Sister of the Good Samaritan, devoted family member, missioner, writer, historian and archivist are just some of the gifts and commitments that come to mind when one recalls the memory of Sister Mary Xavier Compton. Until recent years, her lively interest and enthusiasm was undiminished, and her activities limited only by advancing years. She turned 98 only a few days ago.
Born at Leichhardt on December 27, 1915, Margaret Ellen Compton shared her entry into this world with her twin sister Lilias. They were preceded by two older brothers, born to Sydney Compton and Alma Nash, and would be followed by three more brothers, two of whom were also twins.
For the first three years of her school life, Margaret attended Leichhardt Public School, transferring in 1924 to St Fiacre’s School, Leichhardt, conducted by the Sisters of St Joseph.
Margaret’s first contact with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan came when she and Lilias were enrolled in St Joseph’s School, Rozelle, to begin their secondary education. This stage of her early education was completed at St Scholastica’s College where she gained her Leaving Certificate in 1933.
On November 21, 1935 a long-held wish to live the religious life was achieved when she joined the Novitiate of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan at Pennant Hills, beginning this new phase of her life journey as Sister Mary Xavier. After her profession of vows on May 24, 1938, and a short period of primary school teaching, Xavier gained her Certificate of Teaching at St Scholastica’s Teachers’ College.
She began her secondary school teaching at St Scholastica’s Glebe Point and then moved to St Brigid’s College Marrickville.
In 1950 she was assigned to the newly established community at Nagasaki, Japan. Following two years spent mainly at language school, in 1952 Xavier was one of the founding members of the community at Sasebo where the Sisters had opened the Seiwa Joshi Gakuin School for middle and senior education for girls. Here she spent the next 12 years on mission until her return to Australia and to ministry at Stella Maris College Manly and again at St Brigid’s College Marrickville.
An inveterate writer and indomitable researcher, Xavier’s work mainly focussed on the life of John Bede Polding and on the congregation he founded. Xavier’s great admiration for Polding and deep love for the Good Samaritan congregation shine through the pages of the many articles, university theses, and booklets that came from her pen. She was a keen contributor and a driving force to the major undertaking of the publication (1994-1998) of the three volumes of The Letters of John Bede Polding.
Xavier’s desire to return to Japan was realised in 1977 when she joined the community at Tokyo where she was engaged in further historical research and writing, but also in spending periods at Sasebo and Nara taking the place of sisters who had returned to Australia for renewal.
Back in Australia in 1979, Xavier continued her beloved research through her work in particular at St Mary’s Cathedral Archives for the next 26 years. She had a great love for St Scholastica’s community, where she returned to live in 2002.
Sister Xavier Compton died on January 1, 2014.