Elizabeth Leone Collins, known in Religious Life for many years as Sister Perpetua, and to her family as Leone, she returned to her baptismal name Leone later in life. Her parents were Ellen (nee O’Rourke) and Cornelius Collins, who welcomed Leone as their second child and first daughter Leone, having a brother Graeme and a younger sister Marie, who both survive her.
Leone spent 61 years ministering to the people of the Kimberley prior to her retiring to Subiaco Convent, where she felt very much at home and enjoyed the company of the big number of Sisters. She was very professionally cared for as her health gradually failed. We commend Sisters and staff for their loving gentleness, patience and compassion.
Leone, joined the Community for Mass and dinner on 2nd of November, had a comfortable night, in the morning of the 3rd walked to and from the bathroom, then laid on the bed fully conscious and within five minutes peacefully took her last breath, she was so happy to be ‘Going Home’. Some days later her remains were transferred to Broome for Funeral Mass and burial. Sister Teresa Joyce travelled to Broome to represent the Subiaco Community accompanying Sister Isobel as Regional Leader. Sisters, Mary Kiely, Una O’Loughlin, Ann McGlinn, and Dolores Tunnecliffe were also present to support the Kimberley Sisters.
We acknowledge with gratitude the Kimberley Sisters and in particular Patricia Rhatigan for the wonderful way she kept the Broome tradition, by organizing the eight nights of Rosary which were held in the grounds of Taiji Road where Sister Leone lived since 1989 prior to her coming to Subiaco.
A Vigil was held in the Bernardine Room on the evening of the funeral. It was a Para liturgical model, allowing for the eight Rosary to be incorporated and especially a time for sharing of memories by the large number of people who attended. This was followed by a social gathering in the outer grounds in the cool of the evening, where people continued to share further stories and memories.
On Friday 13th November, Bishop Chris Saunders, Bishop of the Diocese of Broome, was the principal Celebrant of the Mass for Sister Leone, with co-celebrants Monsignor Paul and Father Marcelo.
The Eulogy which spoke of aspects of Leone’s life, was delivered by Sister Mary Kiely stating that Leone left school at the age of fifteen to join the work force as a messenger girl. They were the days of manual typewriters and before TV and computers. She moved along into the workforce and became part of early Catholic Radio Programs before making a huge decision aged twenty to ‘become a nun and nurse the lepers’. She arrived in Broome March 1953, to join the Sisters of St John of God family and become immersed in the broader Kimberley family. Leone made her first temporary vows in Broome in 1955 and her final vows in Derby in 1958.
After six years with the Sisters, having experienced nursing and teaching, Leone choose to train as a teacher. Thus began almost thirty years of classroom teaching with principalship roles in Lombadina, Beagle Bay, Broome and Derby. She was always innovative and looking for new ways to link the school and community to try new things. She welcomed the new formed Catholic Education Office of WA in 1972 visioning that this might lead to lessening the poverty of the Kimberley Catholic schools. Leone took the opportunity to start pre primary in the Kimberley at St Mary’s.
Her support for Aboriginal Teaching Assistants in employment and training was highlighted with the setting up of the Signadou College (Canberra) Teacher Training program at Holy Rosary School. Annette O’Connor and Verna Lockyer graduated in 1985 blazing the trail for others to follow. Another major initiative was the program to address hearing impairment at a time when effects on education of Otitis Media were little known or addressed in the early 1980s.
In 1989 Leone set out on a new direction that embraced a new focus with many initiatives. Working with families, individuals, counselling, empowerment, social justice and prisoners were a focus, while she continued to support education in all its forms.
Using the old Convent buildings as a base she started St John’s Centre which later transformed into Centacare Kimberley with Leone as the first Director. During these years she acquired a Diploma and Bachelor of Counselling using these skills to help many individuals and families.
It seems fitting to summarise Leone’s life in her own words written by Leone in 2001.
Every person is unique, every person is of value. Every person has the right to realize their potential and experience wholeness. The wondrous effects of this richness flows from one person to another. The right of this person is to receive the richness flowing from others. The grace to give and receive is special. To give to others is a gift, to receive from others is also a gift, at times a difficult step for the generous, yet necessary to allow personal growth in the other. How rich is life when such interaction takes place in families, in communities, and in society.
At the conclusion of Mass and Committal Prayers, four Aboriginal Teaching Assistants and two others as Pall Bearers, leave the Cathedral following the Bishop and priests in leading the procession to proceed to the local Cemetery where Leone was laid to rest. The Bishop Saunders prayed the prayers at the graveside. Two local ladies led the final Rosary while the grave was closed, and the flower laid.
We can all look back on Leone’ long and blessed life, we can take for ourselves a model of spirituality, prayerfulness, love of Mary the mother of Jesus, her example of dedication and application to ministry.
May you rest in peace, Leone.