Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.
Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.
We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.
We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.
- Published: Wednesday, 29 December 2010 12:41
The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart are a sister congregation to both the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Since July, five of the Sisters in the Australian Province have died. The sisters have a presence in Australia only in Melbourne, but are in New Britain. They were founded to work in this mission in 1900.
SISTER GABRIEL SMYTH MSC (MARY SMYTH)
First Profession: 03.02.1948
Sr. Gabrielle was the youngest of four children and the only daughter. She was born and grew up in the north eastern Victorian town of Chiltern where the family ran the local hotel and where her faith and gifts of love of people, hospitality and welcome grew and were nurtured. No matter where Sr. Gabrielle travelled Chiltern always remained to her, “God’s Own Country”, and her deep love and care for family never waned.
Sr. Gabrielle entered the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart shortly after the end of World War II in 1946. After the novitiate she studied at University, gained her Teacher’s Certificate and taught at St. Pius X School in West Heidelberg. In 1958 she was appointed Novice Directress and in 1963 was appointed as the first Australian Province Leader. While during these years she led the Province in the aftermath of Vatican II with her faith, human understanding, wisdom, warmth, compassion and hospitality and encouraged others to step out with trust and confidence, she was still able to share her God-given gifts with the wider community. She was especially valued for her great contribution to leadership with the conference of Religious Major Superiors in Australia.
Sr. Gabrielle’s hospitality was seen in a special way at Mary’s Mount where she offered respite for priests and others who were finding the journey difficult. She understood the heart of the priest, particularly those alone and in need of support.
In 1972 she was elected First Assistant to the Superior General in Rome where she lived for the next six years. This gave her the opportunity to experience the wider congregation, to visit and to offer wisdom, support and guidance to the different Provinces. Sr. Gabrielle had a great love for the Congregation, and its mission was always close to her heart. Any sister who came from another country was always taken into her warm embrace.
On her return to Australia in 1979 she lived at East Melbourne and became very involved in Ecumenical and Inter Faith affairs and the area of Justice and Peace which she maintained right up until just before her death. Following a Sabbatical year in 1985/86 she lived at Sacred Heart Moreland and then moved to Pascoe Vale where she and her good friend Sr. Brendan continued to immerse themselves into the neighbourhood, parish and affairs of the local community. At the time of her death she was living in Kew where again she was always a welcoming presence.
SISTER BRIGID KISSANE MSC (MARGARET KISSANE)
First Profession: 02.02.1954
Sr. Brigid, the youngest of five children was born and grew up in suburban Melbourne.
In 1953 Sr. Brigid entered the MSC Sisters and in the years to come she was called to fulfil a variety of roles. This was always done with a willingness and readiness to go and do whatever God was asking of her. Following her novitiate in 1955, Sr. Brigid began her teaching years at St. Pius X in West Heidelberg with a class of close to 100 children. In 1963 she was appointed Novice Directress and held this position at Mary’s Mount Balwyn for the next eight years.
Sr. Brigid’s faithfulness to God and her vocation in life, her sense of gratitude, her loyalty to her family and her friends and her sense of purpose in life were an inspiration to us all.
Sr. Brigid’s secretarial skills and her reliability and mindfulness served so many over the next years. In this role she worked at Mary’s Grange Aged Care Facility in Hobart, Tasmania, at St. Pius X School in West Heidelberg where she was a constant support to the Principal and School Staff, and then later was appointed Provincial Secretary.
In later years Sr. Brigid was the Provincial Archivist and as always took care and pride in what she did. In this time too, she became a Home Tutor, teaching English to migrants to Australia. This was not only a teaching role for her for she befriended these people and helped ease their entry into a new country and culture.
Sr. Brigid moved to St. Catherine’s Hostel in 2005 as her health began to fail, and she immersed herself into the life there, brought joy to the other residents with her gift of music and was ever grateful for the care she received.
SISTER ANITA NEUMANN MSC (ANNA MARIA NEUMANN)
First Profession: 3.2.1950
Sr. Anita was born in Germany in Rahms in the Rhine Valley in 1925 and was one of five children.
Before joining the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1948 Sr. Anita had learnt domestic skills, cooking and baking which prepared her so well for what would be asked of her in the years ahead.
In 1949 along with 16 other young sisters from Germany and filled with hope, expectation and missionary zeal, she arrived in Australia where she completed her Novitiate. Then for many years, through her wonderful culinary skills she served our sisters, visitors and all who came to the door at Mary’s Mount or the various houses wherever she was. No one ever left Sr. Anita with empty hands, they were always gifted with some of her delicious creations. She was filled with generosity of spirit, and hospitality was her special gift. This was all done with her unique flair and such love and care.
In 1971 Anita went to Mary’s Grange Aged Care Facility in Tasmania where apart from her duties there she developed her love of handicraft. Back in Melbourne in the 1980’s she shared her skills in this area with a wide range of people from young children in the classroom, to young mothers and our more senior citizens. It was when living in the suburb of Kealba that she was able to set up her own handicraft workshop and offer not only lessons to the ladies of the Parish and beyond, but also her friendship, companionship and her welcoming and kind heart. She made wonderful creations using leather, stones, wood, plaster and she crocheted and tatted. Each of us along with so many others were the recipients of her creations whether it be for feast days, birthdays or some significant occasion.
