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Sisters of the Past

Sister Marie Norma May Ritchie (formerly Sr Philomena)

28 Jan 1932  -  25 Sept 1966Marie_Ritchie

Profiled March 2012

Norma May Ritchie was born in Masterton on 28 January 1932 to Myna May nee McIsaacs and Norman Ritchie.   She had an older sister Alice and a brother David.

Norma worked as a housekeeper at the Catholic Presbytery in Hastings and during the time of Fr Leo Spring she became a Catholic.

On 1 March 1953 she entered the Sisters of St Joseph in Whanganui and  was professed on 20 January 1954, taking the religious name of Sister Philomena.  Marie had entered without the blessing of her parents, but in later life they were very proud of her.

Sister Philomena moved into teaching and was a talented teacher and loved person in the classroom.  At the same time she was studying for her Speech and Drama examinations with Sister Fidelis, and she is remembered as practising hard for these in her classroom. She taught at Holy Infancy in Whanganui, Hawera, Hastings, Waipukurau, Mairangi Bay Auckland, and Gonville, Whanganui.

Philomena was a happy and delightful personality.  She had an enquiring mind, and was a searcher.  She is remembered as being always likeable and guileless, open and natural.  In 1961, when the Church decreed that there was no St Philomena, Philomena dropped the name, and became Marie, because as she stated, “No one could ever deny that Mary was a saint!”

Sister Marie became unwell with a spinal condition which worsened over a two year period and caused her increasing pain.  Throughout it all she retained her sunny disposition and faced her limited future with courage and trust.  She made a deep impression on those who visited her in the Sacred Heart Infirmary or in Hospital.

Sister Marie died in Whanganui Hospital, on 25 September 1966, aged just 34 years.  At her Requiem Mass in the Convent Chapel, the Parish priest Fr Hendren extolled the courage and fortitude of the young Sister during her two years of illness.  She was buried at Aramoho Cemetery, Whanganui.

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