She heard of the need for helpers on the Māori Mission at Jerusalem on the Whanganui River, and was taken up there by “two Māori Saints” to use her own words – Poma of Kaueroa and Te Metera of Ranana – on the 29 November, 1884. She became a Novice of the Third Order Regular of Mary on the 26 April, 1885, and received the name of Sister Mary Carmel.
On the 15 April, 1886 Carmel was in the Diocesan Congregation of the Third Order Regular of Mary, and she renewed the same vows every year till 1892 when she made them in the Institute of the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion. She continued to make annual vows until she was finally professed on the 23 February, 1899.
Mother Aubert used to work in the vegetable garden and it was Sister Carmel who suggested that she, and the postulants could help her. Suzanne was pleased at the offer, as she had not liked to ask them. This was the beginning of Sister Carmel’s fifty years work as a gardener. This must have been difficult for her, as temperamentally, she shrank from outdoor work. Because she was threatened with tuberculosis, Suzanne Aubert thought the open air would be good for her, as it indeed proved to be. Sister Carmel planted trees as well as gardening. Up the Wanganui River she had helped plant the large cherry, chestnut, and olive orchard. The olives did not thrive in that particular climate. At the Island Bay Home of Compassion she kept a large vegetable garden.
Sister Clotilde Webber wrote that her work was marked by great precision and neatness. She had a little room adjoining the kitchen reserved for her storage of seeds, gardening tools, and gardening kit, which included sacks, stout boots and a big straw hat to cover her head in summer. She objected to bare forearms and never removed her short sleeves, keeping an old pair for use in the garden. She had a system by which she worked over all her garden regularly and in sections. She kept her own garden notes and followed the cycle of planting, harvesting and seed gathering year after year. Sister Carmel was also very competent in mending shoes, and making cloth slippers. These she made on days when the bad weather prevented her working in the garden. Her cloth slippers were well made and very comfortable. More than one chaplain attending the home asked for a pair. Sister had a minimum of cobbler’s tools, but a variety of casts. She accomplished an almost colossal amount of work, and moved quietly and steadily at a uniform pace-neither too fast nor too slow. Sister was also an expert spinner, and when a fleece of wool was given her, she carded, spun it, and then knitted an article from it – and all this in a very short time.
Father Soulas had wanted the first Sisters to learn French, and for a time that language was spoken at recreation, but Sister Carmel learned to speak it freely, the other sisters understood it better than they spoke it. Carmel loved to read French devotional books, and she taught herself to translate Latin, and even Italian prayers. She had a bent for languages, but had no opportunity to develop it to advantage.
Sister Carmel was appointed First Assistant by Archbishop Redwood in 1890, and she was elected First Assistant in 1896, a position she held until the Extraordinary General Chapter of 1912. Though Sister Carmel occupied a position of authority in the Congregation she continued her out-door work throughout her long life.
It was a bitter disappointment to Sister Carmel that she still had to work out-of-doors, when she was transferred to Island Bay in 1907. She had always longed to nurse the needy. Sister Carmel remained at Island Bay until her death on 5 October, 1932. She had been preparing for death for months, and was ready when her time came.
Born Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
01.05.1860 29.11.1884 15.04.1886 05.10.1932 Island Bay Karori Cemetery