The family all grew up on a farm and one can imagine her spending a good deal of time minding the younger members of the family and helping her parents. Her most enjoyable pastime was riding horses and Show-Jumping; her face always lit up when she spoke about horses!
She was nineteen when she received God’s call to enter Religious Life, and one wonders how she came to know about the Sisters of Compassion. On the 7 February, 1931, she entered the Sisters of Compassion, at Island Bay, and on the 21 November of the same year she began her Novitiate training. She was given her religious name Sister Mary Catherine of Genoa.
After her Profession on 21 November, 1933, Sister Catherine stayed in the Island Bay community until her transfer to Silverstream after her Final Profession. From there she went to Jerusalem, which must have been for her a ‘going home’ –for at Jerusalem there would be continual reminders of her early days on the farm. She was there for seven years.
In March 1945, Sister Catherine was chosen with Sisters Margaret Burton, Hedwig Donovan, Gertrude Roberts and Alexis, (Sister Alexis was later replaced by Sister Ambrose Pender) to form a Community to take over the domestic responsibilities of the Holy Cross Seminary at Mosgiel. This appointment was only temporary because the Sisters of Compassion were only relieving at the Seminary until another Religious Congregation would replace them on a more permanent basis. It must have been a very happy time for Sister Catherine as she would often reminisce about the seminarians she knew from there who later went on to ordination. She was always pleased to see priests whom she had known from this period.
In 1951 Sister Catherine and Sister Celestine were asked to go to Timaru to occupy the newly acquired property at Morgan’s Road until a Community was formed. There, according to reports, the Sisters, with the help of kindly volunteers were faced with the colossal task of cleaning up the former Boys’ home. Sister was there for six months after which she returned to Island Bay. After six years in the Island Bay Home, Sister Catherine was transferred to St. Vincent’s Home in Auckland where she was stationed for the next twenty-five years.
Most of Catherine’s life was spent as a cook, and one can imagine that life was not easy in the kitchen. Most of the Communities were poor, and during the war years especially there would have been rationing to contend with – but she was adept at using up all the odds and ends and presenting them attractively to the patients and children.
During her life Sister Catherine was an extraordinary ‘ordinary’ person; always faithful to her duty and to her Religious commitments. She never had the power or authority to do great things for people, but she made up for it by her many acts of kindness – the small things that make such a difference to one’s life. She enjoyed the garden and was generous in sharing her flowers; she could sew and took pleasure in making things for the Garden party or the street Day Stall. She was always thoughtful for the needs of others.
In 1983, Sister Catherine was awarded the Mary de Marco Shield for her services to the Christian Food Association at a function held at a meeting conducted by the group. In May 1984, Sister returned to Timaru. She would never have imagined when she first arrived in Timaru forty years before, that she would be the first Sister of Compassion to be buried in the Timaru cemetery. Sister Catherine was also the first Sister of Compassion to die on the anniversary of our Founding Day, that year was the Centenary Year.
Born Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
15.12.1912 07.02.1931 21.11.1933 14.10.1992 Timaru Timaru Cemetery