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Museum volunteer inspired by saint


Pauline Grear has had a long association with the Sisters of St Joseph so when her friend told her the Mary MacKillop Museum at Kensington needed volunteers, she jumped at the chance to help.

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Educated at St Joseph’s Memorial School at Norwood and Mary MacKillop College, Pauline said she was “privileged” to be taught by a few of the Sisters.

For many years she attended Mass and worked at St Ignatius parish, run by the Jesuits who have a close connection with Australia’s first saint.

She was also secretary/bursar at St Joseph’s Memorial for six years and is now a Josephite Companion, one of four pathways of committing to a Josephite way of life.

Despite being in paid employment, Pauline finds time to volunteer not only at the museum but also at the Mitcham Library and she is actively involved in her parish, Emmaus, as a regular reader and altar cleaner. And that’s in between her family commitments.

Pauline, who currently volunteers at the museum every Wednesday afternoon, said the commitment was “what you want to make it”.

She greets and welcomes visitors, shows them how to use the technology – which includes sound pens and interactive screens – points out the various displays and exhibitions, and helps in the gift shop.

“I explain that the museum has many days’ worth of enjoyment, that perhaps they may like to just walk around and view things and read a bit here and there, get a sense of the museum and all the wonderful things Mary and her Sisters achieved,” Pauline said.

“Some people have an interest in a specific area and we can guide them to that. We answer any questions visitors may have, sometimes we don’t have the answers but help is never far away, and we listen to their stories of Mary MacKillop and share our own.

“Other tasks are more basic, but particularly important in these times, of cleaning and sanitising the touch screens, sound pens and generally making sure the museum is clean – in windy weather an awful lot of leaves fly through those automatic doors.”

Pauline said when school groups visit, a few retired teachers help out with the welcome and background as well as supervising the students who are split into groups to each spend an allotted time at different stations.

At quieter times Pauline enjoys the social interaction with other volunteers and making cards which are sold in the gift shop. Birthdays, first communions, confirmations, baptisms, bereavements, Christmas and Easter are all covered in the card making “cottage industry”.

“I love the peace and serenity I feel when I’m at the museum,” she said.

“Every week I learn something new.”

Pauline is full of admiration for the founder of the Josephite Sisters.

“Mary MacKillop was an amazing person, she achieved so much,” she said.

“So many heroes and role models today are sports or media people.

“Mary MacKillop was a hero, and she is a role model to all. She helped so many and never let adversity put her off. Mary MacKillop’s stamina and determination to do the right thing, to help where she could and not be bullied show that she was a woman and leader before her time.”

Pauline said the saint was relevant in today’s world because she treated everyone with the same respect and love regardless of gender, race or faith.

“An inspiration to all people to just get out there and get it done,” she said.

Asked what she would say to someone thinking about becoming a volunteer at Mary MacKillop Museum, she responded “do it, obviously”.

“You will meet amazing people and you can’t help but be inspired by what one person can achieve by working for others, not themselves.”

For more information about volunteering at the museum email


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