Monica Marjorie Holland, Mardi to her family, was the third child born to Alphonsus and Marjorie Holland, a sister for John and Greg and a big sister to Anne and Marie Therese. In her loving and growing family she has been, throughout her life, a central figure; a beloved daughter, sister, aunt and great aunt. Her extended family were blessed to receive from her a completely selfless love and to know at first hand her extraordinary capacity to relate to each one’s joys and hopes and needs.
Sr Mary Anne’s parents enrolled her at St Dominic’s Priory College where she was a student from kindergarten to Leaving class. Those who were at school with her remember her talents. In an era when displays of work and performances in musical concerts were very much a part of education at St Dominic’s, she showed her accomplishments and versatility. No doubt her appreciation of the value of education was one part of her attraction to the Dominican Order.
In 1954 Mary Anne entered the convent of the Dominican Sisters in Molesworth Street, North Adelaide and so began her long and wholehearted response to her call to follow Christ, and to live that call faithfully for 62 years. She made her final profession in 1958.
Her time as a young religious corresponded with a dramatic increase in the arrival of children from post-war Europe and a corresponding increase in the number of children to be taught in any one Catholic school classroom. It was before the days of Commonwealth grants to Catholic schools and classes of 60 children were common. She certainly experienced this at the newly opened St Augustine’s School, Salisbury. Those who worked with her as well as those who were her pupils would attest to her energy, good humour and kindness.
In addition to her roles of leadership in education as principal at St Augustine’s and Rosary School, Prospect in the 60s, Sr Mary Anne also taught at Siena College in Findon. She served in her Dominican communities as convent prioress and mistress of novices.
Through the late 80s and the 90s Sr Mary Anne was deputy principal of St Dominic’s Priory College. Characteristic of her leadership was her deep care for students and staff. She placed a high value on study throughout her life and, like many Australian religious, she combined her teaching role with part time study for her Bachelor and Master’s degrees.
The motto, inscribed in Sr Mary Anne’s profession ring, is, ‘Be not solicitous’. Matthew 6:25-34. It would be true to say that across the enormous changes taking place in convent life and in Catholic education in Australia during her 62 years in religious life, she kept her focus on the needs of the time, and on the positive opportunities of the contemporary world. She lived out her faith in the Gospel with joy and optimism.
Within the classroom she is remembered by her students as a passionate teacher of history and religious education. Outside the classroom her belief in a rounded Dominican education saw her involved in co-curricular activities, particularly in sport. Saturday morning hockey matches will not be the same without her.
On an ordinary school day Sr Mary Anne played her part for the environment. She did not regard her regular yard duty as a chore, but as an opportunity to do her part to keep the school campus a place of welcome and cleanliness. Her artistic skills, gifted to every celebration in her family and her school communities, transformed ordinary places into stunning environments of colour and life, as she wove her magic in floral arrangements to suit every occasion.
Among the hundreds of students who have shared their memories with St Dominic’s Priory College through social media, Sr Mary Anne’s wit and charm and kindness are universally recalled. Underlying all our memories is one consistent message from all who knew her, whether that was 50 years ago or as recently as 2017. She was a person with whom we were privileged to share our lives; truly a witness to Christ in our midst. A student from her 9W class of 2010 puts it this way: ‘Dear Sr Mary Anne – you were one of a kind. You will be missed by all. You have touched so many lives and we are truly grateful.’Jump to next article