Vale Sister Marie O’Connor SGS

Marie Bridget O’Connor was born at Arncliffe NSW on May 15, 1938, the eldest of four children born to Thomas Joseph and Catherine Cecilia O’Connor (née Kelly). Thomas was a salesman born in Junee; Catherine was born in Woollahra.

Marie began school at Arncliffe, but when her parents purchased a home in their familiar territory of St Brigid’s Marrickville, Marie began a long and treasured association with the parish and school.

Marie’s father died in 1947 and Marie saw her mother embrace widowhood with courage and faith, strongly supported by relatives and friends. Her cousin, Maureen Reynolds, came to live with them with her paralysed mother, Noni. After Noni died, Maureen entered the Good Samaritan Sisters, where her own sister Kathleen had already gone.

Marie’s school days were happy ones, with many young sisters on the staff of a large school contributing to a very friendly atmosphere. For Marie, some of these teachers became lifelong friends and mentors.

As a conscientious student with good grades, Marie passed the NSW Leaving Certificate in 1954. A scholarship to Sydney Teachers’ College was relinquished as Marie chose work in the Registrar General’s Department for three years, which included an enjoyable social life.

On July 2, 1958, Marie entered the Good Samaritan Novitiate at Pennant Hills and was given the name of Sister Mary Thomas Joseph, later returning to her baptismal name. Her first profession of vows was on January 6, 1961, after which Marie continued her teacher education at Glebe. Both then and in future years, Marie loved study. Her first appointment was to Stella Maris, Manly and then to Manuka, Canberra where she began part-time study, graduating with her BA in 1970. By then Marie was teaching at Lourdes Hill College, Brisbane.

Marie always acknowledged the support of community and staff. From 1971 to 1982, Marie was part of the staff of Good Samaritan Teachers’ College in a time of great change. During that time, Marie had an enriching sabbatical year at the National Pastoral Institute, Melbourne in 1973, and in 1979, undertook a three-month study tour on educational outreach to centres in England, Ireland, Europe, USA and Japan. Marie felt very keenly the loss of her mother at the end of 1979.

A new direction came with the closure of the Teachers’ College in 1982. Marie was transferred to Whyalla West, and then as religious education co-ordinator to Gawler and Hamley Bridge (1983-1985). A year in Thornbury, Melbourne was followed with Marie’s strong desire to be involved in parish groups, which she did at East Ivanhoe and West Ivanhoe.

In 1989, Marie gained accreditation as a pastoral associate and then did full-time study for her Bachelor of Theology (1990-1992). This included a hospital-based CPE, after which Marie was employed as a pastoral associate within the parish team at East Bentleigh, Melbourne from 1993 to 1998.

A return to NSW in 1999 saw Marie in a pastoral capacity at Claymore, a housing estate of the city of Campbelltown, followed by a period of renewal in 2000. In 2001 she became a disability support worker while living at Balgowlah, and in February 2003, she returned to Claymore.

From 2005 until 2009 Marie was the home/school liaison person for the school and parish at Windsor, NSW. Again, in 2010, Marie had time for some more personal renewal in her home parish of Marrickville, before joining the Congregational Centre team at Glebe.

Marie was having increased difficulty with mobility when in July 2014 she “retired” to the community at Pennant Hills; the need for more care had Marie moving to Bethany Hostel Eastwood in June 2017. From both these communities, Marie continued her outreach to refugees and asylum seekers (visiting Villawood Detention Centre until late 2017), parish and community groups, family and friends from near and far. Her fidelity and kindness to the other sisters at Bethany Hostel will be gratefully remembered. We will all miss her at Good Samaritan gatherings which she faithfully attended.