Sister M. Brigid, one of the foundation members, and Sister M. Agnes, who both made their Religious Profession as Sisters of Compassion the year Clare was born.
When Clare was eight her mother died leaving six children. Her father, James, married Ethel Elizabeth Cunningham, and the number of children in the family rose by a further eight. Many of the children were educated at St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, or Sacred Heart College, Whanganui. Her grand-nieces and grand-nephews also boarded at Erskine College, Wellington, or St Patrick’s College. Two of her brothers were well-known All Black players.
During 1915, while Mother Aubert was in Rome, Clare entered the Sisters of Compassion, and was given her Religious name Sister Mary Monica. She was Professed on 4 October, 1917.
During her long life, Sister Monica gave generously of herself to serving the poor and the sick. Sister was among the first group of Sisters to train as nurses in our newly opened training school at Island Bay during 1927. On the completion of her nursing training Sister Monica was transferred to other Homes of Compassion in the North Island, but in 1949 she returned to Island Bay where she soon became well known, first on van duty where she had a good rapport with people. Then she used to walk miles (or so it seemed to the younger Sisters who accompanied her) visiting the sick in their homes, talking with them and letting them tell her their problems, while all the time she would be sitting comfortably by their side, knitting away at some small article of clothing. When she had to give up this more active apostolate, she used to help with the little boys, taking them for a walk up to the fowl house and along the road, or else sitting in the sun, darning their socks while they played nearby. They would run to her with their little stories, a Grandma figure in their young lives.
In February 1976, Sister had a severe attack of shingles, and after her recovery she remained permanently in the Infirmary. Being such an active person she could not bear to be idle, so when the Infirmarian came back from her meals, she found all the washing up finished, and the trays set.
She was admitted to the Hospital Section early in 1982 as she needed constant nursing care, especially at night. Sister died very peacefully on 7 June, 1982. Her passing saw the end of an era of the Brownlie family association with the Sisters of Compassion.
All who remember Sister in her earlier days will recall her forthrightness. She was one who would not tolerate fools gladly, but for all that she was very loyal to the Sisters with whom she was working, supporting them in numerous ways.
Born Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
19.10.1892 14.04.1915 04.10.1917 07.06.1982 Island Bay Karori Cemetery