Sr Robert (Patricia) was born in Adelaide on August 6 1930, the third child of Francis Aitken and Winifred Aitken (Grealy), and the younger sister of Monsignor Robert Aitken.
Sr Robert was educated by the Sisters of Saint Joseph at Keswick and then at Thebarton. On leaving school Patricia worked as a clerk and was active in the Therry Dramatic Society and in the YCW. She excelled at sports, enjoyed music and singing and was blessed with a strong and beautiful singing voice.
She was professed as Sr Mary Robert of Our Lady of Good Counsel on January 6 1953.
Sr Robert trained as a primary teacher and taught in schools in country areas and in and around Adelaide. After a few years she learned to drive and began working on the Motor Mission, first in Hamley Bridge and then in city areas. She spent three years making altar breads and packing and distributing them to parishes all over SA. Every weekend Sr Robert visited Aboriginal people who were in hospital.
Over the years Sr Robert became a qualified librarian and also gained qualifications in Theology, Aboriginal Studies and Aboriginal Languages. The call to walk with, support and simply be with Aboriginal Peoples remained with her and from 1987 onwards this was her main ministry.
She met with Aboriginal people in their homes, in the city parks, in hospitals, and assisted them in completing forms or navigating government departments.
Sr Robert was able to engage with everyone she met and children loved to be with her. She was genuinely interested in people and had an exceptional memory for remembering names, family connections and people’s recent joys and sorrows.
Sr Robert supported the Kura Yerlo Board for 30 years and received an appreciation award for her commitment. She was a foundation member of the SA Josephite Reconciliation Circle and remained a very active member until a few weeks before her death. She joined marches and gatherings that called for justice for the disadvantaged; she attended every session of the Hindmarsh Island Royal Commission; she sat beside the mother of Kingsley Dixon throughout the inquiry into her son’s death in custody.
Sr Robert spent the last seven weeks of her life in the Calvary Flora McDonald Retirement Community at Cowandilla. She died peacefully with Sisters of St Joseph and members of her family quietly visiting in her last days, praying with her and holding her gently in a circle of love.
There is a moving description of death being like a gentle pause between one breath and the next. On the morning of May 7 2022, Sr Robert had a gentle pause between one breath and her next and found herself in eternity with the God she loved and had served so faithfully.
The Irish author and spiritual writer, Daniel O’Leary, wrote in the year before his own death ‘I know there is something beautiful waiting for me’. Sr Robert also knew at a very deep level that her God was waiting for her.
The Funeral Mass for Sr Robert was held in St Joseph’s Chapel, Kensington on May 18.Jump to next article