Sheila Mavis Ryan was born in Brisbane on July 15, 1926, the first of three children born to James and Edith (nee Culhane) Ryan.
When Sheila was three years old the family, which by then included her younger sister Mary, moved to Toowoomba hoping that the change of climate would improve her father’s health. However, when her father died in late 1931, Sheila’s family moved back to Brisbane to live with her maternal grandparents at Alderley. Shortly after their return Sheila’s much-loved brother, James (Jim) was born.
Subsequently, Sheila commenced school at Our Lady of the Assumption School at Enoggera where she began a relationship with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, a relationship for which she was always grateful. She maintained that, in spite of the loss of her father at an early age, she was blessed to have a “very happy and contented childhood – and good health”.
After attending All Hallows’ College where, in 1941, she gained her Junior Certificate, Sheila was happily employed in the Queensland Public Service for over eight years. However, in 1951, following her successful application for admission to the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Sheila commenced a new phase in her life at Pennant Hills where she was given the name Sister Mary Imelda. Later, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, she returned to her baptismal name, Sheila.
Following her profession as a Sister of the Good Samaritan in 1954 and her teacher training at St Scholastica’s, Sheila spent a number of years teaching in parish primary schools and as a teacher of commercial subjects in secondary schools.
In 1969 she was appointed general secretary of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, a position she held for 12 years. At that time, the position included responsibility for the congregational archives and in that role Sheila earned a reputation for competence, dependability and discretion.
Further calls to fill major secretarial positions followed. She was secretary to Bishop William Murray in Wollongong; principal’s secretary at Sacred Heart College, Adelaide; and she served on the Bishops’ Committee for Justice, Development and Peace in Melbourne, before returning to Wollongong, to take on again, at Bishop Murray’s request, the position of secretary.
The same precision and care she applied in her secretarial roles was evident in her craft work, her cooking, her embroidery and even in her approach to Bingo which she played with great determination and commitment.
In 1997 Sheila returned to Brisbane where she was an active member of the Wilston community and a loyal parish member. She was delighted to be able to have regular contact with her family and to meet new family members, enjoying their achievements and interests.
In 2010 Sheila moved to Marycrest at Kangaroo Point where she became part of the faith community attending daily Mass and participating in Lent and Advent programs and other religious discussion groups that were offered. She was also a regular at Thursday Bingo.
However, as Sheila became more frail, she was less involved in the activities that were offered but continued to meet with residents for daily afternoon tea in the common room on floor two.
After a brief illness Sheila died peacefully in the late afternoon on September 21, 2017. Sheila is survived by her brother Jim and her sister in law, Beatrice. She is remembered with love and gratitude by her Good Samaritan Sisters, her extended family and friends.