Those who visited Sister Catherine in her latter years at Villa Maria Bundoora would comment on her ready, ever radiant, smile. In this, she was simply expressing her usual friendliness – a product of her generous nature.
Catherine Mary was the only daughter of Edward and Margaret (Brennan) Slattery, and the older sister to two brothers, Ed and Jack. Born at North Brunswick on July 8, 1908, Catherine spent the early years of her life there, including her education by the Sisters of Mercy at St Margaret Mary’s School up to gaining her Merit Certificate.
Following a family move to Armadale, Catherine spent two further years of study at Hassett’s Business College in Prahran, where she gained a notable proficiency in typing and shorthand skills. She joined the Commonwealth Public Service in the Land Tax Department in 1925 where she worked for almost 20 years.
Her desire to respond to the call to enter religious life meant a difficult decision and separation for Catherine and her mother, now widowed. However, it was finally with her mother’s blessing that she made the journey to the Good Samaritan Novitiate, Pennant Hills, which she joined on July 2, 1944 at the age of 36.
The initial months of formation held its difficulties for Catherine and her companions, but one of that group would later record that Catherine’s sense of humour, her maturity and wisdom “were a source of strength and encouragement to us”.
While she did not envision herself as a teacher, Catherine gained her Certificate of Teaching at St Scholastica’s Teachers’ College in 1947. Her first appointment, however, was to the Good Samaritan Training Centre at St Magdalen’s, Arncliffe, where for the eight years of her ministry there, she had a lively interest in the welfare of the socially disadvantaged women at the Centre.
The transition to classroom teaching, while not an easy one, was taken up with the same spirit of obedience and determination. This ministry took her to classrooms in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. At St Joseph’s School, Kerang, she also joined the roles of principal of the school and superior of the local community of sisters. Her last school assignment was as library assistant at St Monica’s College, Epping.
Her latter years have been spent in community at Santa Maria Convent and later at Marian House. It was from Marian House that failing health necessitated a transfer to Villa Maria, Bundoora, in June 2004. It was here, at the age of 105 years that she died peacefully on August 11, 2013.
During her long life in the school of the Lord’s service, Catherine lived and ministered in the following places:
1948 – Good Samaritan Training Centre, Tempe
1956 – Primary Teacher, St Joseph’s Rozelle
1958 – Primary Teacher, St Kieran’s Manly Vale
1959 – Primary Teacher, St Joseph’s Narrabeen
1961 – Primary Teacher, St Michael’s Nowra
1963 – Primary Teacher, Christ the King, Ballara Park
1966 – Primary Teacher, St Mark’s Port Pirie
1969 – Secondary Teacher, St Raphael’s West Preston
1970 – Primary Principal, St Joseph’s Kerang
1976 – Library Assistant, St Monica’s Epping
1980 – Community, Northcote
1992 – Marian House, Community Northcote
2004 – Villa Maria, Bundoora