Mary was a remarkable woman who displayed a compassionate presence to all.
She was a great listener, someone who was able to give you the impression that she was delighted to spend time with you. Mary had the ability to be totally present to people.
Mary has also been described as a woman of integrity: she valued friendships and remained connected with those she met during her various roles over the years. She was generous with her time and gifts and often made life easier for others when she was aware of their need.
Although born in Adelaide in 1928, Mary Clare Sebastian spent some of her early years in Monash in the Riverland and connected to other Catholic families there including the Barrys and McCreanors.
Mary was eight when her mother Monica died and the family (which now included her brother Paul and sister Margaret) moved to Adelaide. Her father remarried and later John and Frank were born.
In January 1949, aged 21, Mary presented herself to the convent at Mount St, North Sydney, and asked to join the Sisters of St Joseph. She was given the religious name of Anthony of Padua and continued to have great devotion to this saint throughout her life. A highlight of this devotion was that during her overseas trip in 2014 she was able to spend time in Padua.
Her year as a postulant was spent at St Margaret’s Hospital, Darlinghurst, and this was the beginning of many years of service there in the public, private and children’s sections of this hospital.
After her profession in January 1952 she was appointed to the staff of St Margaret’s Hospital where she graduated in Midwifery before spending the next 11 years working at St Margaret’s Private Hospital in various wards including postnatal, neonatal and labour.
In 1964 she travelled to Melbourne where she studied general nursing training at the Mercy Hospital and worked in the Royal Children’s Hospital to gain experience in nursing children. All of this was put to good use when she returned to Sydney in 1967 to be appointed as deputy director of nursing at
St Margaret’s Children’s Hospital.
After her studies in infant welfare, Mary returned to St Margaret’s Hospital to be supervisor of the labour ward and deputy director of nursing in the public hospital.
She was then appointed to Adelaide to spend seven years as director of nursing at Tappeiner Court where she continued her role as an exceptional nurse, always ready to learn new techniques.
In 1985 she was recalled to Sydney once again to take up the roles of director of nursing and sister in charge at St Anne’s Nursing Home, Hunters Hill. Mary was an exceptional nurse who encouraged others in this profession.
Since her return to her home state, Mary gave gracious and generous service at St Joseph’s Family Care Centre, Mitchell Park, at the Hostel for Sisters at Kensington and then for a time as Provincial secretary.
Mary later moved to a small unit at Croydon Park where she was able to shift her focus to a more contemplative pastoral presence in the parish and beyond. Her promise of prayers was a great source of strength to many, especially to Sisters in leadership roles. While at Croydon, Mary was also able to enjoy gardening and continue to demonstrate her great love and knowledge of roses.
Throughout her life Mary was devoted to her family and was a great support to them, especially in difficult times.
With very little warning, on March 2 Mary became ill and was admitted to Calvary Hospital and sadly died on March 3. When the doctors told her that her death was imminent, she asked to be anointed and gave some instructions about last minute things and made her final journey to her loving God.
Mary was a much-loved member of the Sisters of St Joseph – she made a great contribution to the life of the Congregation and her wise, serene and gentle presence will be missed. She was loved wherever she lived and worked. We continue to remember with gratitude the influence she was in our lives.
– Chris Schwerdt RSJJump to next article