Sisters of the Past

Sister Kevin - Bridget McGrath

Profiled in October 2008 

10 May 1884 18 August 1985


Bridget McGrath, born 10 may 1884, was the eldest of a family of thirteen.  Michael and Anastasia, nee Power, had twelve children of their own but when an aunt died leaving three children, the McGraths adopted one a girl.  They grew up on a farm at Coole, County Wexford, and Bridget went to school at Ramsgrange.

Bridget heard of New Zealand from her uncle, a detective in NZ who was home for a trip.  He was also the father of Fr Kevin McGrath.  Mrs McGrath had thoughts of the whole family coming to live in NZ, but Bridget and Mary (later Mrs Daly) were the first to come.  They landed in Wellington on New Year’s morning in 1908.   Their uncle Mr McGrath met them, and they stayed with the family at Austin St in Wellington.

Bridget later went to work at the Bishop’s House in Christchurch.  Fr Hoare of St Mary’s Parish Manchester St, had been to Whanganui to give a retreat to the girls at Sacred Heart.  On return he shared how impressed he had been with them and with the sisters.  Bridget wanted to enter an order without any lay sisters, so she wrote to Mother Columba.  
Shortly after making arrangements to enter, and before telling her family in Ireland, she received a letter from her mother telling her to come home.  However Bridget decided to enter the convent first.  At 29 years of age she felt that she might not be suitable and then she could go home.

Bridget began her novitiate and was professed on 27 January 1915, taking the religious name of Kevin an Irish saint.  She began her teaching ministry, which she carried out in primary schools all around the lower North Island over her long life.  She was also Superior of several communities, including Sacred Heart in Whanganui.

Kevin is remembered as a wise and efficient leader in the community, and as a very competent hostess.  When she was living at Sacred Heart, it was said that she was in her glory in the long pantry where all the best crockery was kept.   As she retired from teaching she was very happy to go back to cooking meals for sisters in her community.

A life long commitment to the Pioneer Society, which she joined in Ireland when only 16, meant that she was later believed to be the oldest living Pioneer world-wide.

On 10 May 1984, Sr Kevin celebrated her 100th birthday at Gonville where she was then living.  A concelebrated Mass was held in the parish church for her, followed by a gathering in the Gonville Hall.   In a separate celebration, she joined Sisters, family and friends in a special afternoon tea at Nazareth.  She was reported as saying “I can’t believe it.  I’m very ordinary, and I thank God for that!”

The following year, her 101st birthday found her a resident of Nazareth Rest Home, and though a much quieter affair, her sister Sister Leonard DOLC was with her.   Later that year she had a fall which resulted in her death in hospital on the 18 August 1985.

Her funeral Mass was celebrated at St Anthony’s Parish Church in Gonville, and she was buried at Aramoho Cemetery.

Two of Sr Kevin’s sisters back in Ireland had become religious sisters in England.  The adopted sister also became a religious, but died soon after.  The two youngest came out to NZ about 1922.  Teresa became Sr Leonard as a Sister of Compassion., and Anastasia was Ms Lowe.

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