In later years Anita’s cooking and craftwork lessened but she continued to take Holy Communion to the older and frailer members of the parish community of St. Paul’s, Kealba for as long as she could. She found this such a privilege and did it with such devotion and love.
At the beginning of this year because of her failing health she had to move from her beloved home in Kealba to Kew, but her time there was short lived as she soon needed 24 hour care and so went to Mary MacKillop Aged Care Facility where she was for just three months.
SISTER JOHN DURGAN MSC (PATRICIA DURGAN)
First Profession: 26.1.1955
Sr. John, the second child born into a family of four sisters and one brother, grew up in Coburg, not far from Sacred Heart Hospital, Moreland
After completing her schooling, Sr. John began her training as a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital. However, serious illness prevented her from completing her training. When she had recovered from her illness, she did training to prepare her for office work and was eventually employed in the Pay Office of the Victorian Railways.
At some point in this time she realized that she was being called to give her life to God. She entered the M.S.C. Novitiate at Mary’s Mount, in 1953 with a great desire to be a missionary.
Following the Novitiate, Sr. John’s first appointment was to Mena House Hospital. She recalled with amusement how she travelled to her ‘first mission’ sitting on the top of the clean laundry and beside the vegetables, in the back of the hospital laundry truck!
Her desire to be a nurse was finally fulfilled a couple of years later when she completed her General Training and Midwifery at Sacred Heart Hospital. Sr. John was an excellent nurse and worked at Mena House and Mary’s Grange as well as at Sacred Heart Hospital. At Mary’s Grange in Tasmania, while she was Community Leader, she had the experience of having to evacuate all the elderly residents of the Aged Care Facility when it was threatened by a dangerous bush fire.
In 1974, the Australian Province decided to send a Sister to work among the Australian Aboriginal people. Sr. John was chosen. She discovered the work being done among the poor urban Aboriginal people in St.Vincent’s Parish in Redfern, Sydney. The local parish priest, Fr. Ted Kennedy had given over his presbytery as a place for those who needed a roof over their heads. Sr. John was attracted to what was happening there and the way in which the dignity of the people was respected, but she learnt that she could not herself choose to begin work there. She needed to be invited by the Aboriginal people. This they did through one of their respected elders, Shirley Smith.
So began a mission that filled the rest of Sr. John’s life and which she dearly loved. She visited families, cared for sick children, transported bereaved families to funerals in the country areas, visited prisons, and acted as an advocate for those before the Court.
At the same time Sr. John became involved in the Peace and Justice movement. She joined protests when she was convinced that a voice must be raised against war and injustice. This took great courage. In 2006, Sr. John returned to Melbourne due to some health needs but she continued in her love and concern for her Aboriginal friends.
In the last few years she suffered failing health. This was not an easy time for her. Her loving manner, her gratitude and her quick sense of humour endeared her to those who cared for at Mary MacKillop Aged Care Centre.
SISTER JOSEPHINE LAVERY MSC
First Profession: 3.2.1950
Sr. Josephine was the youngest of a family of 11 children born in Ballarat, Victoria and the third daughter to enter religious life.
Sr. Josephine completed her General Nursing Training at Ballarat Base Hospital and then worked at St. John of God Hospital Ballarat before meeting the MSC Sisters at Mena House Hospital East Melbourne, whom she was to join in 1948. On completion of her Novitiate at Mary’s Mount, Sr. Josephine spent the following years both at Sacred Heart Hospital Moreland and Mena House Hospital where she both nursed and studied, updating her nursing qualifications.
From then on she was appointed to roles in Nursing Leadership. She was appointed as Matron at Holy Cross Hospital Geelong and oversaw the transition and move from the old to the new hospital and the smooth operating of the new beginnings. It was then back to Sacred Heart Hospital in charge of midwifery where she lovingly assisted at the birth of many, many babies. She was then confronted again with all that goes with a new building when she was appointed to Mary’s Grange Nursing Home and Hostel in Hobart, Tasmania. Josephine loved her time in Hobart and in her own words wrote “I spent many happy hours there along with the hard work of the Home. I could see the boats coming up the Derwent River from our dining room. I went bushwalking often with other Religious who were in Hobart. It was such a beautiful place. I loved my years in Tasmania, The Apple Isle.”
Wherever she was and whatever her role, always Sr. Josephine’s sense of welcome, her warmth, as a wonderful provider of hospitality, her quick wit and sense of humour and her openness to people shone through. These qualities made her just the right person, along with Sr. Theresa Cresp to be appointed to the Hospitality Ministry at our house in Balwyn which began in 1989. They made it a place of warmth and welcome to many, welcoming visitors from many walks of life for holidays, recuperation, retreat etc. At the same time Sr. Josephine was also involved in the life of the local parish.
Sr. Josephine spent the last five and a half years at MacKillop Aged Care. She loved being there and was much loved in return. The sadness of the sisters, staff and fellow residents at Sr. Josephine’s death speaks for itself.