As her mother had to earn her living, Jean went to board with the Mission Sisters at Pukekohe. She had a great love of learning and became one of the Sisters’ star pupils. After she left secondary school and before she began her University studies, she taught at the Mission Convent in New Plymouth. As she lived at the Convent, it was still like being a boarder.
Life in New Plymouth would have been very lonely for her but for the fact that she had a great friend, Catherine Hart, mother of Sister Helena. The Hart household was like home for Jean and she always treasured this friendship. Having gained her BA degree in the Arts, she felt drawn to enter religious life, and tried for a while at the Carmelite Convent in Christchurch. When she returned to Wellington she took up a position at the Correspondence School. At this time her mother became very ill and was being nursed at the Home of Compassion, Island Bay. Jean got to know the Sisters, and when she found they needed a teacher for their little school, offered to fill in for a while. After her mother’s death she decided to enter on 14 September, 1938.
During her Novitiate training she received her Religious name, Sister Mary Bonaventure, and on 15 September, 1941, she made her First Profession of Vows. Immediately after her Profession she took charge of Pius X School at the Home of Compassion. During her time there she set up the school according to modern standards, and with her many contacts in the education world had students from the Wellington Training College coming to do part of their training with a group of ‘slow learners’. She also supervised the Correspondence School work of the Sisters training to be teachers.
The happiest years of Sister’s life were in Timaru. At that time there were many young women from the Pacific working in our Home there. Sister set up a school room for them, and was in her element helping them with their English and how to adjust to life in a European society. She worked behind the scenes so that they could attend a rugby match – nothing less than the Tongans vs South Canterbury. On the trip down to the wharf they were entertained by Tongan sailors! When homesickness and struggles got the better of some of these young women, Sister always knew which families could be called upon to help get the situation back onto an even keel.
‘Bonny’, as she was affectionately called, will be remembered for generations to come. Babies born in Tonga to the families of these young women were named after her. A highlight for Bonny was her trip to Tonga in 1987. Nothing held her back and not a moment was wasted as she met many of the women who had been in Timaru.
In 1990 Bonny was transferred to Wanganui and admitted to the Rest Home. Over the years the staff and Sisters who cared for Bonny have given her unconditional love and compassion. The staff have memories of her – a real character, said one; we loved her as she loves us, said another. Oh yes, she was bossy, someone else commented, but we knew where we stood and she was true to herself. She told one lady that Aubert Home was the only place to end your days – just ring the bell, she said, and a nice cup of tea arrives! And if you’re lucky a glass of stout. Bonny’s humour, tenacity, clarity, generosity of spirit, and loyalty were touchstones all will remember.
Born Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
19.03.1910 14.09.1938 15.09.1941 04.10.05 Wanganui Aramoho Cemetry