She also trained as a nurse before she entered religious life. Her aunt was Sister Mary Isidore Shortall.
Anna entered the Sisters of Compassion on 27 April, 1946, and received the habit and the name Sister Peter on the Feast of St Joseph, 19 March, 1947. She renewed her vows annually until 1952 when she took Perpetual Vows.
Sister Peter began a six-months course at St Helen’s Hospital in December, 1949, and graduated as a Midwife in 1950. During this time she lived at the Buckle Street Convent, returning to Island Bay on the completion of her studies. On 7 August, 1950, Sister Peter commenced Plunket training at Karitane Hospital in Dunedin. She and her companion Sister Celestine lived with the Little Sisters of the Poor and returned to Island Bay four months later.
About this time Sister was in charge of the disabled girls and was a great source of edification to younger Sisters who worked with her. She was always patient and gentle, and had a natural rapport with people suffering from disabilities.
On 24 October, 1953, Sister Peter, was appointed second Councillor at Island Bay, a position she held until 1957, when she was appointed Sister in Charge at Jerusalem. Up until then it had been the custom on the Whanganui River for the sisters to combine their teaching skills with nursing, so it was a bonus to have a trained nurse in their midst to enable them to concentrate on their main work of teaching. Sister was busy, often being called up in the night to go to the bedside of someone who needed assistance. It was never a trouble to her. She was also called upon to attend the occasional delivery, although once a regular District Nurse was appointed at Pipiriki, this work which the sisters had undertaken from the very beginning came to an end.
Adaptability is one thing that makes it easy for Sisters in Charge appointing Sisters to various apostolates, and Sister Peter fitted in wherever she went; her practical down-to-earth philosophy on life made her a joy to work with.
After her Jerusalem experience, Sister was transferred to our Home in Suva, Fiji. This was another challenge for her but she adapted to the heat and the different cultures, of which there were many, soon winning the hearts of all. She stayed three years before being recalled to St Raphael’s Home in Carterton as Sister in Charge where she met up with many of her friends who she had cared for at Island Bay. On 5 March, 1966 she was again appointed to be in charge of the Home in Fiji and remained there until 1975.
After the 1975 General Chapter, Sister was appointed as Second in Charge of our Home in Wanganui, and in 1978 she was transferred to Broken Hill as Second in Charge, relieving in Wilcannia at the time of Sister Patricia Ratcliffe’s death. In 1985 she relieved in Suva for a year, returning to New Zealand to relieve the Sister in Charge at Carterton where she stayed until 1990.
Sister Peter and Sister Rita were chosen to become a ‘presence’ at Jerusalem about this time. New accommodation was built for them behind the Church, and the Convent was used for Retreats and overnight visitors. Jerusalem became a place of pilgrimage with many people from overseas as well as New Zealand visiting, especially during the summer months. The Sisters were kept busy making them welcome and supporting the Maori people in many ways.
A big event occurred in 1999, when Sister Anna Maria as she was now called, celebrated her Golden Jubilee of Profession at Fielding. Since then she has tended to the garden, and been a gracious hostess to the many visitors who call in regularly to Jerusalem. Some stay a few days, others just the night, but all are touched by the peace and tranquillity of the surroundings and the friendliness of the Sisters.
During April 2013, Sister was transferred to St. Joseph’s Home of Compassion, Heretaunga where she died two years later on 24 March, 2015. A life well lived in the love and service of God and of our suffering neighbour.
Born Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
15.02.1917 27.04.1946 19.03.1949 24.03.2015 Heretaunga Karori Cemetry