Sister of the Good Samaritan, devoted family member, musician, composer and missionary are just some of the gifts and commitments that come to mind when recalling the life of Sister Lola Junge. She reflected that in her fourth year of high school she began to understand just how much the gift of music meant to her: “I think I blossomed, and so did my sense of the spiritual”.
Lola Margaret Mary Junge was born in Kandos, NSW on January 8, 1926, to William and Adelaide (nee McMichan) Junge. She was the second of five children: Graham, Lola, Lindsay, Lawrence and Maureen. William’s forebears were from Germany. His family migrated from Dunedin, New Zealand, and settled in Kandos during World War I. William was a Presbyterian and converted to Catholicism. Adelaide, a Catholic, had Jewish ancestry. Born in Oatley, Sydney, her family – a very musical one – later moved to the country.
Lola was educated by the Good Samaritan Sisters at Kandos and at St Scholastica’s, Glebe. Despite the effects of The Depression, Lola’s parents supported the Sisters in Kandos by having Lola taught music by them. The foundation of her passion for music had begun.
Later, under the tutelage of Sister Pascal Cullen in her fourth year of high school, this passion took off. She gained her A.Mus.A that year and topped the state in music for the Leaving Certificate. From then on, Lola continued to build on her musical talents.
While teaching Latin and English at St Christopher’s, Canberra, she did her Associate and Licentiate Diplomas in piano from Trinity College, London. Lola then took up a position as assistant music teacher at St Mary’s, Wollongong as well as studying singing, and school music teaching.
On July 2, 1950 Lola entered the Good Samaritan Sisters’ Novitiate and was given the name of Sister Maria Gratia. The writings of Thomas Merton had a strong influence on her at this young age and continued to do so throughout her life. She felt an affinity with his Benedictinism.
After her first profession of vows on January 7, 1953, she moved to St Scholastica’s, Glebe, to teach music in both the College and the Teachers’ College. She continued violin studies until a transfer to Northcote in 1957. During this time, she became aware that her music and her spirituality were “becoming irrevocably entwined”.
In 1960 Lola was asked to go to Japan “where my horizons expanded rapidly”. After attending Language School, Lola turned her focus to teaching English and music at Seiwa High School in Sasebo from 1963 to 1967. She became quite proficient in Japanese and able to act as an interpreter for Japanese visitors on her return to Australia at the end of 1971.
After further study at Sydney Conservatorium from 1972 to 1974, Lola held positions as lecturer at Wollongong Conservatorium and as music consultant for the Catholic Education Office.
Music remained Lola’s passion as she ministered in various Sydney communities. Throughout her life, Lola composed a number of choral pieces for female voices, as well as a number of antiphons for the liturgy. Many of the latter are still being used today by the Congregation.
Lola moved into St Catherine’s Aged Care Services at Eastwood in August 2011 and a year later was moved into high care there. She died peacefully on the morning of September 15, 2016. Lola will be sadly missed by her brother Lawrence and wife Mary, and her large extended family of nieces, nephews and their families, as well as by her Good Samaritan family.