The Southern Cross The Southern Cross

Read the latest edition. Latest edition

Sisters relive convent memories


It was on February 2 in 1964 that a group of young postulants, all in their late teens or early 20s, first walked through the doors of the St Joseph’s Convent at Kensington.

Print article

Sixty years later, on that very day in 2024, the Josephite sisters, now in their 70s and 80s, gathered once again at their ‘Mother House’ to remember that momentous day and recount memories from years gone by.

Sr Helen Duke, Sr Ursula Hoile, Sr Christine Schwerdt and Sr Colleen Roberts were among the 12 young women who arrived at the convent in the 1960s from various parts of Australia.

Postulants 60 years ago.

Joining them in their celebrations were Sr Margaret Tully and Sr Marita Greenwell who joined the Josephites 70 years ago.

“We had never celebrated this date of our entering. When I realised it had been 60 years since we mounted the steps to the huge front door and entered the Sisters of St Joseph as postulants, I thought what better reason to celebrate, what a milestone,” said Sr Helen, who took it upon herself to have a small reunion to mark the occasion.

The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart were known for their exemplary work in the field of education all over Australia. And these Josephite Sisters also started their vocation as teachers at various schools in Adelaide.

As they enjoyed tea and cake, the Sisters recalled the days of their youth when they threw themselves into the thick of the action, figuring it all out as they went along.

“We were so young; most just finished school. We arrived on a Sunday with no plan, but by Tuesday morning we were ready, thanks to Sisters like Margaret Tully who became our mentors, to front our classes in schools surrounding Kensington where we lived for that year,” Sr Helen said.

“In those days Teachers Training was not compulsory, there was no government funding, so there was little to spend on the basics,” Sr Christine added.

“But the Sisters were great fundraisers – there were concerts, fetes, pound days, bazaars,” Sr Marita added. “I think it was lots of fun.”

The light-hearted chatter brought much laughter as they recalled stories from the past. Sr Colleen remembered arriving at the convent as “a complete novice at everything, including cooking”.

“But here we had to do everything ourselves,” she said.

“There were days I’d have to teach a class, come running back to the house to cook so we could all have lunch, and then run back to teach another class. And I wasn’t much of a cook at all.”

She would phone her mother and say ‘Mum, I have the meat here…now what do I do?’

The walk down memory lane left everyone with a feeling of gratitude.

“On reflecting on our 60 years since we entered the Sisters of St Joseph, and stood in front of our first class (St Joseph’s Payneham), we realise the debt of gratitude we owe the Sisters who generously shadowed us during that year, sacrificing their weekends and school holidays so that we were prepared and confident to take our class for the year,” Sr Helen said.

After their novitiate and profession in Baulkham Hills, Sydney, the Sisters attended the Catholic Teachers College in North Sydney, returning to SA in 1969 to follow in the footsteps of Mary MacKillop in education throughout SA and beyond.

Six decades on, their passion for life and their mission continues as they live the charism of Mary MacKillop and respond to the needs of the times.

More Local stories

Loading next article