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Emma Martinuzzi

List of deceased Sisters

Date of death 11/06/2010


“I have called you by name, you are my own
You are honoured and I love you”


God called Emma to this life on earth on the 5th of March 1919 in Innisfail, North Queensland. She was nurtured and loved in a family of two sisters and one brother, of which only one member of the family, a sister is still alive today.

Emma completed her primary education at Mount St. Bernard’s Herberton and secondary education at Stuartholme Brisbane.

She responded to God’s call to religious life and entered the postulancy at Villa Maria Hunters Hill on the 21st of December 1944. War was still raging in the Pacific including Papua New Guinea, Bougainville and Solomon Islands. Emma certainly had the opportunity to meet some of the sisters who were evacuated from Bougainville and Solomon Islands.

She entered the Novitiate in Heretaunga New Zealand, on the 22nd of August 1945 where she took the name Catherine. She was professed on the 15th of August 1947.

After a few months of preparation for mission in Sydney she set sail for Bougainville on the ship Malaita in January 1948 and arrived on the northern part of Bougainville (Buka) in February and continued on by mission boat through the rough sea of the west coast of Bougainville to Torokina, which was the government administration headquarters after the war. Our sisters were there at Torokina administering the hospital for the leprosy patients. Emma’s journey did not end here; she had to continue on the mission boat around the southern tip of Bougainville to Turiboiru in Buin where she was missioned to teach. She was the first Australian smsm to go to Bougainville. Already present on the island of Bougainville at that time were sisters from America, France and Germany.

Emma had a long history of presence on Bougainville. Her life as a missionary contained many and various assignments both on Bougainville and in the congregation. To honour Emma and her contribution to this life we tell her story. Her story is God’s Good News to us and we can only marvel at what a great woman she was.
Emma‘s first mission to Bougainville was to teach at a Primary School in Turiboiru in South Bougainville. This was the beginning of her many teaching experiences and commitment in the field of Education. Apart from teaching she held important responsibilities in Education as Head Teacher of schools and Regional Supervisor of schools in the Sovele and Moratona District. This area of Bougainville is mountainous and there are many big rivers to cross. In order to assist the teachers and students, Emma would have walked these mountains and crossed these rivers, as this was the only way to get to the schools that were scattered in the mountains and the valleys.

The welfare of the women has always been a major concern of the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary. After World War 11 the Catholic Church on Bougainville established many primary schools to educate the youth of the province and many of the sisters taught in those schools. Girls were at a disadvantage as they were only able to attend school for three or four years after which they stayed home to help the parents or get married. Some of the sisters saw the need for a special school for girls. The idea was discussed with Bishop Wade who agreed to sponsor the project.

In 1955 Sister Lawrence (Rita Edge) and Emma arrived at Asitavi. Sister Rita Edge took charge of the primary school and Emma the High School for girls. Bishop Wade blessed the school on the 26th of February 1956 and donated some more money to help it get under way.

Because some of the girls wanted to be teachers Emma was asked to start a teacher training course for the following year. Twenty-six students volunteered to do the teachers’ course. It was a very difficult year for both Emma and the students because there was very little financial or moral support. There was a shortage of everything including food. There was just a skeleton syllabus for both high school and teachers’ college. Through the sheer hard work and commitment of Emma and her first students it was a great relief when 26 girls and some CSN sisters received their ‘A’ Certificates at the end of the year.

This first class of students are always remembered in a very special way and so is Sister Emma. They had the courage to do something new. They were the ones who helped to develop one of the best High Schools in the country and I am proud to be one of those students who was educated and taught by the SMSM sisters in St. Mary’s High School, Asitavi.

I personally know three of the lay teachers and the CSN sisters who graduated with this group. One of them Sister Veronica CSN who has since died was my grade 5 teacher at Hantoa Primary School. Sister Jeline and Marlene Giris’ aunt was one of these students.

Emma’s contribution and love for education was recognised by the Government and the people of Papua New Guinea when she was honoured with the Independence Day Medal in 1986.

Emma was a very gifted person. She was a woman who would have done just about anything in life. She was certainly a great pioneer.

