Ellen Dorothy Finnigan was the third of 12 children born to John and Elizabeth (Russell) Finnigan. In later life, Dorothy would recall a happy childhood and adolescence spent in the farming neighbourhood of the Western District of Victoria.
Dorothy began and completed her early education at Toolong State School up to gaining the Merit Certificate. Vivid memories of her preparation for First Communion and Confirmation at Kirkstall and Port Fairy, respectively, remained with her.
The fact that Dorothy and her sister Irene often spoke about their desire to become nuns is the more extraordinary in that they had little knowledge of or contact with the sisters in that area, but were drawn to pray before a picture of St Therese of Lisieux. Their thoughts turned naturally to Carmel, and on visiting the sisters at Port Fairy and asking how they should go about going to Carmel, they were enthusiastically encouraged to “come to us”!
The Provincial Superior of that time, Mother Mary Hilary Lawless, was visiting in nearby Koroit, and Dorothy records that after she and Irene had spoken with her, “we were at Pennant Hills within a fortnight”. On taking up their new life at the novitiate, Irene was given the religious name of Sister Mary Marcia, while Dorothy would be known as Sister Mary Leon.
Dorothy, together with Sister Mary Marcia, made her first profession of vows on January 4, 1940. Her first community appointment was to St Magdala’s Refuge at Buckingham Street, Sydney, at the time a home for elderly ladies, where she ministered for the next six and a half years.
After a short period as assistant infirmarian at St Scholastica’s, two years as supervisor at the Good Samaritan Training Centre at Tempe, and a further two years as supervisor of boarders at St Scholastica’s College, Dorothy began a second period at Tempe, and this time it would last for 27 years.
Her long life has been fruitful in a variety of ministries – care for the elderly, for the less fortunate women she encouraged in those many years at Tempe, as sacristan, cheerful visitor to people at homes and hospitals, and special minister of the Eucharist.
Her joy was great on receiving her appointment to the Coragulac community in 1984, claiming that she would be “born again”. Here she gave generously in the service of her community and towards the many who came to the community and Good Samaritan Centre as guests or seekers.
In 2008, when changed circumstances necessitated the closure of the convent and centre at Coragulac, Dorothy transferred to Marian House, Northcote, where she joined another of her family, Sister Kathleen, already in residence there.
On August 8, 2014 Dorothy moved to Villa Maria Bundoora and joined other sisters of the Good Samaritan at this aged care facility.
Sister Dorothy is survived by her sister Mavis Bourke and her brother Bishop Brian Finnigan, and is remembered with love and gratitude by all her Good Samaritan sisters.