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Sister Kathleen Mercovich

List of deceased Sisters

Date of death 09/06/2015

SMSM SistersSISTER KATHLEEN MERCOVICH, smsm  

24.11.1935 – 09.06.2015

Kathleen Theresa Mercovich was born in Ararat, Victoria, the middle child of her parents Gerard Mercovich  and May, nee Matheson, on November 24th 1935. Her younger brother, Paul, is a priest in the Ballarat Diocese and her older sister Margaret  married Gerard Galvin and has three children.  Kathleen’s father Gerard, was a mental health professional, specializing in work with the criminally insane. He died when Kathleen was in the novitiate in 1962. 

On leaving school, Kathleen trained as a Primary School teacher, with a speciality in education for children with special needs. She joined the National Catholic Girls Movement, which was a precursor to the Young Catholic Workers, and for several years was involved in the leadership along with another future SMSM, Aileen Lanigan. Together they travelled around Australia animating the members of this lay Catholic apostolate until, in May 1960, Kathleen became a postulant with the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary at the novitiate located in Watsonia, Victoria. Being an accomplished and competent driver, Kathleen, who received the name of Sister Mary Simon Peter at reception into the novitiate, was much in demand, especially when the novitiate re-located to the outskirts of the country town of Woodend. Since there was no chaplain available, the professed sisters and novices had to be driven to the parish church each morning for Mass- sun, hail, rain and snow!

Sister Kathleen Mercovich was professed as a Missionary Sister of the Society of Mary on December 8th, 1962 at Casa Maria, Woodend. Immediately after profession, Kathleen was assigned to the altar bread department at Wahroonga, as well as being one of the drivers for the community. In 1964, she returned to Melbourne and taught for three years at Deer Park, a poor, multi-cultural parish under the Marist Fathers. In January of 1967, Sister Mary Simon Peter left for Bougainville, or as it was known then, the North Solomons. This began a true love affair with Bougainville which was to remain until the day she died. Her ministry in Bougainville included teaching at Monoitu and Asitavi, supervising teachers and schools throughout south and central Bougainville and catechetical work at Tunuru and Mabiri. She attended the East Asia Pastoral Institute in the Philippines in 1975 and was part of the team to set up a vibrant Catechist Training Centre in Mabiri on her return. Kathleen and Father Henk Kronenberg, later to become Bishop of Bougainville, travelled around Bougainville giving retreats to the teachers and nurses working within the diocese.

From time to time, Kathleen was recalled to Australia to work in administration, Vocation Awareness and Mission Animation but always she returned to Bougainville. An exception was in 1989 when Kathleen was asked to be a member of the first SMSM team to go to the Western Province of Papua New Guinea.  Boset was located in the middle of the largest swamp in Papua New Guinea  and presented not only challenges in moving around the area but also in dealing with a  multi-national mining company  which was radically impacting on the lives and livelihood of the local people. Kathleen remained there for the next five years.

 When her mother became ill in 1994, Kathleen returned to Australia.  She spent six years caring for her mother and reconnecting with her family, but also worked as the Catholic Missions director for the Diocese of Ballarat. After her mother’s death in March 2000, Kathleen was missioned once again to Bougainville and returned to work at the Ministri Skul at Mabiri with Sister Noreen Dunne in 2001. Kathleen was to remain at Mabiri for eleven years until ill health forced her to return to Australia in December 2011.

Kathleen was passionate about the preparation of lay leaders and catechists as she saw them as the backbone of the Church in Bougainville.

The last three years were a road to Calvary for Kathleen, who was diagnosed with blood cancer in March 2012. She did not sit down to await death, but gave herself tirelessly to work with the St Vincent de Paul Society, Villawood Detention Centre, work with refugees and parish ministry as her health allowed her.  Kathleen resided in community at Strathfield until the last weeks when she moved from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to the palliative care unit at Concord, closer to Strathfield. This valiant woman, Kathleen, was more than ready to go home to her God when she died on Tuesday, June 9th, 2015. She asked that all the sisters and her friends be told she loved them very much, said her goodbyes to her much loved family who spent the last week with her, and was delighted to speak personally with both Sister Louise Runne in Bougainville and Sister Jeline Giris in Cameroon. She delighted to see these two Bougainvillean SMSM being ready to take on the unknown and move out of their comfort zone.

On the last Sunday before her death, Kathleen had a deep experience of the presence of Mary as a loving and protective Mother who wrapped her in her mantle.  She had  great peace and joy knowing that all would be well and that this relationship with Mary was not dependent on ‘devotions’ but faithfulness to being who she , Kathleen, was called to be – a Missionary, Marist and Religious. In her last weeks with us, Kathleen also felt that she was immersed in God and on the last morning, could hardly wait to surrender completely into God’s embrace.

Sister Kathleen was a wonderful missionary. Her love for the people of Bougainville, the poor and the marginalised came from a big heart.  She was a strong woman in so many ways, given to strong convictions, a great sense of humour, but also humble in the face of her weakness. We give thanks for her life, her love and witness, her faithfulness to prayer and acceptance of those less fortunate in this world.  May she rest in peace.

 “Life to me, of course, is Christ but then death would bring me something more…” Phil 1:21

Sisters Janice Ruff, Noreen Dunne and Gail Colquhoun, smsm