It was in the beautiful Clare Valley that Mary began her earthly life in 1930; the first child of Dulcie and Bill. Sevenhill and its surrounds were much loved by Mary both in her early years and then in later years when she returned to SA. Mary was the eldest of five children, sister to Margaret, Elizabeth, Don and Joan.
Mary always remembered the blessings of growing up in a loving family and wrote:
‘To my early loving relationships in my immediate and extended families I believe I owe my sense of security in what I am, my love of nature in all its moods, and my faith in a God whose real and enduring presence sustains and energises me.’
Mary’s siblings saw her as a beacon of love and strength and a leader of the clan. It was often to Mary that they turned for support and encouragement. She was always keen to hear their stories and the latest news. She took a keen interest in each person, young and not so young.
Mary began her education at Sevenhill and completed her secondary education at the juniorate at Cowandilla. Her brilliant mind and commitment to learning was evident in her secondary school results and in her completion of her Bachelor of Arts degree at Adelaide University.
Mary then entered the Sisters of St Joseph from the parish of Mt Barker. Professed as a Sister of St Joseph at Mount Street, North Sydney, in 1955, she took the name Cecilia by which she was known for many years until she later resumed her baptismal name.
Mary’s involvement in education began in Leichhardt and later in Josephite formation in NSW followed by lecturer in the Catholic Teachers’ College for religious and lay women in North Sydney.
Mary inspired a love of learning and was a role model to her students both academically and in religious life. She was a great mentor and guide to those women who joined the Sisters of St Joseph. She had an ability to bring out the best in people. She imparted her love of art, poetry, literature and music. Her students would take delight in her interesting digressions on numerous subjects – she could talk at length on any topic.
Much of Mary’s life was involved in education in many forms. She took up various roles in leadership and on boards and committees in Australia, resulting in her involvement in some momentous projects. Mary brought to her ministry an extraordinary commitment to develop and engage all of her gifts and talents in the service of others; whether it be her own Josephite sisters, her students, whether it was in her negotiations and lobbying with Government be that about issues of education as executive secretary to the National Commission for Catholic Education, or her role in the Catholic Teachers College. Mary was awarded an OAM for her services to education.
Mary’s leadership roles included six years as provincial in SA. She was called away again for other leadership roles, one in NSW Province. As a community leader and community member Mary brought out the best in people. Everyone who encountered Mary felt at home, accepted and appreciated. She stood by people in difficult times and walked the journey with them. There are many who have experienced that loving support. After time with her one would walk away feeling more positive, less burdened and worthwhile.
Mary was significant in the decision and process to lease the former Largs Bay Orphanage to become a gathering place for the Aboriginal community, a decision which involved much negotiation and opposition.
Mary considered her years at Macclesfield especially blessed. She loved being there in the beautiful surroundings. The community expressed their sadness at the news of her death. She was very much part of the community and provided a beacon of hope and friendship to all. She listened to the stories, joyful and sad. She provided opportunities for spiritual nourishment. She wrote for the local communication A Glimpse of Paradise.
Mary was good fun and good company and created a positive environment which was always improved with cheese and red wine. She loved life and knew how to have a good time.
Although Mary has done incredible and wonderful things in her life it’s not so much what she has done but how she did it. Her life has enriched us immeasurably. Throughout her many high profile jobs Mary was a most humble, gracious, generous and understanding woman.
Although Mary had many health issues during her life they did little to impede this woman of action. As her health deteriorated she bore her trials with courage.
Mary was a woman for all seasons.
We cherish with gratitude her life and legacy: a leader, a teacher, a friend and mentor in the Congregation and beyond. May Mary rest in peace in the arms of her Creator. May the spirit and memory of Sr Mary Reardon live on in our hearts.
Taken from the eulogy by Sr Chris Schwerdt
Jump to next article