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Generous and gifted ‘handmaid of the Lord’


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Marita Mullins RSM
Born November 7 1935
Died November 19 2018

Barbara Rose Mullins, who became Sr Marita, was born into the Alberton parish, the fourth and youngest daughter of Hugh and Clare Mullins. Barbara was just 16 when her father died.

‘Aunty Barbara’ was a significant person in the lives of her nieces and nephews, especially when they were children. She supported them and their children through baptisms, communions, confirmations and weddings. She also played the piano for many of their weddings and christenings. These were wonderful family occasions.

Even in her last 12 months, she would ask for an update on everyone in the family by name.

Hospitality was always Marita’s hallmark – a gifted musician, actress, superb cook and entertainer who drew others out with her own abundant happiness and social skills.

She was a passionate, innovative and creative organiser who encouraged and/or cajoled others. Her many friendships have endured across time and space.

Another passion was the Port Adelaide Football Club. She was never happier than when they beat Norwood. If Port Adelaide was playing in the grand final and she was overseas the family would be given instructions to be near the phone (no mobiles in those days) so she could get regular updates on the score.

While known for her strong opinions and formidable mind, she was generous to a fault and always willing to go the extra mile for all in need whether it be family, friends or strangers.

Foundational to everything was her deep faith in God, her spirituality nourished by MASS/Eucharist and daily prayer even to the end.   Marita struggled with ill health over many years; although debilitating it only increased her closeness to God.

Marita had a lifelong passion for teaching which was both creative and innovative as was seen throughout her many ministries.   She was an educator to the end.   On more than one occasion she was seen directing a carer to the copy of Rembrandt’s painting The return of the Prodigal which had a prominent position in her room.   She would invite them to look carefully at the position and ask them to tell her what they noticed.   She would direct them to look at the hands of the Father and then give them a little teaching on the compassion of God.

Her life as an educator began with her training at Teachers’ College at age 17.   Marita became a teacher, school principal and a mature-age student, particularly in spirituality.   She was always involved in pastoral ministries in parishes and the Archdiocese.

Her initial teaching appointment was to Mt Barker Primary School before joining the Sisters of Mercy in 1957. Marita’s teaching was mostly in Mercy schools including St Aloysius College where as well as teaching infant classes full time she had a religious education class of deaf children on a Saturday; Our Lady Queen of Peace, Albert Park, as a postulant and driver of the first car belonging to the Sisters; St Mary’s, Mt Gambier; St Thomas’, Goodwood; St Mary Magdalene’s, Elizabeth and St Paul’s, Mt Gambier.

In the early 70s Marita obtained a Graduate Diploma in Educational Administration.   In 1975 she became the founding principal of Antonio School, Morphett Vale. Marita was always deeply attached to Antonio and at the 50-year reunion of her Teachers’ College class she commented “I particularly enjoyed my years there”.

In 1977 Marita was awarded a government grant for an overseas study tour which included the USA and Canada.

Also during the 70s, Marita served as chairperson of the South Australian Catholic Primary Principals Association and she was a member of the South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools.

Living and working in many parishes both before and after her retirement Marita was always involved in encouraging the further development and enrichment of liturgy and music.  When Fr Long Hai was a deacon in the Croydon Park Parish she gave him singing lessons so that he could sing the Exultet during the Easter Vigil.

After a period of study at St Beuno’s, Wales and Heythrop College in the University of London in 1999 she was appointed coordinator of Spirituality in the Adelaide Archdiocese.   In this role her focus was on the training of lay men and women as ‘prayer companions’. This training enabled the Prayer Companions to support others in deepening their relationship with God through companioning and prayerful approaches to Scripture. This significant ministry still continues within the Archdiocese.
‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord’, the motto taken by Marita when she professed her vows as a Sister of Mercy, is an appropriate summary of her life.

May Marita now sing the praises of God for eternity.


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