Frances Teresa Gaynor was born in Carlow, Ireland, the third of four children born to John and Mary Gaynor.
While educated by the Brigidines, she came into contact during her high school years with Dominican Sisters who had travelled from Australia to invite young women to join them in their work of education in Adelaide. At the age of 18 she made the decision to accept their invitation.
In the company of four other Irish girls, Fran left her homeland on October 7 1953, arriving in Adelaide five weeks later. She remembered delighting in life on the “high seas”, enjoying meeting other passengers and “sneaking out at night time to watch the dancing”.
Fran entered the novitiate at Mount St Catherine’s, Stirling, and immediately felt at home among the beautiful trees in this quiet, countryside property. However, she still had to adapt to a very different climate and the bushfires which once threatened their home.
Like many Dominican Sisters, Fran became a teacher. Her most enduring memories were of teaching children with an intellectual disability at St Mary’s, Franklin Street. She counted these years among the great learning experiences of her life, and maintained close contact with some of her students for many years.
Fran was to experience yet another challenge adapting to a different language and culture when she agreed to join the Australian Dominican mission to the Solomon Islands. She spent 13 years there supporting local teachers, nurses, social workers and parish workers.
Fran was universally loved by the Solomon Island people, especially the young women who joined
the newly-established Dominican community. Two years ago when many of them were visiting Australia, they came to Adelaide for a weekend reunion with the Adelaide Sisters. Their joy at meeting Fran again showed that time and distance had made little difference to their connection with her.
When hearing of her death they wrote: ‘Her passing from this life has filled us with great sadness. Recalling her life here in the Solomon Islands, she was a very spiritual, loving Sister, who assisted us with great love and support in her words and deeds. We love you, our beloved Sr Frances.’
Their words reinforced Fran’s great capacity for friendship, of the deep, practical care she showed to so many both within her Dominican community and beyond it, and of her fidelity to the God whose call she answered 67 years ago.
Fran is survived by her brother, Fr Pat Gaynor, and is lovingly remembered by her extended family and friends in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.Jump to next article