Marie had one sister Thelma, and one brother Allan, who like many another of that generation was killed in World War II while he was serving in the R.A.F. Marie’s mother died when she was only thirteen years old, and as the eldest she had to leave school at about fourteen to be employed in a well-known Christchurch Store, Ballantynes, where she modelled Max Factor Makeup, and on one occasion was photographed as such on the Avon River. It was not for another nine or ten years that the idea of joining the Sisters of Compassion was what she felt called to do. Marie Fraser, soon to be known as Sister Mary Celestine commenced her training for Religious Life in March, 1935. Her First Profession was on 15 September, 1937. On the 15 September 1940, Sister Celestine was finally professed as a Sister of Compassion.
In June 1940, Sister Celestine commenced her training as pupil Nurse and passed the State Examination in June, 1943. Still as a very young sister in 1945, she was appointed Superior of the Island Bay Community for a period of three years. She was able to offer other young Sisters who were struggling with difficulties much spiritual encouragement. She used to remark that ‘loving and serving God was all that mattered, everything else is futile provided of course you always did your part.’
Nursing was to figure predominantly in Sister Celestine’s future years. She commenced her Maternity Training at St. Helen’s Hospital, Wellington in December, 1948, and continued on and did her Midwifery Training in 1949. In 1950 she went to Karitane in Dunedin to do her Plunket Training.
Sister Celestine’s capabilities other than nursing were called on and she was a founding member in Timaru, and also in Suva, where she became Superior in 1954. She was a capable Administrator and her other skills included music, art, ballet and gardening. And there were certainly several outlets for her skills – the choir, the Christmas decorations, and the garden on the bank outside the nursery which was always a blaze of colour.
The last ten years of Sister Celestine’s life was as a resident in our Rest Home. She was always unfailingly gracious, courteous, and grateful for anything done for her. If she was shown a beautiful flower, it brought her joy and gave joy to the giver because of Celestine’s genuine pleasure. Her capacity for enjoyment in the little things that occurred was endless.
Sister Celestine died on Monday, 29 March, 1999, so calmly, quietly with no distress, or fuss. Her last words were ‘Thank you very much’.
Born Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
25.10.1910 07.03.1935 15.09.1937 29.03.1999 Island Bay Karori Cemetery