* She was Superior of different communities in Bougainville.
* A Sector leader (Regional) of Bougainville in 1972- reappointed for 1 more year in 1975
* A Provincial Councillor from 1964 – 1968. During this time Emma taught at Deer Park.
* A Hospital Administrator and Caterer at Killara in 1977.
* Teacher at the Ministry School at Mabiri from 1979 – mid 1981
* She began the distant education for boys in Mabiri – especially boys who had no opportunity to go to High School. One of these boys is now the new Director of the Mabiri Ministry School, taking over from Sister Kathleen Mercovich. He also studied Theology in Rome.
* Financial Administrator and Co-ordinator of the Apostolic Center in Tubiana.
* She did Catechetical work in Arawa and Panguna –which means she had to travel by bus up the mountains to Panguna, where the big Mining Company was.
* She was a part-time teacher at the Renbo Senta at Koromira – the Center Fr. Herman Woeste SM started to rehabilitate the boys who got themselves in trouble with the law - in Papua New Guinea they are known as raskols.
* While living in Flemington in 1991 she did hospital visitation and tutoring English to refugees.
* In 1993 while in residence in Marist Villa, Killara she continued tutoring English to the Refugees.
* While living in Kedron, Brisbane in 1997 with Sr. Claire O’Brien, Emma did a lot of family visitation; she looked after the child of one family when the parents were at work. The father and mother with the young girl Emma looked after came down from Brisbane for her funeral. She joined the women’s prayer group and met with them in their homes for Scripture sharing and prayer. I myself attended one of these prayer meetings with Emma and the women when I visited Emma there in 1997.
* After Brisbane Emma came down to Sydney and lived in community for some years before she moved into the Marion Court hostel in Strathfield.

What an amazing woman she was. Her life is like a Rainbow and each colour of the rainbow tells us something about her:

Yellow – is her commitment to whatever she did in her life.

Blue – is compassion. Emma was strong and tough. However deep down in her heart she was
a gentle compassionate person that touched the hearts of many people.
After 45 years of religious life Emma learned and practised the gentle art of Tai Chi and studying its philosophy.

Red – is passion - She had a passion for education – to empower others to learn and do something good for themselves. She was good at anything she did. She had a passion to help the disadvantaged and the poor and she made them feel welcomed. Many people on Bougainville loved Emma and respected her for who she was as a person. There was a deep sense of innocence about her – she did not intend to hurt people.

Green - is Emma’s love of life. She lived life to the full not only by helping others but by being true to herself and also by being open to learn more about herself and discover her gifts and talents.

Violet – Emma had a deep hunger and desire for God. In 1969 she began correspondence studies in Faith and Revelation. It came at a time when she began to question her faith in God. After this Emma wrote in her reflection on the Beatitudes that she always took the time for reading and study. In she graduated with a diploma in Spirituality for Leadership from
Randwick Centre for Spirituality.

Indigo – Healing and transformation- the reflection that Emma wrote on the Beatitudes speaks so beautifully and deeply about how God touched her life. In one of the Beatitudes she wrote, “I became more deeply aware of my need for God through a series of letting go and dyings – letting go of my own security, my illusions and my own plans and ideals. I became aware that I cannot be my own Messiah but by emptying self I can make space in me for
God” There was a deep sense of innocence about her – she did not intend to hurt people.

Orange – is enthusiasm. One rarely saw Emma jump up and down with Enthusiasm. Nothing was a big deal to her. She would just get straight into what she had to do – it seems so natural to her. But as Emma aged one could see it more in the sparkles in her eyes when she showed you a picture she had painted or in the smile on her face when she talked about something she
had done or enjoyed during the day. Over the years she learned to share her joys and have fun in what she was doing.

Emma was blessed with a strong healthy body until she had a car accident on Bougainville in December 1989. She became the only patient ever to walk into Westmead Hospital with a broken neck about a month later after the accident. In December 2007 she had benign brain tumour surgery and although she recovered well from it, Emma experienced deep fear at this time.

In April 2008 she was admitted at St. Joachim’s Aged Care Facility after she suffered a clot in her lung and she remained there until her death.

It was a privilege to be with Emma and to know her during her last months on this earth. I was really touched by her simplicity and gentleness, knowing the kind of person she was before. She was well cared for by the staff of St. Joachim and was visited each day by our Sisters. Her condition gradually deteriorated and on the 11th of June, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, Emma’s beloved “came bounding over the mountains and leaping over the hills” (Songs 2:8) to call her home.

Pray for us, Emma, and thank you for being God’s Good News to us. Amen!

Sr Louise Runne smsm