Sister Mary Justin Simonds (1920 – 2016)

Justin Simonds SGS

Justin Simonds SGS

“I will sing and make music for the Lord, make music for the Lord, my God” was not only a Psalm that Sister Mary Justin would have prayed, but also one that seems to epitomise her life.

At eight years of age she began tuition in pianoforte and by the age of 17 had gained her Licentiate from Trinity College, London.

Later she went on to acquire a fellowship in musical performance. Her remarkable skills, however, did not remain on the purely academic or performance level, but were used in sharing her love and appreciation of “making music”, not only with her Sisters of the Good Samaritan but also with the many students who were fortunate to know her as teacher and mentor.

She takes her place beside the many gifted Good Samaritan Sisters who played a significant role in encouraging a love of music and artistry.

A highlight in her own journey through music was to be invited in 1982 to study at the Royal School of Church Music at Addington Palace, near London. She would recall in later years this enriching experience among “excellent and eminent lecturers”. There were not only lectures, but an invitation to take tea with the then Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth, together with a select few among other participants in the course of study.

Born on March 18, 1920 and named Mary Patricia, she was the first child of Anne Kearins and James Simonds, and was joined two years later by her only sibling Anne, known in the family as Nancie.

Mary, with her sister, began her early education with the Poor Clare Sisters at Waverley. In 1934 she was enrolled as a boarder at St Scholastica’s College, Glebe Point and from this College gained her Intermediate and Leaving Certificates.

She would later return to St Scholastica’s in different roles as a Good Samaritan sister: in 1946 as head of St Scholastica’s College Music Department, in 1976 as superior of the community, and finally in 2002 as a valued member of the community and congregational centre team.

Mary joined the novitiate of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan on July 2, 1939 and was given the religious name of Sister Mary Justin. On January 6, 1942 she made her first profession of vows before her uncle Justin Simonds, then the Archbishop of Hobart.

There followed 34 years in which she was engaged in teaching music. For many more years after that, her musical skills and knowledge were called into frequent use for accompaniment, formation in liturgy, liturgical celebrations and general community enjoyment.

At the festival performed in the Sydney Town Hall, celebrating the 1957 centenary of the founding of the Good Samaritan congregation, Justin joined the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in providing the musical accompaniment. In those days of religious anonymity, however, she was concealed on stage behind a large palm tree!

In 1970 she felt honoured to receive an invitation to be sacristan for the two Papal Masses celebrated by Pope Paul VI when in Sydney.

In 1996 Justin, together with Sister Elizabeth McGinness, pioneered a new ministry when they went to live in an independent living unit at Dalton Gardens, Ryde, where they were also able to care for two Good Samaritan Sisters in the nursing home on that site, as well as offering hospitality and friendship to other residents in the complex.

Returning to St Scholastica’s in 2002, Justin remained there until 2014 when she moved to St Catherine’s Aged Care, Bethany Hostel, Eastwood.

Sister Justin Simonds died on February 2, 2016. She is survived by her sister Nancie, her nieces Anne and Rosemary, nephew Peter, and their families, and is remembered with love and gratitude by all her Good Samaritan Sisters.