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Sr Mary Catharina

List of deceased Sisters

Date of death 12/09/2017

SMSM Sisters


SISTER MARY CATHARINA

Eulyne Lee

1928 - 2017

 

Eulyne, the daughter of George and Irene Lee, was born in Wellington, NZ, on 27 September 1928. She had only one brother and always remained very close to Don and his family. In 1950 she entered the smsm novitiate at Heretaunga becoming Sr Mary Catharina. Professed on 15 August 1952, she remained in New Zealand for the entire time of temporary vows, first helping at the novitiate, then doing some university courses and teacher training followed by one year on the staff St Mary’s College, Auckland. She made perpetual profession on 15 August 1958.

With her qualification from Loreto Hall Teacher Training College, Sr M. Catharina was sent to Tonga in 1960. She taught girls at St Mary’s College, Ma’ufanga, and at St Joseph’s College, Nuku’alofa. At the request of Bishop Rodgers, in 1964 she began the first class for the new St Mary’s High School at Makamaka; its first principal.

At the end of 1965 Catharina returned to New Zealand for Second Novitiate with M. M. Jeanne d’Arc at Heretaunga. She then set out for studies in Rome. Her time at Regina Mundi in the stimulating environment of post-Vatican II Rome for three years from 1966 prepared her not only for her six years as Novice Directress at Heretaunga, but also for the work of the preparatory commission for the 1971 General Chapter. This was the time of aggiornamento and renewal of religious life in the wake of Vatican II. All congregations had to have a Special General Chapter and to rewrite their constitutions. In order to help sisters become familiar with the proposed draft text based on congregation-wide consultation, Catharina visited many of the communities in the South Pacific Province before she took up her responsibilities at Heretaunga. This was also an opportunity to visit families of the novices from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.

 

She served as novice directress from 1970 – 1976. It was a time of change in the Church and she brought her understanding of missionary Marist and religious life to the formation programme. Five of her novices were among the smsm present at her funeral.

Tonga and its people remained dear to her heart, so she was delighted to spend 1977 - 78 teaching in the secondary departments at St Mary’s and St John’s High Schools (now ‘Api Fo’ou College) in Tonga. Back in New Zealand for medical reasons, Catharina began working in pastoral care of Tongans together with a Marist priest in Wellington in 1981. Her enthusiasm for this apostolate was furthered by missiology studies at the Pacific Mission Institute, Turramurra, Sydney. In 1982 Cardinal Williams officially appointed her to the Tongan Chaplaincy in the Archdiocese.

While in Rome as a member of the 1971 General Chapter Preparatory Commission, Catharina heard Fr J. Coste ask how we smsm are connected to the Society of Mary. He emphasized the extremely strong connection: the first efforts uniting the laity to the mission of the Society of Mary. Catharina was always deeply aware of the bond between Marist laity and smsm. The Heretaunga Third Order of Mary group met regularly at the novitiate when she was novice directress, then, from the early 1980s until the mid-90s Catharina worked with the Marist priest directors of the lay groups, participating in meetings, weekend retreats and recollection days, and producing the monthly leaflets and audio tapes for Marist groups throughout NZ. One of the directors noted her eye for detail, clever suggestions at meetings, warm words for the lowly, and smile for all. This contact with other Marists was a joy for her - sharing the spirit of Mary and seeing Mary’s influence in the lives of so many.

In the professed sisters’ community at Heretaunga in 1993 Catharina began her voluntary presence among the terminally ill and their families at Te Omanga Hospice. Over a period of ten years she listened to many residents tell the story of their lives which she then wrote up in booklet form for their families. This was a source of great comfort for individuals and their relatives. Sometimes there were surprises as families learned things they didn’t know about their loved one. Sister was grateful to God for the way these biographies seemed to help bring a beautiful conclusion to the lives of a number of men and women.

In 2004 Catharina moved into a unit at Shona McFarlane Retirement Village near the Avalon community. She became involved in a number of activities in the village, but especially in weekly communion service for Catholic residents and an ecumenical prayer group. Five years later she returned to live once more in the Avalon community while keeping up her ties with the Village.

In April 2017 Catharina’s failing health necessitated a move to St Joseph’s Home of Compassion, Silverstream. Her health continued to deteriorate. On 12 September, the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, our patronal feastday, the sisters visited her in the morning. Catharina was alert and welcoming. She attended Mass in the late afternoon and joined the residents in the dining room for her meal. The nurse settled her for the night, and having checked on her at 9 pm, the nurse returned at 9.30 to find that Catharina had died peacefully.

The vigil for her was held in the chapel of the Home of Compassion where one month earlier we had gathered to farewell Sr M. Romanus. Next day, on Marian feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, her funeral at the Avalon parish church of St Martin de Porres was followed by burial in the Taita cemetery.

Catharina rejoiced in beauty and in creation. She loved Mary, the Marist Family, and the Congregation; she would often talk about the sisters she had met and worked with. The spirit of JOY marked her being and her life as she lived the Marist spirit to the full.

We can imagine the joy in the heart of this smsm as she hears Jesus say to his mother: “Woman, this is your daughter,” and then to Catharina herself: “This is your mother.” (Jn 19:26-27, gospel for 15 September).

 

Sister Patricia Leamy, smsm