Sister Mary Julian McKenna (1919 – 2014)

Julian McKenna SGS

Julian McKenna SGS

Maureen Agnes McKenna was born at North Carlton on May 11, 1919, the second of nine children of John and Susan (née Sexton) McKenna.

Later in life she would recall that as a child she remembered a friend commenting on the beauty of her father’s rose garden. Her father replied that his choicest flowers were inside the house – referring to his nine children!

John McKenna died at the age of 43 years, leaving Maureen’s mother, assisted by grandparents and loving uncles, to help in the raising of the young family.

Maureen received her primary school education at St Margaret Mary’s, North Brunswick, and her secondary schooling at St Brigid’s, North Fitzroy and Santa Maria College, Northcote.

Following her years at school, Maureen spent three years in employment, mainly at the head office of the English, Scottish and Australian (now ANZ) Bank. Maureen delayed a long cherished desire to enter religious life for some time to help and support her mother in her care and upbringing of the younger members of the family.

On November 21, 1938 she was received into the novitiate of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan at Pennant Hills, New South Wales and given the religious name of Sister Mary Julian. She made her first profession of vows on May 24, 1941, and after a year spent in teacher preparation, taught in classrooms in Manly, Canberra and Port Pirie for a further six years.

Just one year after making her perpetual profession as a Sister of the Good Samaritan, in 1948 she responded to the call to go to Nagasaki to assist in the rehabilitation of the people of that city following the destructive results of the atomic bombing at the end of the Second World War.

It was on October 15, 1948 that she boarded the “Changte” to begin the month-long journey to Japan. On the very afternoon of their arrival in Kure Harbour on November 16, 1948, the six sisters of the first group of Good Samaritans to arrive in Japan were taken to Hiroshima, the first city ravaged by the atomic bomb, where they saw “a scene never to be forgotten”.

Sister Mary Julian’s long years in Japan included her initial ministry of care of the people of Nagasaki, later as teacher of English and music at Seiwa Joshi Gakuin in Sasebo, and as Director of Novices in Nara.

In November 1970, she accepted an appointment as superior of a community to be established in Tokyo to conduct a hostel for university students, where she ministered until 1986.

Julian’s long years in Japan were punctuated with welcome times for home leave in Australia, but always with an equally joyful return to her ministry in Japan. A prolific letter writer, her detailed accounts of life and mission in Japan would be an historian’s delight. It was not until 1994 that she bade farewell to her sisters, many friends and associates in Japan to return to Australia. She always retained an abiding love for the people of Japan and for their country.

Back in Melbourne, she first joined the sisters at Santa Maria, Northcote, before assisting in 1997 in setting up a new community in North Balwyn. Moving to Marian House in January 2009, Julian remained there until she transferred to Mercy Place, East Melbourne and then Mercy Place, Parkville.

Julian died on October 19, 2014. She is survived by her brother, Brother Raphael SSS (Frank), and her sisters, Mary McKeown and Christina, also a Sister of the Good Samaritan. Julian is remembered with love and gratitude by all her Good Samaritan Sisters.