Johanna Smith was born on March 2, 1922 at Port Fairy, Western District of Victoria. She was the last of eight children born to Robert and Mary (nee Quinlan) Smith.
Known as Joan, she completed her primary education at the former Woodford Catholic School, and attended St Ann’s School at Warrnambool (which later became part of Emmanuel College).
In 1940 Joan began studies leading to a Teachers’ Certificate and attended Mercy Teachers’ College at Ascot Vale for one year.
Early in 1941 she sought admission to the Novitiate of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and achieved this goal when she joined the Novitiate on July 2, 1941. To mark this new stage in her life she was given the religious name of Sister Mary Hugh by which name she would be known until the end of her life.
She made her first profession of vows on January 6, 1944. Following a further year of studies for teacher registration at St Scholastica’s Teachers’ College Glebe Point, Sister Hugh spent some 23 years in infants departments in schools in New South Wales and Queensland.
From 1968 to 1970 she was appointed as Administrator of Mater Dei Special School for children with an intellectual disability at Narellan.
It was in 1971 that she took up the ministry of the “motor mission” to Catholic children in State schools, and to their catechists, a ministry she would continue with great energy for over 30 years in the Manly-Warringah region.
In 1979, the Society of St Vincent de Paul not only offered space to Sister Hugh and her band of catechists in their new Brookvale Centre, but made the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) a special work of the Society within the Northern Beaches.
Her close association with the Society from that time evoked in her an appreciation for the work it did and she was also grateful for the continuing support it gave to her. Sister Hugh encouraged and fostered a variety of ministries at the Centre over a number of years. Craft afternoons, which resulted in sales at the local street stall, were a highlight for the Manly-Warringah women. The street stall became a popular meeting place and was patronized by many of the local people.
In 2006, Bishop David Walker of the Diocese of Broken Bay, wrote to Sister Hugh to inform her that in the move to new Diocesan Offices at Pennant Hills, one of the conference rooms in the Caroline Chisholm Centre would be named in her honour. This was in recognition of the “substantial contribution” she had made to the diocese over many years – on the motor mission, as catechist and Co-ordinator of Religious Education in State Schools in the diocese, and a long association with the work of the St Vincent de Paul Society.
After living at Balgowlah for almost 14 years, Sister Hugh retired to Allambie Heights before transferring to Bethany Hostel, Eastwood in August 2012.
Sister Hugh died on July 24, 2013. She is survived by her many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, and remembered with love and affection by her Sisters of the Good Samaritan.