Annie was fifteen years old when Suzanne Aubert and Sister Magdalen Savage were collecting money in March 1889 to build a Convent and to rebuild the church at Jerusalem-Hiruhārama, which had been maliciously destroyed by fire; they were welcomed by the McQuilkin’s who gave generously.
Following Suzanne Aubert’s visit, Annie and Katey Hartnett entered the Sisters of Compassion in December, 1889. During those days it took two or three days to travel from Greymouth to Wellington. On arrival in Wellington they were met by Suzanne Aubert who took them to the railway station to board the train for Whanganui. After spending the night at Whanganui they made the three day’s trip by canoe up the Whanganui River to Jerusalem-Hiruhārama. The only access at the time was by river. The Convent was still being built and the Sisters were living in Keepa’s house on the hill opposite the present site of the convent.
In Jerusalem-Hiruhārama, Annie learned Māori and became fluent. She would have helped with the making of the herbal remedies, gathering leaves and bark from the different trees. To begin with Annie was trained as a religious for the Third Order of Mary, attached to the Society of Mary. In 1892 she made her First Profession with the newly formed Sisters of Compassion and her Perpetual profession on the 23 February, 1899.
Sister Prisca began teaching at Ranana in 1900, a position she held for about 13 years. The school, St. Benedict’s, was in Neri Metera’s house. For the first five years or more, Sister lived alone only joining the sisters at Jerusalem-Hiruhārama for weekends, when she would walk along the track over the Morikau hill. In wet weather this led through mud and at times was quite impassable. On entering Jerusalem-Hiruhārama there was no bridge, so she had to make her way along a swing bridge that spanned the Rome creek. This bridge was simply made of two cables, one to walk on and the other to serve as a handrail. John McMahon, wrote ‘As one of the first Sisters up the River, Sister Prisca knew only too well the hardships and great sacrifices endured by Mother and her pioneer Sisters. At such a time one can only look back on Sister’s own great sacrifices and privations while teaching in her lonely outpost at Ranana away from daily Mass and Holy Communion and away from her own Community.’
John McMahon remembers visiting Sister Prisca every month, on what the children called Ranana Sunday. John wrote ‘As we reached the last hill-top behind the wool-shed, we could see the Church and school building (which was also Sister Prisca’s humble one-roomed cottage). These things soon faded from our minds, for now we could see Sister standing by her lonely shack, grand old Ned (Neri Metera, the chief), the Haami and Pauro families all lined up from the lower pa to welcome us….How pleased Sister Prisca was to see us all! Of course, we youngsters were the first to reach her, for once inside the gate, nothing could hold us back. Then Neri would come along – always a gentleman, he would stand back until Sister had spoken to us all.’
After spending thirteen years at Ranana, Sister Prisca was transferred to Wellington in 1914. The Māori people tried to do everything in their power to keep her on the River. Her influence with them was tremendous. Sister lived first of all at Buckle Street, and then later during the same year she was appointed in charge of the first St. Vincent’s Home in Auckland. After its closure in 1916, she returned to Buckle Street as Sister-in-Charge. During the 1918 ‘Flu Epidemic she became Senior Night Nurse at the St. Patrick’s College Emergency Hospital.
About this time Sister Prisca’s health began to cause anxiety, and she was transferred to the Home at Island Bay where she would be near medical aid when required. In 1933 Sister was appointed one of the assistants on the Leadership Team.
For about eighteen months before her death Sister Prisca used to suffer frequent and sometimes severe heart attacks. At a Leadership meeting, on the day she died, she had been stressing the need of preserving the spirit of faith, and had again spoken on this subject to other sisters who were working with her in the Ironing Room. The end came without any warning about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. A priest was in the vicinity and Sister was given the Last Sacraments, after which she died quite peacefully.