July 2019

A treasured privilege over 100 years

Monica with her niece Vonnie Douse and cousin Dr Michael Lanigan.

Sister Monica Nugent SGS celebrated her 100th birthday last month recounting her many years of service in Japan as a Good Samaritan Sister.

BY The Good Oil

Sister Monica Nugent SGS celebrated her 100th birthday at a special morning tea in Brisbane surrounded by family members, many Good Samaritan Sisters, some who had travelled from Sydney, former students and friends.

Monica, who was born on 17 June 1919, hails from New Farm in Brisbane. She is the only daughter and fourth child of parents, Lily and Francis Nugent.

Monica, 1950

Monica completed her primary education at St Stephen’s, before going to All Hallows High School, both in Brisbane. She joined the Good Samaritan Sisters in 1943 and completed her teacher training at St Scholastica’s Teachers’ College, Glebe. Monica began her teaching career at St Mary’s Cohuna and St Bede’s Braidwood before leaving for Japan in 1950.

Monica and Sr Xavier Compton leaving for Japan in 1950.

There, Monica joined the community in Nagasaki, undertaking language study and ministering at the local hospital. After completing her Japanese teacher registration in 1952 in Seiwa High School in Sasebo, Japan Monica taught at Seiwa Joshi Gakuin and Sakurano Seibo Kindergarten in Sasebo over a 36 year period with intervals where she carried out her role as Superior, was engaged in parish work, or had time for renewal and home visits. She also furthered her studies, completing the General Certificate Education Exam (Honours) in 1964 and Japanese Honours in 1969 both at London University.

A number of guests paid tribute to Monica during her celebration held at Holy Spirit Home where Monica now lives.

Monica with Cherry Blossom Kindergarten in 1954.

Masako Mori and Catherine Birkett, both former Sisters of the Good Samaritan who had lived in Japan with Monica, spoke of the gift she had been to the Japanese people with whom she lived and worked.

Sister Margaret Ann Kelly SGS, who attended the celebration, said that “Masako and Catherine mentioned that the people still spoke of Monica with love,” and that “the Japanese people had not forgotten her and often asked after her”.

Sister Maria Roberts SGS, who was taught by Monica as a young student, said she was “a breath of fresh air” when she came to teach at her hometown of Braidwood.

Monica in Sasebo in 1986

Maria said she remembered the other Sisters were a bit older and serious, and the children were thrilled to have this laughing young Sister who was ready to play with them in the playground and who endeared herself by her kindness. The Roberts family have kept in touch with Monica over the years.

Vonnie Douse, Monica’s niece, remembered the long years Monica was away in Japan and the joy of the family when she came home to Brisbane. The members of this close-knit family are all grateful for the years they have had Monica living nearby.

Margaret Ann said, for her, the highlight of the celebration was watching and as Monica stood and spoke with such fluency, humour and grace.

At Monica’s morning tea celebration. Photo: Maureen Schick

“She thanked everyone graciously, and then spoke in great detail and without a note, telling her sacred story of the Good Samaritan mission in Japan.”

“She described the difficulties and the joys of the early days when the learning of the difficult language took place and how they grew to love the Japanese people, and slowly found ways where they could be of service to them,” says Margaret Ann.

“Monica spoke of the Good Sams’ desire to teach and open a school, which at first seemed difficult to achieve. However, through ways that seemed miraculous, they eventually acquired a property and were able to have their dream become a reality.”

During her speech, Monica shared a story about the visit of a young student, Hiro Kageyama, who later became the first Japanese Sister of the Good Samaritan in 1957.

“Hiro was such a help to them with the language and setting up Seiwa College,” says Margaret Ann.

“With every word you could see Monica’s love of those early days in Japan was so apparent and being part of it, is still for her a treasured privilege.”

Sister Marcia Magill SGS who organised the celebration with the help of Anne of the Hilltop Café, and Claire, a Good Samaritan primary carer, said it was a great celebration.

“The different streams of the celebration – input from the family, Good Sams, friends, Holy Spirit friends and staff, and particularly Monica’s Japanese experience – all flowed together well,” Marcia said.

“There were of course some unexpected surprises – the beautifully framed Papal Blessing on parchment, the canvas of significant photos and the album of these to keep, among other gifts – all of which delighted Monica,” she said.

“Most importantly, Monica who likes ‘no fuss’ was delighted with her day.”

The Good Oil

‘The Good Oil’, the free, monthly e-journal of the Good Samaritan Sisters, publishes news, feature and opinion articles and reflective content which aims to nourish the spirit, stimulate thinking and encourage reflection and dialogue about contemporary issues from a Good Samaritan perspective.

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