After leaving school, Stella assisted her mother at home, where she learned all the practical details of life. This stood her in great stead, and her skill and advice have helped many a young Sister as well as those for whom she cared.
Before entering the Sisters of Compassion on 22 February, 1941, Stella had also worked at St. Mary’s Presbytery, Wanganui. This gave her an added interest in the welfare of priests. Many a ‘stock’ she made for a newly ordained priest, often keeping him supplied when it wore out! Her talent with the needle also led her to experiment with painting on cloth, and very soon she was doing exquisite handwork. She painted vestments and lectern drapes for the local church when she was stationed in Timaru.
In February, when Stella entered the Sisters of Compassion, two young women also from Wanganui entered with her; they were Sister M. Luke and Sister M. Christopher. She received her religious name Sister Mary Bernardine on her Reception Day. The three women were later professed together on the Feast of Our Lady of Compassion, 15 September, 1943.
Early in her religious life, Sister Bernardine was transferred to Broken Hill, N.S.W. where she spent 12 years. On her return to New Zealand she was transferred to St. Joseph’s Home in
Silverstream and was there for nine years, six years as Sister in Charge.
During 1969 Sister Bernardine was elected as First Assistant to the Congregational Leader, a position she held until the 1981 Chapter. She was then transferred to St. Vianney’s Home, Timaru.
On 4 November, 1986, Sister had a severe attack of angina and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Timaru Hospital. Shortly afterwards, while spending a few days with two of the Sisters at the holiday house at Pleasant Point, Sister Bernardine suffered another attack which seemed to subside after she had rested. The doctor advised her to come to his rooms, but before she left the house Sister had a further attack and died. Sister Bernardine was farewelled by her Sisters of Compassion in Timaru at a Requiem Mass of Thanksgiving in the Home Chapel. The following day Sister’s body was taken to Wellington for burial.
Born Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
06.05.1916 22.02.1941 15.09.1943 29.11.1986 Timaru Karori