When Shirley was five the family moved to Oamaru where she was educated by the Dominican Sisters. During the school holidays, Shirley remembered happy events spent on her grandparent’s farm in the Catlins. While at school Shirley formed a solid lifelong friendship with Jeanette, who was like a second sister. It was said, look for one and you will find the other.
Shirley entered the Sisters of Compassion on 17 March and was received into the novitiate on 15 September 1954 when she was given the name Sister Mary Aidan. Sister Aidan and her three companions were professed on 15 September 1956. On both occasions, she had the joy of her family being with her. Sister was finally professed on the same day in 1959.
Sister Aidan commenced her general nursing training in 1959 graduating in 1963. Not long after graduating Sister Aidan was assigned to the theatre where she learned the practical knowledge needed for the skills required in this branch of nursing. By 1964 Sister had taken over the responsibility of the operating theatre a position she held until 1984. During this period the Wellington Theatre Nurses Group was formed of which Sister Aidan was a foundation member. The group eventually became a national body with conferences held all over New Zealand most meetings she attended were as a delegate. During her period as a theatre nurse Sister Aidan completed a six-month Post-Graduate course in Intensive Care at Wellington Hospital.
At the beginning of the 1980s Sister changed from her given religious name to her baptismal name and since then has been known as Sister Shirley.
From 1985-1990 Sister Shirley moved to Hasting and worked in the wider community with families in need and providing religious instruction for children not attending catholic schools.
In 1990 Sister was appointed Co-ordinator for the community and administrator for the complex at Our Lady’s Home of Compassion at Island Bay. During the 1990s because of recent changes in the Government funding of religious and welfare institutions, the major superiors of New Zealand formed and funded a steering committee to look into the future of Catholic Health Care Facilities in New Zealand. Sister Shirley was selected to represent the Homes of Compassion. In 1997 a conference for Religious Women in Health Care was held at the Vatican in Rome. The Steering Committee elected Sister Shirley to be an observer. In 1998 Sister was requested by the organisers of the same Roman Conference to give a paper at that year’s conference on Religious Women in Catholic Health in Oceania, a topic covering a very wide geographical area.
In 2003 Sister was transferred to St Vianney’s in Timaru until the home closed in 2006. Sister wrote I do not think that I will ever forget how I felt as Sisters Justin, Christina, and I got into the car and drove out the driveway for the last time looking back to the few remaining staff.
Sister Shirley returned to Flaxmere in 2006 where she noticed many changes in the makeup of the wider community of Flaxmere since she had left many years ago. The need for employment had seen an increase of people coming particularly from the Pacific Islands of Tonga and Samoa, looking for seasonal work. The need for support with food parcels and other services, to families usually with large numbers of children, had increased dramatically.
One of the joys of her religious life was receiving the Benemerenti Medal in 2016 for services to the Catholic Church. Throughout her life and particularly in her recent decades Shirley lived with gratefulness for all that she had received, the love from her parents, family, friends, and from the sisters of Compassion. In recent years she was grateful for the support from the sister’s resident at Lourdes Place. She made Meri Hōhepa Suzane Aubert’s prayer her own. “Thanks be to God for all He has done and is doing for me.”
Born Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
16.01.1936 17.03.1954 15.09.1956 13.10.2022 Wellington Karori Cemetery