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Sisters of the Past

SISTER BERCHMANS - Norah McNamara

Profiled August 2011

18 April 1881  -  7 August 1955

Norah McNamara was born at Addison’s Flat, a gold-mining settlement near Westport on the West coast of the South Island.
Record keeping was pretty haphazard on the goldfields but it appears that the given date of her birth of 18 April 1881 may not be correct.  Norah was almost certainly the daughter of Daniel McNamara, a goldminer from Quin, Ireland and Mary Ann Gould from London.  They were the only McNamara family at Addison's Flat and had a family of at least six boys and three girls.

They do not appear to have registered a child in 1881 but had children on both sides of that year. However a daughter named Hanorah was born to them on the 4th of April 1879 and baptised by Fr Thomas Walshe on the 23rd of April.  This is thought to be Norah. It appears she was confirmed by Archbishop Redwood on the 16th of May 1893 at which time her name was given as Norah Magdelen Cecily.

Norah entered the Sisters of St Joseph on 1 May 1905, and was professed on 23 January, 1907, taking the religious name of Berchmans.

Sister Berchmans spent most of her 50 years as a Josephite working in the house at Sacred Heart Convent.  She worked hard attending to the needs of a large community of Sisters, and an even larger number of boarding pupils.

She is remembered as being a kind, joyous Sister, whose thoughts were much for others.  She had great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, spending much daily time in front pews in prayer.  Once when asked to pray for pupils doing their exams she replied, “I’ve got the sorest corn that would get anyone good UE results!”

On 7 August 1955, she left the Chapel to make the breakfast tea, and collapsed and died.  Her funeral Mass was held in Sacred Heart Chapel and she was buried in Aramoho Lawn Cemetery.


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