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Mary de Paul (Annie Kelleher)

List of deceased Sisters

Date of death 03/01/2014

SISTER MARY DE PAUL
Annie Madeleine KELLEHER
1925 - 2014

On 1 August 1925 a daughter was born to Catherine and Edward Kelleher in Port Chalmers, in the southern New Zealand city of Dunedin. Two weeks later she was baptised Annie Madeleine. Annie had one sister and three brothers. Her nieces and nephews greatly loved their “Aunty Nancy”. They speak affectionately of the way she played cricket and other sports with them, of the laughs they had together. In the rare times Sister spoke of her family in later years it was always with a quiet but obvious love.

After completing primary school at St Joseph’s, the local parish school, and gaining her matriculation at King Edward Technical College, she worked as a secretary at Otago University. While there she completed some units towards a degree in history that she finished many years later at Victoria University in Wellington.

Sensing that God was calling her to mission, she set out for Belgium, seeking an apostolic missionary congregation. Because this meant being able to communicate in French, she decided not to enter there. She spent some time in England, eventually returning to New Zealand where she entered the SMSM novitiate at Heretaunga and received the name of Sister Mary de Paul. At the age of 35 she made profession together with Sr Patricia Stowers on 8 December 1960. Six years later she took perpetual vows at Savalalo in Samoa.

Mary de Paul’s first mission was to Wahroonga in Sydney. At the time this house was the SMSM regional house for Australia, a formation centre for young sisters doing studies, a mission centre, and altarbreads were baked and distributed from there. Her office experience and skills found many outlets.

Sister was missioned to Samoa in 1962. She spent 29 years as a teacher in these beautiful Pacific islands: 21 in what was then known as Western Samoa, and 8 in American Samoa. Her competence as an educator grew in both primary and secondary levels at a number of schools: Savalalo, Leauva’a, Moamoa, Lepua, and St Mary’s College, Vaimoso, where she served twice as principal.

Mary de Paul’s skills were not limited to history and commercial subjects; she enjoyed sports. A formidable hockey player in her younger days, she ensured that all students could participate in sports. One year at Savalalo she and Sr Bernadette Manning pored over lists of the 400 Standard 3 to Form 2 girls to make sure that every pupil could be in a race. Another time at Vaimoso when some girls were enthusiastic about hurdling and the College had none, these two actually constructed eight practice hurdles.

Students of Sister Mary de Paul tell of how strict she was – yet they sensed her love. She took a pride in them, wanting nothing but their best. In class, her eyes darted everywhere; this was not the place to show the twinkle in her eyes that we smsm associate with her. A patient, persevering and thorough teacher, she would follow up any work she set. Although of diminutive stature, she had a presence that could hold the attention of any school assembly.

Mary de Paul had a great spirit of independence. People in Samoa still carry the image of her, striding out to town, often in the hot sun. She didn’t want a ride. There were many times when she preferred to do a task herself rather than have the girls or another person help her. This spirit of independence was evident throughout her life. Even when her eyesight was diminishing, she never complained of the growing blindness, but found ways to work with what she had. She never wanted to be a nuisance, and found it hard to accept help rather than be the one to help… an independent person, yet one who needed people.

She was a joy to be with in community, and generous in always wanting to do the difficult tasks. Her dry quirky sense of humour delighted many. She found many incidents entertaining, and was able to retell them with relish, resulting in much laughter - often at her own expense.

On her final return to New Zealand in 2000 Mary de Paul was missioned to the community in Whangarei. There she found a number of ways to be involved in the life of the community, the parish, Marian Heights Retirement Village next door, and the wider Whangarei community. Sister volunteered at Age Concern, was a visitor to people living alone and others in need of company, and was active in the parish seniors’ lunch-and-cards afternoon each month. She was also involved in the distribution of Meals on Wheels.

After four active years in Whangarei, she moved to Shona Macfarlane Village in Avalon. Gradually her eyesight deteriorated and, in 2007, she made the final but difficult transition to St Catherine’s Home in the grounds of the Mercy Sisters’ convent in Auckland. Two other smsm were there: Srs M. Gennaro and Antoinette, and de Paul greatly appreciated the time they spent reading to her.

Always vitally interested in congregation, church and world events, she had a wide range of interests and loved to discuss matters. When Sr M. Emerentiana visited her before Christmas, she delighted in talking about Pope Francis and the impact he is making.

Gratefulness was so characteristic of Sister. She constantly expressed her gratitude – to those who cared for her, to those who visited her in later years, and above all, gratitude to God and Mary for her vocation. The great love she had for the congregation throughout her life is illustrated in an incident towards the end of 2013 when she received an invitation to an smsm Golden Jubilee. She wanted residents at St Catherine’s told about the occasion, convinced that “It’s things like this that we should let others know about!” Often she said how happy she was to be an smsm.

Sister M. de Paul had a stroke on 31 December 2013 and was taken to Auckland City Hospital where she died on 3 January 2014.

With good reason the theme for her funeral at the Chapel of St Mary’s Convent on January 7 was “It is good to give thanks to the Lord!” We smsm, her family and Sister’s former pupils who could be present all said an enthusiastic “YES” to that.

Sister Patricia Leamy, smsm