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Sister Mary Prisca Treacher

List of Deceased Sisters

Date of Death 23/08/2022

Sister Mary PriscaTreacher smsm

Born: 13/02/1925

Professed: 15/08/1950

Died: 23/08/2022

Frances Treacher was born in Kaitaia in the extreme north of New Zealand on the 13th February 1925, the third of the four children of Percy and Elsie Teacher. Her parents had emigrated from England in 1921. The children were brought up in the Anglican faith.  

 When Frances was 11, her whole family were baptized as Catholics.  This was a big thing for the young girl, because it meant she lost some of her friends, and had to stop participating in the Anglican Youth Group and the Brownies.  The family attended daily Mass at the nearby church.

The family had close connections with Maori families in Kaitaia, since Frances’s father employed some Maoris at the hotel which he ran. When her father was conscripted for World War II, her mother sold the hotel and the family moved to Ahipara, 9 miles away. There the Maori people generously brought them food, as they remembered the kindness of her parents. Because of this good relationship with Maori, when Sr M Prisca’s mother died her body was taken to the Marae for a night, as a sign of respect, and many Maoris attended her funeral Mass.

 Joyce, Frances’ older sister went to the Mater Hospital in Auckland to do her nursing studies; this encouraged her to take up nursing as well. One of her classmates at Mater was Lorraine Coleman (Sister M Colman) who always fondly referred to Sr M. Prisca as “Billy”.

Frances found out about the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary through the Leprosy Trust Board, a charity to which her father used to give donations. While studying nursing at the Mater, Frances met Sr Lucy Mailangi from Tonga, and also Sr M. Borgia, a New Zealander who had come from Fiji for medical reasons. She also met five visiting smsm who had been evacuated from the Solomons because of the Japanese invasions. Their joyful spirit made a deep impression on her.

When Frances graduated from her nursing studies in 1947, she went home for a few months before entering the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary on 2 February 1948. As a novice she was given the name Sister Mary Prisca. After her profession at Heretaunga on August 15, 1950, Sr M Prisca was missioned straight away to work at the hospital in Waitangi on the Chatham Islands.

Before being sent in 1954 to the leprosy hospital for Hansen’s disease patients at Makogai in Fiji she spent two years on the novitiate staff – firstly at Heretaunga and then at Wahroonga. In 1962 she did her maternity and midwifery training at St Helens Hospital, Christchurch, followed by another period of time in the Chatham Islands, as matron, where she lived out her special gift of bonding deeply with the new-born babies and their mothers.

When the new structure of provinces was introduced throughout the congregation, Sr M Prisca was the first assistant-provincial for Mother. M. Rachel, and at the same time Superior of the busy community at Aurora Terrace, Wellington.

After Sister served another six years in the Chathams, the chief executive for the North Canterbury Hospital Board wrote to M.M. Rachel of their disappointment in losing such an able colleague who did magnificent work at the Hospital, and for the people of the islands who held her in such high regard.

After her Second Novitiate in Lexington, USA, Sr M Prisca returned in 1974 to St Elizabeth’s Home in Suva until it closed the following year. She continued nursing leprosy patients at P.J. Twomey Hospital, Tamavua, where she was Matron, while also serving as a Regional Councillor.  S.M Prisca was known for her smile and calm presence and was at home and happy among the patients.   In the 1990’s she was the community coordinator of the large St Mary’s community at Suva Point. She was kind and motherly to the sisters, hard working in spite of the fierce tropical heat and her age. Prisca loved Fiji and Fiji loved Prisca.

Upon her return to New Zealand Prisca was employed for 10 years as nurse at the Mangere Refugee Centre, the Government Immigration hostel. During this time more than 10,000 refugees passed through the Centre. In a delightful evening of songs and dances from Asia and the Middle East, various groups paid her tribute when she was leaving. Everyone appreciated her concern for their health and wellbeing during their first bewildering days in a new country. In her own words she said: “I really loved this work.”

In the 1990s Prisca also gave service at the Generalate, where her quiet presence was very much appreciated. She loved the opportunities to visit the church of her patron, St Prisca.

Prisca was reserved, an introvert, a no-nonsense person, a woman of quiet dignity, simplicity, and prayerfulness, hardworking and practical, at times melancholic.  She loved being in the outdoors. Whatever community she was in, she loved her flower garden and vegetable patch. She appreciated beauty and colour, and had a huge collection of photos of flowers.

When, because of her health, Prisca had to leave Fiji, it was very difficult for her. She would have preferred to die there. Back in New Zealand at Marian Rest Home in Mission Bay, she enjoyed being outdoors in the beautiful grounds, with the flowers and sea breeze -   moving around on her walker.  When Mission Bay closed and she was needing hospital care, Sr M. Prisca moved to Elizabeth Knox Home and Hospital. Although increasingly deaf and blind, she always had a special “Thank you for coming,” to anyone who visited her,

Sr M. Prisca had no living relations in New Zealand. A small group gathered to give thanks for her life during the Requiem Mass celebrated by Fr Chris Skinner, sm, at St Mary’s Chapel, Ponsonby, on August 26th. She is buried with our sisters in the Waikaraka Cemetery, Onehunga.

 Vinaka vakalevu, dear Sr. M Prisca, good and faithful servant. You were an inspiration as a living model of a true Missionary, Marist and Religious, given joyfully to God for the Kingdom in the spirit of Mary. 


Sister Patricia Leamy, smsm