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Sisters of the Past

Sister Bernice - Kathleen Sarah O'Connor

Profiled in January 2008 

17 February 1915 30 December 1987

 Hastings, in the Hawkes Bay area was the birthplace of Kathleen O’Connor, a daughter to Thomas and Catherine, nee Kearney.  She was born into a family of five Molly, Peg, Paddy and Jim.  Their home was at Longlands where their father had an apple orchard.  She attended St Joseph’s School in Hastings and as a school girl she was noted as a very good netballer.

After leaving school, she worked for some time at Roaches, a drapery store in Hastings.
On 4 January 1936, she left Hastings for Whanganui where she entered the Sisters of St Joseph community.  She was professed on 22 January 1939, taking the religious name of Bernice.

Sister Bernice became a primary school teacher, teaching mainly in the middle and upper school.  She is remembered as being resourceful, challenging and had a great influence on her pupils.   She taught in many of the Sisters of St Joseph Schools in the lower North Island, as well as spending some time in the Sacred Heart Whanganui community.

She was musical, and as well as having a good singing voice herself, she enabled her pupils to reach a high standard in the arts and singing.  Sport was of great interest to her, and she took a great interest in pupils’ sport, as well as being an enthusiastic netball coach.

Bernice was good at embroidery and sewing, and was very much at home running shop days to make money for projects to benefit pupils or teams.  As well as her teaching responsibilities, Bernice often had the responsibility for the parish church, which included the flowers. 

In community she was full of fun and energy - she was a vibrant personality, and had a great sense of humour.  In latter years Bernice suffered a nervous illness, and after treatment did not regain her bright disposition or the degree of motivation that had kept her going.  A friend, Sister Cyprian, was very good to her with support and direction.  Despite her difficulties, Bernice continued visiting parishioners and friends.

She remained in the Levin community in her retirement years, and died in Horowhenua Hospital, Levin, on December 30 1987.  Requiem Mass was celebrated for her in Sacred Heart Chapel, Whanganui, and she was buried in Aramoho Cemetery.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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