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Sisters of the Past

SISTER BORGIA - Katie Kearns

Profiled March 2011

 

27 March 1879  -  19 November 1974borgia_kearns.jpg

The death at St Joseph’s Convent, Levin, of Sister Mary Borgia Kearns on 19 November 1974 was mourned by many who had known this much-loved and revered Sister over a long span of years.   Sister Borgia died after a short illness in her 95th year.  She had been associated with Convent life for 78 years, not only at Otaki and Whanganui, but also at Hawera, Waipawa and Waverley.  She had been at Levin for the six years before her death.

Although in advanced years, Sister Borgia, until she took ill a few months before, was very agile and took an active interest in neighbourhood and town life.  She was described as a sweet and gracious person with whom people always came first.  She was much loved at the Convent and by all with whom she came in contact.  She was a familiar figure and enjoyed mixing among the children and talking to them.  In the community she attended the local senior citizens association and the afternoons for the blind.  Although she had partial sight her eyes had begun to fail her some years earlier.
She lived an active life in her Josephite community, including being a wonderful cook, and maintained her interest in the parish right to the last.

Katie Kearns was born on 27 March 1879 to Irish parents.  She is known to have had two sisters who later lived in Palmerston North, and a brother James, born in Ireland, was the father of Myrtle who became Sister Austin RSJ.   Katie was a first day pupil and first vocation from Hastings, and entered religious life in Whanganui on 2 March 1896.  She was professed as Sister Borgia at Wanganui on 21 January 1898.  She then went to Otaki at about the time the Convent there opened as a boarding school.

As one of the early Sisters, she always had a close association with Otaki and, although she served at other Convents, she returned there over the years and endeared herself to the Maori people.  Borgia was planning to attend the Jubilee celebrations of the Otaki Parish and Convent School the weekend following her death.  She had taught several generations of various Otaki families and had many memories of the early days.  She often recalled the days of Father Melu who founded the Convent School in 1894. 

Sister Borgia’s Requiem Mass was celebrated at St Mary’s Parish Church in Otaki, and she was interred at Pukekaraka Hill Cemetery where at that stage five other pioneer Sisters were buried.   Pukekaraka Hill is the scene of early Catholicity in Otaki, standing sentinel over the Presbytery, Church, Convent and school at its base.

At Sister Borgia’s funeral Mass, Father Gupwell SM said “Every person has a certain aura about them and she had it to a greater degree than normal”.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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