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Sisters of the Past

Sister Leon - May O'Hagan

Profiled in May 2008 

12 March 1906 5 September 1986

LeonOHagan.jpgAshburton, South Canterbury, was the birthplace of May O’Hagan on 12 March 1906 to Joseph O’Hagan and his wife Catherine, nee Ahern.  She was the youngest of the family with an older brother John and sister Kathleen.  Her father, who came from Ireland, was a meat inspector who farmed in Ashburton and later in Woodville.

It was said that as a young woman May was vivacious and quite a socialite.  Many were surprised when she left her work in an office in Wellington to enter the Sisters of St Joseph in Whanganui in 1931.

May was professed on 24 January 1934, and now known as Sister Leon, she began her teaching ministry.  She taught in many of the Sisters’ Primary Schools around the North Island, and gained a reputation for being a dedicated and committed teacher with a great interest in her pupils.  She had a knack of dealing with uninterested or troublesome pupils and is remembered for sometimes giving them an alternative task such as building a dog kennel.  She was given a goat at one time to eat the grass around the school grounds.  One day it escaped and it seemed almost the whole school went after it.  Neighbours phoned in to say it had been seen in their backyard, followed by an unruly group of children!  

As well as her teaching ministry, Leon was a constant parish visitor, particularly to the elderly and the sick.  She was a regular hospital visitor, usually on foot.  She had a great interest in people and made friends easily.  When in later years Sisters travelled more, she delighted in staying with some of her friends.

This interest in people saw her going out of her way to help anyone in trouble or distress.  At one time she made arrangements for a bedridden Sister, Paula Minogue, to stay at the Mahora Convent in Hastings where she could see her family.

One of her great interests was the outdoors and she was a member of Forest and Bird Society.  She enjoyed visiting forests and reserves and had a extensive knowledge of trees.

While suffering some bouts of ill health during her life, Leon kept active and involved.  It was while staying with a friend in Hastings that she collapsed suddenly on 5 September 1986 and died in Hastings Memorial Hospital.  Her funeral was held in Sacred Heart Church Hastings and she is buried in Hastings Cemetery.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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