Lavinus Monica Schneider was born in Queensland and trained as a nurse. She came to South Australia where her appointments included deputy matron at the Queen Victoria Hospital from 1961, deputy matron at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in the early 1970s, and director of Nursing at the Modbury Hospital from 1972 to 1982. Monica was national president of the Royal College of Nursing Australia from 1977 to 1978, and she served for some years on its national council.
Described by one of her former trainees as ‘the most intelligent and caring nurse that she had ever met’, Monica was honoured in 2008 with the Medal of the Order of Australia for her contribution to nursing and health care in developing countries.
On secondment from the South Australian Hospitals Commission, she served as director of Nursing in Fiji from 1983 to 1986. She served as a volunteer health professional for ‘Medical Boomerang’ in Bangladesh (1996), Cambodia (1990) and India (2007).
Her friend, Dr Ben Huang, recalls that in 2015, when she was in her 80s, Monica volunteered in a Beijing orphanage for a month. The list of her international achievements and volunteering is much longer.
Monica’s friendship with Dr Huang serves as an example of her generous Christian friendship. In 1990-1991, she spent a year as a teacher in China with the Association for International Teacher Education and Curriculum Exchange. With her experience as a nurse educator, Monica was placed in the Hunan Medical University, where Dr Huang was one of her students. She discovered he was to be sent to Adelaide for further training as a medical scientist. Now working in Brisbane, Dr Huang spoke at her funeral in Adelaide, and at her interment with her parents in Nudgee, Queensland. He said that for 32 years Monica had given him and his family friendship, love, care, and laughter. Dr Huang said he saw himself as a representative of the many people who had received Monica’s help, assistance, financial backing and spiritual guidance in her long history of voluntary work.
Monica’s service was an outcome of her deep faith. She was for many years a devoted member of the Dulwich-Burnside parish and served as pastoral associate for the parishioners. In 2008 she was honoured in the SA Women’s Honour Roll, a tribute to inspirational women in the community. Her citation included her commitment to pastoral and spiritual care as an active member and volunteer in the parish.
Monica was always energetic – it was hard to keep up with her – and in his funeral homily, Fr Simon Wayte MGL pointed to Christ as the centre of her life and the source of her energy.
As death approached, she reached out to others. In a note Monica prepared to be read at her funeral there was no boasting about her remarkable journey in life. She simply wanted to say ‘thank you’ to the friends at St Peter Claver Church and St John Vianney Church, to Deacon Remo Petrone, for his pastoral care, to Fr Wayte and all the clergy.
Unable to vocalise her prayers, Monica concluded ‘I pray silently, and say farewell, with complete trust in Jesus’.
– Fr Roderick O’Brien
Jump to next article