the heart of our charism. She went out of her way to assist those far less fortunate and these would include people in the squatter settlements both in Rabaul and Port Moresby and the street-kids in Moresby. When she was driving sisters to various places around the city she would always have some water and biscuits for the paper-boys selling the daily Post Courier at the traffic lights. She also visited hospitals and brought great joy to the patients.
Jo was a member of the Rabaul community in 1994 when the volcano erupted and she was one of the drivers tasked with moving the sisters from Rabaul to Vunapope. The journey took them hours because the ash was so thick and heavy and the wind screen wipers could not cope with the density and quantity of the ash.
She is remembered as a most generous member of community as well as being joyful wherever she was.
Jo returned to the Australian Province in 1999. This was quite a painful transition for her as she found the way of life here so different because of the comforts that are so easily available to us. She lived at Mascot for two years and spent one year at Queenstown in Tasmania. During these years she visited the sick and aged and taught catechetics when needed. In 2011 Jo moved to Kensington and then onto St Joseph’s Aged Care Facility in June 2013 where her loving God called her last Wednesday evening, 8th May.
We rejoice with Nell, our Sr Mary Joseph, as she now knows the fullness of God’s unconditional love which she strove to emulate in a life which was given to others in community and to those in need and less fortunate. Jo, do hope it was a great 96th birthday celebration in heaven yesterday.
Thank you, dear Jo. You are remembered fondly and were a great model for us all, especially the sisters in the Papua New Guinea Province and the people you touched. May you rest in the loving Heart of Jesus. Therese McNamara fdnsc
Eulogy: Sr Rita Torpey fdnsc (4.10.1930 - 26.05.2019)
Praise the Beloved! Sing a joy-filled song praising the Lord among the people.
Praise the Holy One with dancing, with melodies and voice!
The humble are adorned with honour; the faithful exult in glory,
singing for joy with thankful hearts! (Psalm 149 adapted from Psalms for Praying : Nan C. Merrill)
Sr Rita Agnes Hinemei Torpey was a Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart for 67 years. A woman of integrity, decisiveness and clear sighted in what her aim in life was and today we would sum that up as striving to be on earth the heart of God. Rita led a very full life before and after she gave herself completely to Jesus at her first religious profession on 6th January, 1952.
Rita was born on 4th October, 1930 at Muswellbrook, NSW, to Margaret May Doherty and Stanislaus Joseph Torpey. She was the eighth of twelve children whose home, called “Liseux”, was a place of happiness in a very Catholic atmosphere. Rita has left memories of very happy activities in a country area where her father was a busy baker who ensured his family was well cared for and all the children were given opportunities for secondary education. Rita won a bursary and went as a boarder to St Catherine’s College, Singleton run by the Sisters of Mercy and completed her Leaving Certificate in 1947.
Rita wrote that the biggest changes at “Liseux” commenced gradually in 1944 when her mother suffered a stroke and died aged 51 in 1946 when the youngest in the family, Frances, was 7 and Rita was 15. Her father died in Sydney in March 1949, just 59 years old from bowel cancer. Rita said “So, we had another big sorrow losing another parent, leaving sorrow for us all and especially losses for the youngest members”.
Rita had long wanted to be a missionary nun – especially after reading a book “Echo from Africa” when she was 13. However she realised that she was not mature enough to enter the convent straight from school and so spent a year at home helping in the family bakery. When she turned 18, she commenced nurse training at St Joseph’s Hospital in Auburn, Sydney, setting out to do a four year course from 1949 to 1952.
However the good Lord had other ideas and about 16 months into her course, she found herself at Kensington being interviewed by Mother Concepta about entering this missionary order. This resulted in Rita entering the Postulate at Hartzer Park on 31st Mary, 1950, taking the name Sr Michaela.
After making her first profession of vows, Rita thought she would continue her nursing training but she ended up doing primary teacher training in the training school at Kensington. Amazingly this training took only one year and so Rita commenced her long teaching ministry at St Thomas Aquinas Primary School in Bowral and in 1954 she continued in Bowral at OLSH Boarding School for boys. A busy and interesting experience!
