Sisters of St John of God Western Australia
Sister Marie Smith 20 November 2013
Not long after the birth of their daughter Marie, her parents moved from County Kildare to Edenderry, County Offaly. There Marie was educated at primary and secondary level by Sisters of St John of God. The record of Marie’s life is full of movements and achievements , These are far too many to be enumerated here today. My reflection on what would be best to share on this occasion of her funeral Mass led me to find Marie’s own words.
A brief autobiographic booklet Marie prepared herself for her family and friends on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of her Profession of Vows. I am going to quote Marie’s own words to tell something of her life.
Of her vocation to life as a Sister of St John of God, Marie wrote
“….there was one definite moment when I heard ‘the call’
It was a day in late July 1952, following Mass in our Parish Church in Edenderry…….In the moments after Communion, I knew with utter conviction that religious life would be my life’s choice.
The weeks that followed were on a pathway that would lead me to the Novitiate at Ballinamore and to becoming a Sister of St John of God.”
Of the years 1955-58 she wrote:
“I had barely settled into the life at Subiaco when I was told to go to Ballarat in Victoria. I viewed this as another challenge. While Sisters
Catherine [Connick] and Kilian [Stafford] were determined to make me a first class nurse, Mother Perpetua [Downes] was insistent I continue my education in another field. ….My time in Ballarat was full of interest and all sorts of learning.”
Marie’s working life following profession of final vows was to occur in pathology laboratories, she wrote of that era thus:
“Working in the laboratories required much new learning. While Pathology was not to be my life-long occupation it was to influence several aspects of my later life. The people who journeyed with me at that time are still very important in my life.”
Marie tells briefly of her journey from 1974:
After fifteen years working in Pathology I discerned my need for a more people-focused ministry. Consequently I returned to nursing in 1974.
In 1981 the opportunity arose for me to work in a community-based research project which dealt with suffering in terminal illness. Concurrent with this involvement I commenced post-graduate studies at Curtin University.
Marie spoke of her second assignment to Ballarat in the years 1987-1994:
“This was to be one of the most exciting and productive times of my life.
It was amazing how I was able to draw on all the learning and experiences of previous years to cope with the challenges that “.presented by.my role there .”
There I had the privilege of working with some amazing people…..I was most gratified to see projects progress from the dream phase of completion.”
In the late 1980s Marie served on what was called the Steering Committee for the establishment of what is now St John of God Healthcare.
Of the later twenty years of life Marie spoke of her transition to another way of being in ministry. She wrote:
“Yet, on reflection it is evident that there was a constant thread of continuity – that of trying to find that best way of serving others through the opportunities available to me.
Following study in Chicago in 1996, Marie established a counselling service in Joondalup where she served until 2007. Since then Marie has continued counselling on a part-time basis, as well as served as facilitator of Ovarian Cancer Support Group and served as a Board Member for the umbrella organisation for Support Groups.
In 2005 Marie wrote:
“The time has come for me to consider ‘How much more time for active work remains?’ Now is a time when I appreciate a greater need, and value more, time for prayer and reflection.”
Marie’s words have given us a glimpse into the progress of her life’s activities. Yet they do not tell of her many gifts and talents, her delight in nature, her love of art and beauty. Not mentioned is Marie’s dedication and perseverance; nor her courage in the face of her own human suffering, nor her generosity and friendships – especially toward those of who shared her journey in life.
Marie’s intense and restless searchings for knowledge and deeper ways of prayer have now come to their goal, Eternal Life in God.
In her Jubilee reflection Marie wrote of her parents
“It is good to know, through faith that they are in Eternal life joining me in this celebration.”
It is now good for us to remember in Faith that Marie is with us in this celebration as she enters into Eternal Life.
Rest in Peace Marie.