by JEFF DILLON
The remarkable life of Sr Marie of the Holy Redeemer, LSP, (aged 104) came to an end on December 21st, 2018 at the Little Sisters of the Poor Sacred Heart Home in Brockville, Dunedin.
Born Annie Fitzpatrick on April 22, 1914, in Arrowtown, she was 18 when her interest in the work of the Little Sisters was sparked in March, 1933, during a trip to Dunedin to visit her father’s sister who was in the order.
By July, 1933, she began her training in Dunedin and soon began her life of service and adventure. She went to Sydney to complete her training and it was there she took her vows on June 10, 1936, at the age of 22.
Soon after she was posted to Shanghai and coped with the disruptions of three and a half years of civil war and then the Japanese invasion. By 1940, she was stationed at the order’s mother house in France and had further drama when she was declared a spy for a while by the occupying Germans in WWII.
After the war, she served in Hong Kong, Canton, Sri Lanka and then back to France. It was not until 1962 that she returned to New Zealand and Dunedin. Following that she served in Auckland, Australia and Samoa. In 1975, she returned to the Dunedin home and was Mother Superior there for six years. She remained serving in the Oceania province until she “retired” in 1992.
However, her definition of retirement involved being as useful as she could be and taking an active role for as long as she could in caring for other residents in the facility which became her home for the remaining 26 years of her life. Up until a few years ago, she would assist other “younger” residents to eat their meals. In the last couple of years she had to accept a walking frame to aid her movement around the home, but she was determined to keep as active as possible.
Recognition for her remarkable life and spirit saw her receive the Queens Service Medal in 2012. Her life of dedication so impressed the then-Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, at the award ceremony in 2012, that he fitted in a surprise visit to the Sacred Heart home a few weeks after her 102nd birthday in 2016 to meet her again and give her a belated birthday gift in person.
Sr Marie was very philosophical about her life. At one stage she was reported as being fond of quoting something her father often said: “From the day you were born till the day you ride in a hearse, things were never so bad that they couldn’t get worse.”
Certainly, for Sr Marie, her firm view was that no matter what happened the Lord was at the helm.
A requiem Mass was celebrated on December 28, with a large congregation, including her extended family, in attendance. The Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Michael Dooley, Emeritus Bishop Colin Campbell, Msgr Vincent Walker, Msgr John Harrison, Fr Gerard Aynsley (Vicar General), Fr Michael Hishon, Fr Sani Lam, Fr Mervyn McGettigan, and Fr Fredy Permentilla, MSP.
In his homily, Bishop Dooley noted that Mathew’s Gospel that day was the one known as the Beatitudes. Sr Marie was a great example of someone who made a statement, not by her words, but by her actions and example. Sr Marie was one who lived out those beatitudes throughout her 104 years.