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Sister Mary Brendan Ward (Phyllis Jean Ward)

List of Deceased Sisters

Date of Death 30/06/2023

Born:               07 September 1924             

Professed:      10 February 1948

Died:               30 June 2023


Confident in Mary’s help we seek to serve like her,

humbly and discreetly,

without imposing, in the desire that Christ be revealed.

Const.  20


Phyllis Jean was the first daughter of David and Nell (Phyllis) Ward, born in Ruapuke, Waikato, New Zealand, 17 September 1924. She was known as Jean. Less than 2 years later, her sister, Cecil Violet, was born.  Jean and Cecil were part of a bigger tight knit “Ward” community in which their faith was nurtured. 

Quite isolated in idyllic surroundings – beautiful hills, beach, trees, flowers, horses, sheep, cats, dog–Jean grew up loving and caring for nature. We can imagine her delight and knowing smile as she read Laudato Si. If every picture is worth a thousand words then Jean’s collection spoke volumes. She had so many photos – not so much of herself, but perhaps 50% were of horses then the sheep and beauties of nature.

Growing up Jean and Cecil invented their own fun. Walking or riding to school with the children of the area was a time to recite little verses or songs. We heard how Jean with her ever present wit brought a lot of laughter to these adventures. 

In 1945 Jean left home for the SMSM novitiate in Heretaunga. She made first profession as Sr Mary Brendan on 10 February 1948.  In her 75 years of Profession Mary Brendan set out and set out again in response to meet the needs at the time. Her first assignment was to Killara, Australia where the SMSM staffed the Tuberculosis Hospital.  Mary Brendan went to Australia three times giving service in the laundry, kitchen, sewing or hospitality. 

The Chatham Islands is the place we (SMSM today) associate with Mary Brendan – she was one of the smsm pioneers, who went in 1949 at the request of the Bishop to staff the Public (Government) Hospital in the Chatham Is. She loved her 7 years there. Ruapuke had prepared her for this lifestyle. In her mind it wasn’t an isolated place. Photos and stories of her, once again on horseback, connecting with the people … caring in many ways for the sick and others in the small Chatham Island community.

Then she went to Fiji –once again available for service. She was in Suva, Naililili, Sigatoka and Labasa. She loved the people of Fiji. So many Sisters hold loving memories of M Brendan and her gentle, kind presence in Fiji. 

In New Zealand she was a much appreciated member in communities in Auckland and Wellington – prayerful, humble, caring, joyful, generous, never wasting anything – Mary Brendan wherever she was, was always at home and Sisters and people were ‘at home’ with her.

By the 1970’s, back in Ruapuke her parents were ill and alone. Mary Brendan’s sister, Cecil, had entered the Carmelites not long after Jean had left home. For a few years the two daughters took leave from their respective convents to care for the parents but eventually Cecil left Carmel to stay home full time. After some years the parents and Cecil died. 

All through Mary Brendan’s long and faithful life she had been a wonderful example of a dedicated missionary, Marist and religious. Her prayerful quiet manner, integrity, ready wit and interest in everyone, has been an inspiration.

In July 2017 Mary Brendan went into care at St Joseph’s Home of Compassion, Silverstream and in September 2022 to Aroha Care Home in Taita. She who had made many people feel welcome was welcomed into these two places. She died peacefully and quietly at 9pm on 30 June 2023.

Fittingly the Gospel of the Visitation was proclaimed at her Requiem Mass in the St Elizabeth Chapel at SS Peter and Paul’s, Lower Hutt. The celebrant was Fr Patrick Bridgman the Parish Priest. Several different congregations were present at her Requiem. She is buried at the Taita Cemetery. 


Pauline Gresham smsm

July 2023