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Thursday, 04 August 2011 23:55

An extraordinary ordinary life

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My entrance into this world took place in Mittagong, NSW, but my memory of my time there is very vague. The family moved to Sydney when I was five, and we finally settled in The Glebe, in the home where my mother had lived as a child and young adult.

Times were difficult, as the family, which included my three older brothers, was very much disadvantaged by the Great Depression. However, we all attended Catholic schools and I was pleased to be enrolled at 'St James' Superior School for Girls' as the inscription above the front entrance indicated.

As I had already learned to read and had good numeracy new skills - we used to play cribbage at home - I spent only half a day in kindergarten and was promoted to First Class. That same year I was prepared for my First Holy Communion by Sister Mary Louis Callaghan. This was a very special time for me as my family were all faithful to and loved the Mass; daily Mass was the norm when possible.

My secondary education took place at St Scholastica's College where I forged lifelong friendships.

As well as loving the study and sport, there was a lot of sadness during these years as my three brothers went overseas on military service.

John, the second eldest, was taken prisoner at the fall of Singapore in 1942. He was reported missing for 14 months before word came that he was a POW in Borneo. It was not until almost three months after the war ended that the telegram came to say John had died. It was many years later that details were released - that he, along with 2600 other soldiers, had died in a death march. No identifiable remains were ever found, although he, together with so many others, has a memorial grave in a military cemetery in Sandakan, Borneo.

After peace had been declared, my youngest brother, Patrick, returned from Morotai and spent three months in a military hospital. Geoff, the eldest, returned home from New Guinea just before Christmas 1945.

All this strain seriously affected my mother's health and that same year I sat for my leaving certificate. Although I passed, my results were disappointing.

My life, to a certain extent, was put on hold as I stayed at home to look after my mother. As her health began to stabilise, I obtained a position in the pathology department at the Rachel Forster Hospital and studied science part-time.

As my mother's health improved and when Pat married, I decided it was time to follow my calling to religious life which I had delayed because, as the only girl in the family, I felt a special responsibility for my parents who were elderly.

In July 1952, I became a postulant with the Good Samaritan Sisters at Pennant Hills (Sydney).

After my Profession in 1955 and teacher training, I had many and varied experiences in schools in New South Wales, South Australia, North Queensland and eventually in Japan.

My time in Japan, teaching at Seiwa, was very special as I saw this as an opportunity for encouraging some Australian acquaintances to overcome the hatred that war so often aroused.
I found the Japanese people so kind and polite and very friendly.

I thoroughly enjoyed my English classes with them and I think they enjoyed them too.

Some of my success was, strange as it may seem, due to my lack of artistic talent! I made very childlike attempts to draw images of some words which they had trouble in understanding. They were amused at these which I felt meant that they trusted my honesty and sincerity.

When I returned to Sydney, I went to Western Australia and loved the different lifestyle at New Norcia. Eventually I came to Nowra on the NSW south coast, where I now live.

Looking back on my life, it may seem very ordinary. However, it is the great love that God has shown me in so many little and not-so-little ways that has made it EXTRAordinary.

I have always maintained that God "spoils" me, but I love it!!

My mother always said to me that the most important note in music was "B natural" and I know that, with the help of God's grace, it is a good way to live especially when you have all the spiritual helps and benefits that at Good Samaritan way of life provides.

For all of this, I am most grateful.

*This story was first published in The Good Oil, e-news of the Good Samaritan Sisters.

Pathways September 2010

Have your say...

"Gratitude seems to be a cheerful preparation for ageing. I thank the Samaritan Sisters of Whyalla who worked there in the 60's"
- Ray O, 23-09-2010

"Margaret,great to read about you-I meet up with you some thiry years ago at St Schols.You are indeed a voice for so many religious who have lived a life of the ordinary but infused with the daily presence of God in and through the people we have ministered to in God's name."
- bernice keane rsm, 23-09-2010