by JEFF DILLON
DUNEDIN — A letter from the Queen. A certificate of celebration from
Pope Francis. Sr Marie of the Little Sisters of the Poor takes all the fuss in her stride as she celebrates 100 years.
Sr Marie’s daily routine continues much as usual at Sacred Heart Home in Brockville, Dunedin.
On the day of her birthday, she celebrated with about 70 family and friends with a Mass celebrated by Emeritus Bishop Len Boyle
of Dunedin in the chapel, and a party.
But despite the extra attention and her milestone, Sr Marie still takes an active part in caring for the residents, most of whom
are somewhat younger than she is. She helps residents at mealtimes and sometimes sets the staff members’table for meals. SrMarie said she greatly enjoys being able to provide this assistance in caring for the elderly.
Born Annie Fitzpatrick in Arrowtown, Central Otago, in April 1914, Sr Marie has had a life full of adventure and dedication.
Her life as a member of the Little Sisters of the Poor began with interest sparked by visiting her father’s sister, who was a Little Sister, in Dunedin in March 1933 when she was 18. A few
years later, in June 1936, at the age of 22, she professed
and took her vows and became a Little Sister herself.
She soon found herself posted to a rest home inShanghai and landed at a difficult time with a civil war and then the Japanese
invasion of China in 1937, with many a close, dangerous situation.
The relative calm of time at the order’s mother house in France did not last long in 1940 and further drama followed, with the
Germans declaring at one stage that Sr Marie was a spy. After World War II Sr Marie again spent time in several Southeast Asian locations before returning to Dunedin in 1962, and then the Australasian and Pacific area from 1968 to 1975.
In 1975 she became mother superior at the then Andersons Bay home in
Dunedin for six years. She then remained serving in the Oceania province until she returned to Dunedin and “retired” in 1992.
In June 2011 she marked 75 years service as a Little Sister. A year later, her many years of caring for the elderly were recognised
by way of an award of a Queen’s Service Medal.
Despite admitting to having slowed down in recent years, Sr Marie is still remarkable for her vitality and dedication to her role
of caring for the elderly.
by JEFF DILLON