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Sheila Catherine McGrath was born at Greymouth and her parents were John and Moira McGrath nee Atkinson. There were 5 children, 2 boys and 3 girls. Sheila and her twin sister were the youngest in the family. Mr McGrath died when the children were very young leaving Mrs McGrath to bring up her young family. Sheila suffered from myopia (near-sightedness) and this condition necessitated her having a long history of contact lenses. Because Sheila needed treatment for her eyesight in Christchurch she moved to live at Nazareth House with the Sisters of Nazareth. The story is told that her brother Kevin who was studying at the time, used to take her for outings on his motorbike.
Sheila Catherine entered the Sisters of Compassion on 2 February 1959. After her profession on 15 September 1961, she completed her Teacher Training at Loreto Hall in Auckland, a diploma in Catechism and Theology, and a BA degree at Massey University, majoring in Māori studies.
On graduating Sister Sheila taught at Jerusalem, Island Bay, part-time at St Anne’s in Newtown, and in Fiji. In January 1991 Sheila moved to Christchurch where she was responsible for Adult Education in Faith at St Anne’s Parish, Woolston. Two and a half years later she joined the Timaru Community and taught Māori part-time at Roncalli College.
At the closure of St Vianney’s Home in Timaru, Sheila was transferred back to Wellington to join the Tiber St Community. During this period, she trained as a spiritual director and worked with the Cenacle Sisters giving retreats in Daily Life.
Besides her gift as a very good teacher, Sheila had an amazing memory and a very good general knowledge about most things. She loved and wrote poetry. Sister was extremely good at handcraft. With poor vision, she knitted many cardigans and jerseys for several sisters and others. Cross stitch was also her specialty, and over the years she made little gifts worked in cross stitch which she loved to give away.
The last 10 years of Sister Sheila’s life were within the care of the Berhampore Vincentian Home where she received loving care.
At the time of her death, Pa Phil Cody shared these words with Sister Margaret Anne: a woman of the Coast, a person with a sense of humour and a sparkling laugh; a person of deep feeling, both happy and sad; a dedicated Sister of Compassion.
Ngā mihi nui Sheila