Her mother’s sister was our Sister Mary Alphonsus Fay, and her uncle was a Redemptorist priest. Mary was the eldest in the family, and two of her sisters also entered Religious life; Sister M. Claver, a St. John of God Sister from Ballarat, and Sister Josephine, a Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart.
Mary entered the Sisters of Compassion in 1930 and received her Religious name Sister Mary Perpetua. Perpetua is a derivative of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and she received this name because of the family’s close association with the Redemptorist Fathers.
After her Profession on 21 November 1932, Sister completed her General Nursing Training in our Hospital, and passed her State Final Examination in December, 1937. The following year Sister obtained registration as a Midwife. From 1942-1948, Sister Perpetua was Matron of our Maternity Hospital at St. Vincent’s Home of Compassion in Auckland.
During 1951, Sister was chosen, with Sister M. Celestine, to be the first Sisters to pioneer the newly-opened Chanel Home of Compassion in Suva, Fiji. There are many stories to tell about getting the place ready for the reception of the first residents and the arrival of Sisters Brendan and Joachim to form the first Community there. The Columban Fathers arrived in Fiji about the same time as the Sisters of Compassion. Father J.J. O’Loughlan related his first sighting of a Sister of Compassion was seeing her standing on a table painting the ceiling.
While in Suva, Sister Perpetua saw many changes among which was the arrival of two Sisters of Compassion to commence St. Agnes School in the Parish, and later the erection of the new Chanel Home next to the original house.
Sister Perpetua was very much a Community Sister, joining the day to day activities of the Home, welcoming visitors, tending to those who might be staying the night, or meeting those who attended Mass in our Chapel. Despite not knowing the languages of this multi-ethnic city, Sister related well with the local people and they appreciated her. Evening recreation was very much a part of the daily life in Suva and Sister always enjoyed a game of scrabble or listening to the radio. It was here that her dry sense of humour came to the fore.
During 1981, Sister Perpetua left Fiji to return to New Zealand. Earlier she had been Sister in Charge of Loreto Home of Compassion in Wagga Wagga, 1960 – 1963, and Second in Charge of St Anne’s Home in Broken Hill, 1963 – 1968. Sister returned to Chanel Home in Suva once more in 1968. Even in her late years Sister was always interested in all things pertaining to nursing. She liked doing light duties among the residents where she was very quick to notice if any of them were not as well as usual.
Sister was admitted to the Infirmary at Island Bay in 1982 where she was lovingly cared for by the nurses and Sisters. She died peacefully in 1989 after having been in the Infirmary for 6 years. We thank God for His gift of Sister Perpetua, for the example of faithful service that she has given, and also for the opportunity to serve Him through her.
Born Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
01.09.1904 21.04.1930 21.11.1932 03.09.1989 Island Bay Karori Cemetery