Sisters of the Past

Sister Columba - Eileen O'Brien

Profiled in June 2008 

5 May 1907 30 July 1989

scan0002.jpgBorn in Hokitika in 1907, Eileen Pia O’Brien was one of eight children of Thomas and Brigid O’Brien, nee Kelly.  There were two brothers, Jim and Tom, and her sisters were Pat, May, Molly, Bridie and Edith. They grew up in the King Country town of Ohakune, and it was from there, in 1926, that Eileen joined the Sisters of St Joseph in Whanganui on 3 May 1926.

She took the name Columba and was professed as a Sister on 23 January 1929.  Columba spent many years both as a primary school teacher and music teacher in schools in Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, King Country, Manawatu, and Whanganui.  She had a particular love of music, and it was in this field that she excelled as a teacher.  Many budding pianists progressed through the stages of piano performance under her diligent and exacting eye.

The one quality that marked Columba’s personality was her serenity and calmness under all circumstances she always gave the impression that there was all the time in the world.  Therefore she was never known to be phased outwardly, by the unexpected or traumatic.  She was also noted for her gift of hospitality and her care and concern for all.  Columba was a lover of nature and of people, and her droll sense of humour endeared her to many.  She loved a joke, and her eyes would screw up in delight. 

In her last years at Nazareth Rest Home, she became locked in a silent world, unable to communicate verbally.  Yet when she celebrated her diamond Jubilee of Profession some months before her death she spoke and signified her awareness of what was happening.

She died peacefully at Nazareth on 30 July 1989.  Her funeral was held at St Mary’s Parish Church Whanganui, and she was buried at Aramoho Cemetery.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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