On Monday May 27 a large gathering of Dominican sisters, family and friends came together in the Cabra Chapel to honour and farewell Cathryn Vowles OP.
Cathryn was the youngest child of Kathleen and Thomas Vowles and sister of Brian, Pauline (Leonard), Von (Hondow), Josie (Fehervari) and Bob. Sadly for Tom and his young children, Kathleen died two weeks after Cathryn’s birth, a tragic loss for the family. Cathryn later spoke of the lifelong connections forged with her extended Vowles and O’Connor families as various members rallied to try to support as well as they could.
Life was busy on the farm which ran cattle and sheep and grew grain. Tom was an enterprising man well known in the Loxton district for his ingenuity. He was also a committed and prominent member of the Catholic community in which he was later honoured with a knighthood for his services to the Church.
Cathryn attended the local one teacher school in Wanbi, driven in the sulky by Bob until she was old enough to drive herself, probably in third grade! She loved farm life, the Mallee and all creatures great and small, especially if they happened to be cats.
Cathryn boarded at Cabra for her secondary education and enjoyed the companionship of the boarders. She also greatly admired the community of Sisters, opting to join the Dominicans when she left school.
When considering Cathryn’s various works – in her early years she taught in Dominican and parish schools in Adelaide, her beloved Loxton and Ringwood (Victoria).
After some study and at the request of Fr Gavin Kinnare for a Sister to help in the parish, Cathryn was given responsibility for the rapidly growing Hallett Cove area, part of the existing Brighton parish. There were no facilities and no church, so each weekend the school had to be transformed into a Mass centre. As one family commented, ‘at that time for us, she was the Church’.
The newly emerging parish associate role called forth Cathryn’s best energies and in a pattern which was to continue she found herself working alongside numerous priests in different parishes encouraging the participation of all, especially young families, in parish life. As several people commented it was her ability to encourage others which gave them the confidence to try new things.
A gifted musician and artist, Cathryn contributed to liturgies and parish and community celebrations. In her ‘retirement’ and as part of a pastoral care team, she regularly visited patients in Flinders Medical Centre where her kindness and compassion were gifts greatly appreciated by patients and staff.
Even in difficult times when her health failed, she had a great capacity for connecting with people, treasuring friends and holding onto the good things in life which she saw as God’s abundant blessings to her.
As we brought symbols of Cathryn’s life – a photo of her parents, her Dominican breviary and profession ring, her painting of the farm home in Wanbi, some paint brushes, music and her phone, the words of the second reading seemed so apt.
‘For we are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.’(Ephesians 2:10)
Cathryn, we will miss you. Carry with you our love and blessings. May you find peace and life to the full in the embrace of God in whose image we are all works of art – and who has never stopped loving you.
– Anne Dolan OPJump to next article