After making her final vows on 6th January, 1955, Rita moved to the Northern Territory and taught in High Schools at Alice Springs and Darwin. In 1959 Rita’s missionary dream came true as she went to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. In this area Rita spent 35 years of her 52 years in PNG. Thus began a long association with the people of Manus Island firstly at isolated Patu, then Bundralis and finally in 1967 at Papitalai where the school was built as it was closer to the town for supplies etc for the boarders.
Rita’s other ministries in PNG were at OLSH Girls’ High School, Vunapope; in Rabaul where she was Area Superior and visited the communities of sisters on the islands of New Britain and Manus and also at Boroko in Port Moresby where she was the Community Leader. At various times during these years was on the Provincial Council and also lived at the Provincial House at Gordon in 1992 to assist in the preparation for the Provincial Chapter.
Rita’s leadership qualities were well known and she was very involved in the ongoing formation of the PNG Sisters. Rita was a wonderful pray-er and close to her God. She realised that there was a need to present students with a method to help them to pray so she wrote a book “Lord, Teach Me to Pray”. This was much appreciated and in circulation in schools for many years.
Rita’s heart was full of music and song which she expressed in the concerts and choirs she conducted as well as the songs and hymns she wrote in both Pidgin and English. Rita was alive and energetic, concerned and generous with her talents. She was creative in many ways and encouraged our PNG Sisters to be so as well. Often her creativity came through in many new projects she thought up for the good of the ministry she was in and often the other staff members would feel the need to curb the next “bright” idea she had.
Rita did much for Papitalai High School, Manus. It was through her generous fundraising activities that there were many improvements made in the school. On her holidays in Australia she would collect so much to take back with her that she would request the Defence Force to assist her and get the goods taken to the naval base at Manus.
After she retired from formal teaching she became manageress at Papitalai where funds were limited and her big dream was to set up a piggery project to generate income for maintaining and improving facilities. This came to be and helped the people of Manus in providing pigs for big feasts, educate students in animal husbandry and improve the standard of pigs produced.
In recognition of her services to Education in Papua New Guinea, Rita was awarded the Medal of Logohu from the PNG government as well as the Order of Australia. She was also the winner of the Patu/Papitalai Alumni Service Medal for extended and extraordinary service to these schools. But probably what touched her most was being given the name Hinemei when initiated into the Manus tribe. This was a great honour and the celebration was full of many speeches, dances and singing and, of course, a Manus feast.
When Rita left Papua New Guinea for good and transferred to the Australian Province for health reasons in 2013, Sr Relida Gumur, the PNG Provincial Leader, spoke to Rita on behalf of the sisters of the Province:
We are here to thank you but also to thank God for gracing us with your person. Rita thank you for allowing God to use you to touch so many people in so many ways through your work. Thank you for sharing your life, your faith with us. We are the fruits of your hard work, the fruit of the seed you planted when you first arrived in Papua New Guinea on 10th January, 1959. You have been very much part of the building up of the PNG Province and so we have come to where we are today. Sr Rita, as we thank you and as we say goodbye before you leave us, we want you to know that you are held in love and with gratitude in our hearts.
So with new vigour – and some sadness of heart – Rita settled into community at Kensington. One of her main focuses was making jewellery to assist projects in Papitalai. Sadly in December, 2014 Rita suffered a massive stroke which left her severely incapacitated and she became a patient at St Joseph’s Aged Care Facility on 27 January, 2015. This was a sad time for her loving family and the Sisters and surely she heard Jesus singing within her while she was unable to communicate with us.
Dear Rita Agnes Hinemei Torpey - all those who have known and loved you over these years, entrust you to the loving Heart of Jesus, knowing how our mother, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, has been your companion and so you have brought Jesus and Mary’s love to others in your own particular way.
Therese McNamara fdnsc