Mary Agnes Roche was born in Gayndah on August 2, 1926. Known amongst family and friends as May, Mary was the fourth of seven children – four girls and three boys. The oldest boy died in infancy. Her father, Patrick, was an Irishman from Dublin who had settled in Gayndah after World War I as a printer. Her mother, Elizabeth (nee McDonnell), was a teacher in the local state school.
From an early age Mary learnt the value of growing up in a loving and faith-committed family. Her parents, she often said, were excellent role models and the family lived simply but happily.
Mary attended the local Catholic school where she first met the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. Recalling those years, Mary said she was always happy at school and admired the sisters very much. She believed the seeds of her vocation were planted at a very early age.
The declaration of war in 1939 affected the family business. At the end of the following year the family moved to Ipswich where opportunities for suitable employment were more available for young people. Mary went as a boarder to Sacred Heart Secondary School, Innisfail, completing her secondary education in 1942.
After teaching at Lourdes Hill College in the Commercial Department, Mary entered Mount St Benedict Novitiate at Pennant Hills on January 6, 1948. She professed her vows on January 6, 1950.
At St Scholastica’s Training College in 1950, Mary’s great love of teaching continued to grow. For the next nine years she taught at St James School, Forest Lodge, where she happily met many young students and learnt to appreciate the support of the teaching staff.
During the next six years Mary was in charge of the then small secondary college, St Patrick’s Campbelltown, where her skill as a teacher and leader, and her support of staff and students, was much appreciated.
In 1966 she was appointed as the founding deputy principal to the newly established College, Mount St Benedict’s, at Pennant Hills. During her eight years in this position she completed her Bachelor of Education with the University of New England, Armidale. She continued at Mount St Benedict’s as principal for another six years.
After a year of renewal in Melbourne at Assumption Institute, Mary returned to Sydney for three years as mistress of students at St Scholastica’s College. From 1984 until the end of 1996, Mary, always the dedicated teacher, taught in schools in Townsville, Wilston and Ayr.
Mary returned to Queensland to the Lourdes Hill community in 1998, after spending a renewal year overseas. She returned to the classroom in her much-loved Lourdes Hill College on a part-time basis. On her retirement in 2007, she acknowledged “The Lord has been good to me. Blessed be the Lord!”
Her love for and dedication to teaching never wavered. After a serious health set-back in 2012, Mary returned as an active volunteer. A keen reader and lover of literature, Mary volunteered to read and review books for students in the Lourdes Hill College Library and she supported students in the support-a-reader program in Sts Peter and Paul’s Primary School. Her hope was always “to give help to students with learning difficulties and to give students hope in God and in their futures”.
In 2014 Mary received a Certificate of Recognition from the Queensland College of Teachers for 30 years as a registered teacher in Queensland.
Mary is survived by three of her seven siblings, Patricia, Danny and Peter. Aunty May’s sense of humour, personal interest in all the family and her gentle words of wisdom and presence at family gatherings will be much missed.
Though small in stature, Mary had a big impact for good on the lives of many during her long life. She is lovingly remembered by her Good Samaritan Sisters, her family and friends and all who knew her. We pray she now enjoys the fullness of life in the presence of her God.