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Sisters of the Past

Sister Benigna - Kathleen Winifred Cooper

Benigna-Cooper.jpgProfiled in May 2009

9 March 1893 – 12 July 1982

Kathleen was the daughter of John and Mary Cooper nee Mahoney.  Both her parents were from Ireland.  Kathleen was born in Hunterville in the central North Island on 9 March 1893.  She had two older sisters, Margaret and Agnes, and then after her came Robert and Annie. Her father John was a labourer working on the building of the Main Trunk railway line, and in particular the building of the rail viaduct.  Kathleen was educated at a small country school of Pakihikura.   Later the family moved to the township of Feilding, not far away.

It was from Feilding that Kathleen left her family on 9 August 1910 to enter the Sisters of St Joseph in Whanganui.  She was professed on 15 January 1912, taking the name of  Sister Benignus.  Later she was advised that there was a feminine form of her name and she changed to Benigna.  Benigna was part of the community of Sacred Heart Convent until 1935.  She spent two years each in Hastings and Otaki – in the latter acting as Infirmarian for the boarders.  She returned to Whanganui and the role of Boarders’ Mistress there for five years.  The following two years Benigna was Infirmarian in Waipukurau, before returning again to Whanganui also as Infirmarian.  

Benigna was by nature placid and sanguine.  She was completely committed to her ministry in the Infirmary for which she had been trained by Sister Stephen, a trained nurse.   No matter what crisis arose Benigna was known for always being quietly calm and on course.  She was noted for her listening ear and the solace of her encouragement.

Sister Benigna died at the Aubert Home of Compassion in Whanganui on 12 July 1982, and after Requiem Mass at St Mary’s Parish Church, she was buried at Aramoho Cemetery.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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