We lovingly remember the following women who devoted their lives to the service of the sick poor as Sisters of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor.
Sister Eileen Harrison
Eileen Harrison was born at Neville, near Bathurst, NSW, in 1896 and was educated by the Sisters of Mercy at Mount St Joseph’s school, Carcoar. Eileen knew Eileen O’Connor and after a lapse of some time from her first request, joined Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor on 28 March 1926. Eileen dedicated herself to service within Our Lady’s Home, a modern day Martha. She took particular and meticulous care with all she did. Despite being afflicted with a paralysed arm, she frequently accomplished more and to a higher standard than many able-bodied people. This included hanging the many loads of washing generated at Our Lady’s Home. She died on 11 February 1981.
Sister Lucy Mackay
Lucy Mackay was born at St James in northern Victoria in 1902 and was educated at the local convent school. A cousin of co-founder, Father Edward McGrath, she joined Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor on 25 March 1927. She became the congregation’s Novice Mistress, at one stage supervising the formation of 12 novices. In 1959, she became a foundation member of Our Lady’s Home at New Farm, Brisbane. Lucy is remembered for her participation in concerts, story telling and dancing. She once dressed up as potential novice and presented herself at the front door of Our Lady’s Home to the amusement of all. She died on 13 July 1973.
Sister Amy O’Connor
Educated at Loreto Convent, Kirribilli, NSW, Amy O’Connor joined Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor on 15 April 1932. Meticulous in presentation and personality, she was equally gracious to her patients on the district and to visitors at Our Lady’s Home. She also played the violin but too often lacked the time to practise because of ‘the work’. Amy died on 30 September 1977.
Sister Thelma Delander
Margaret (Thelma) Delander was born at Moree, NSW, in 1896 and educated at Loreto Convent, Normanhurst. She joined Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor on 8 September 1933. Thellie had great people skills and provided invaluable support for the community’s leaders, Cissie McLaughlin and May McGahey. She died on 21 March 1978.
Sister Irene Madrid
Irene (Rene) Madrid was born at Mount Molloy, Queensland, in 1905. She joined Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor on 16 January 1939, having travelled from Cairns to Sydney by boat. Tiny in stature but determined in nature, she proved herself to be an excellent nurse who was devoted to ‘the work’. Together with Sisters May McGahey and Lucy Mackay, Rene was a Foundation Member of Our Lady’s Home at New Farm, Brisbane, in 1959. She later returned to Coogee and looked after Father Edward McGrath during his final years. She died on 23 August 1995.
Sister Agnes (Peggy) Shead
Agnes (Peggy) Shead was born at Kyabram, Victoria, in 1915. She joined Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor on 28 August 1940. From a large family, Peggy had a great sense of country hospitality and was a highly accomplished cook. She had a very compassionate, pragmatic and practical personality, which gave rise to her affectionate nickname of ‘Bossy’. She was particularly good at finding solutions for the most desperate of situations. Peggy was a great supporter of the Stella Maris seafarers apostolate in Merewether. She died on 30 January 2000.
Sister Marie Purcell
Marie ‘Aunty’ Purcell was born at Werris Creek, NSW, in 1916. Educated at Santa Sabina Convent, Strathfield, NSW, she joined Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor on 8 May 1941. A very gentle soul, her intellect and admirable ability to think outside the square allowed new ideas to be incorporated into the community. Marie had a prodigious memory and was a great storyteller, especially about the history of the society. She died on 27 March 2000.
Sister Nancy Carr
Nancy Carr was born at Darlinghurst, NSW, in 1922 and educated at St Aidan’s convent school at Maroubra, NSW. She joined Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor on 13 January 1952. A real character with a strong sense of local identity, she initiated and organised the Brown Nurses welfare system as it exists today. She was particularly adept on the phone and had great rapport with callers. Nancy suffered from curvature of the spine and was often in excruciating pain. She died on 14 May 1997.
Sister Kathleen Flannery
Kathleen Flannery was born in Boorowa, NSW, in 1929 and educated at Mercy Convent, Goulburn, NSW. She joined Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor on 7 October 1953. A country girl with great character, she taught professional nursing skills to novices. She was particularly good in working with men within the Alcoholics Anonymous fraternity. She was generous, almost to a fault, and encouraged participation by everyone in everything. Kathleen had a very quick wit and was gifted in writing, poetry and improvisations. She died on 11 June 1981.
Sister Marie Carey
Marie Carey was born at Hill End, Brisbane, in 1925. Her primary schooling was at Saint Francis of Assisi and she completed her Junior Certificate at All Hallows School. Marie worked as a secretary for various companies, including the Criminal Investigation Branch in Brisbane. Her mother’s death in 1944 left her as the main carer for the young family, a responsibility she accepted willingly and generously. Marie entered the Society of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor in 1956 and gave varied and generous service in the years that followed. She was a Councillor on leadership teams, Secretary-General for some of those teams and Assistant Congregational Leader between 1993 and 1999. Marie was one of the early sisters to serve at Merewether and was Superior at Coogee for a number of years. She returned to Coogee because of failing health and died on 31 December 2008.
Sister Dorothy (Pat) Berry
Dorothy (Pat) Berry had a late but joyful vocation to Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor. Born in Sydney in 1929, she married Jack Berry in June 1955 and together they raised three children. After Jack’s death, Pat helped the Sisters at Coogee to care for the elderly members of the society. She asked to be allowed to enter the congregation and was accepted on 19 January 1979. In the years that followed, Pat had the distinction of serving with the Coogee, New Farm and Merewether ministries. She lived out her final years at Our Lady’s Home, Coogee, while still maintaining contact with her children and grandchildren. Pat died suddenly on 3 January 2008.