Patricia Mary Henschke was born at Maitland on Yorke Peninsula to John and Susan Henschke (nee Malone).
The Henschke family had a long tradition of service to the community and to the Catholic Church, a tradition that Sr Patricia continued. Amongst her father’s family of 11 children, her uncle Francis Henschke entered the priesthood and went on to become the Bishop of Wagga Wagga, two uncles were priests with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, another two entered that Order later to serve as Brothers and two aunts were Sisters of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Her parents purchased Yappala sheep station in the Flinders Ranges where their first child Cecelia was born in 1919, but ill health forced John to sell the property in 1920 and move to Arthurton on the Yorke Peninsula where the family ran the general store and post office.
Patricia, the sixth of seven children, was educated at Arthurton School. When she was 13, her two older brothers enlisted to serve in World War II and shortly after her father died. It was difficult times for the family, but it brought them closer together.
Patricia completed her secondary education at Cabra Dominican College. She entered the Dominican Order and after obtaining her Teaching diploma taught at various Dominican schools.
During her early years in the novitiate, she contracted polio and was a patient in Northfield Infectious Diseases unit for more than a year.
As a teacher at Cabra, where some of her nieces did their schooling, Sr Patricia (or Aunty Tish) had a bit of a fearsome reputation and was referred to, out of earshot, as ‘Stretch’ due to her towering height.
In 1961 Sr Patricia was given the opportunity to travel to Rome where she studied for three years at Regina Mundi College, graduating with a diploma of Theology, a great honour for her.
During her time in Rome, the Second Vatican Council was being held and she had regular lunch meetings with Bishop Henschke. She was also there at the time of the death of Pope John XXIII and was in St Peter’s Square to see the announcement of the election of Pope Paul VI.
On her return, she was posted to the Dominican novitiate at Wahroonga in Sydney. While there she undertook further studies, gaining a diploma of clinical Pastoral Education at the Royal North Shore Hospital. This qualified her for hospital chaplaincy and family counselling, skills she put to good use in her later pastoral work at St Dominic’s Centre at Glenelg.
While in Sydney Bishop Henschke took sick in 1968 and she stayed with him for the days before his death.
In 1986 Sr Patricia was asked by Father John Chambers to establish a meeting place for the older parishioners and residents of Glenelg. This was the genesis of St Dominic’s Centre which served many people so well over the years.
Amongst the attendees in the early years were her brother John and his wife Doreen, and her sisters Cecelia, Lucy, Margaret and sister-in-law Josie. Sr Patricia loved having them nearby and she assisted John in his endeavours to establish links between the three Henschke brothers who migrated to SA in the 1840s and 1850s, which led to the formation of the Henschke Heritage Group and the publication in 1995 of the Henschke family history.
She became a loved member of the wider community in the 32 years she was involved in St Dominic’s. For much of this time she lived at or near Glenelg. Two years ago Sr Patricia decided it was the right time to move back to Cabra to live with the Dominican community, while continuing her work at St Dominic’s.
Last September she celebrated the 70th anniversary of her profession. Despite taking sick in 2017, she continued her work until the end of the year when the doctors determined the seriousness of her condition. That served as a great opportunity for her cousins to join with the Sisters to provide care and company. She remained at peace, accepting and brave to the end.
Taken from the eulogy by Dominic HenschkeJump to next article