Her parents, Thomas and Ann Shortall, had four daughters and two sons. Margaret was the youngest in the family and still at school when her three sisters were grown up. On leaving school, she became the housekeeper and cook at home. Her mother had some years of ill-health, and Margaret nursed her until her death. One of her brothers was in Australia and the other brother managed another farm. Margaret spent all her spare time helping her father with the sheep. He depended on her help in meeting buyers, entertaining them, and also being able to converse on all farm topics. She became a good cook and manager, both in the house and on the farm. With such training, she developed a very independent and capable character.
Margaret Shortall entered the Sisters of Compassion in March 1912, and had the unique distinction of being the first Postulant to arrive by motor car! She was Received as a Novice on 28 September that same year, and received the Religious name Sister Mary Isidore. Two years later, she made her First Profession.
Sister Isidore was a good Community Sister, and very likeable. In conversation she could be witty and entertaining and was an able mimic — but never an unkind one. She made friends easily and was a good companion, always ready to help anyone who was overworked.
Sister had a great liking for the outdoors, and any kind of work was no hardship for her. She could transform a barren hillside into a beautiful garden within a few months.
During most of Sister Isidore’s time at Island Bay she was Head Teacher of the school and also Procurator of the Home. She had a gift for school teaching and the children loved her. When she undertook the management of the Home School after her Profession, she had the school registered under the patronage of Pius X with Mother Aubert’s warm approval.
In 1929, Sister was transferred to the Whanganui River, where she was Infant Teacher at Ranana. Sisters Isidore and Veronica became close friends and Sister Veronica often asked Sister Isidore for help with the higher classes. On her return to Island Bay in 1951, most of her ex-pupils kept up frequent communication with her by letter and visits.
When Mother Veronica was chosen as Superior General in 1945, Sister Isidore became her First Assistant. With time on her hands, her active mind found its outlet in what may be described as her greatest work for the Congregation: the founding of St. Dymthna’s School for the physically and mentally disabled girls. Her pupils loved her.
Sister Isidore was greatly loved by all. Through the many changes in Religious life, she was noted for her common-sense and open-mindedness, also for her love of the Directory and Community Prayer.
Sister died on 28 May, 1954, the eve of the Canonization of Pius X to whom she was very devoted.
Birth Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
07.12.1881 03.02.1912 29.09.1914 28.05.1954 Island Bay Karori Cemetery