Sister Carmel Bourke (1924 – 2013)

Carmel Bourke SGS

Carmel Bourke SGS

Carmel Josephine Bourke, the fourth of seven children born to May (née Naylon) and Thomas Bourke, was born in Kingaroy on October 3, 1924.

After surviving a serious illness as a toddler, Carmel began her primary education at St Mary’s School, Kingaroy, first with the Sisters of Charity, who withdrew in 1934, and then with the Good Samaritan Sisters who came to Kingaroy that same year.

Carmel completed her secondary education as a boarder at Lourdes Hill College. There she was among the students evacuated to Gayndah in 1942 during the war in the Pacific region and the fear of bombing attacks on Brisbane.

Love of music and a natural aptitude for music has been one of the hallmarks of Carmel’s life. Music education had been a part of her studies from primary school years, and in 1942, her skills in pianoforte resulted in her gaining the A.Mus.A Certificate.

Carmel spent the early months in 1943 with the Good Samaritan Sisters at Coffs Harbour where she taught music at the primary school. On July 2 that same year, she was accepted into the Good Samaritan Novitiate where she began her religious life as Sister Mary Flavia, a name by which she is fondly remembered by many. In that year she also successfully completed her music studies in the Certificate of Associate of Trinity College, London.

Carmel made her first profession of vows on January 6, 1946. She began her ministry as a music teacher in which she continued for the next 24 years, interrupted only by illness and a two-year appointment to the Good Samaritan Training Centre at Arncliffe.

Carmel returned to Arncliffe in 1970 and adapted with energy and enthusiasm to her work with the young women entrusted to her care. She gave herself wholeheartedly to their needs and, during her 12 years of service there, she completed a Welfare Workers’ Certificate Course at Sydney Technical College.

In 1986 she transferred to pastoral ministry in Mount Magnet Catholic community in Central Western Australia. Here she engaged with a compassionate heart working with local families and families in more remote areas until 1994.

After a year’s renewal, at the age of 72, Carmel began part-time ministry as Assistant Parish Associate in the Parish of Nelson Bay. She continued in this ministry for ten years. During these years Carmel also gave much time helping Sister Catherine Norman care for Catherine’s mother. All who knew Carmel admired her gentle and compassionate care to those in need.

To the end of her life, Carmel showed an inner spirit of drive and enthusiasm despite the limitations of age, and continued to take an interest in all that life had to offer. Her joy was to be amongst people with whom she could share her personal gifts of gentleness, kindness, concern and care. This was especially so in her love, interest and involvement with her siblings and her ever-increasing extended family.

Carmel had a great interest in history. She was the author of the Good Samaritan story in Charters Towers, Sisters of the Good Samaritan: They came to the world 1900 -2000, and in Hughenden, North West to Hughenden: Sisters of the Good Samaritan. She was actively involved in setting up the local Historical Society Museum in Mount Magnet. She gained much pleasure from the countless hours spent researching her own extensive family history From Wingrave to Whitfield.

In her final years, Carmel returned to her native Queensland and lived in Ballycara Retirement Village, Scarborough. She continued to involve herself in the life of the community until, becoming increasingly frail, she took up residence in the Ballycara nursing home where she died peacefully in the early hours of Saturday morning, December 21, 2013.