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Sisters of the Past

Sister Regis Maria Christina Shanks

1888 18 December 1960

Profiled August 2012

Maria Shanks was born in Australia in 1888 and her parents were Samuel Schanks, born in America, and Maria Fasnabend, born in Germany.  Maria is known to have had three brothers - Alf, Julius and Sam - and two sisters, Anna and Edith. 

It is not known when Maria and her sisters came to New Zealand, but probably as adults.  Her older sister Anna would speak of growing up in Australia -  going to dances in a horse and cart and arriving home with the hems of their dresses all red from the ground. 

Maria entered the Sisters of St Joseph in Whanganui on 2 July 1908, and she was professed as Sister Regis on 24 January 1910.
Sister Regis is thought to have spent her whole religious life in Whanganui as she took on the ministry of making altar breads for the parishes in the area.  Many remember her at work wearing a starched white apron, baking and packing in her little room attached to ‘Watts’, which was another house on the Sacred Heart property. 

Regis was a small woman, and is remembered as often being in poor health, which made her look older.  Her nieces remember how kind she was, and Sisters recall her gentleness.

Annie, Sister Regis’ sister, married Andrew Anderson, and had five daughters and two sons.   The Andersons later had a property backing on to Virginia Lake in Whanganui where they grew vegetables and flowers for the local market.  A daughter, Therese, set up a florist shop, and the two sons had a market garden in Aramoho.  They also had an extensive aviary and Sisters recall seeing birds stray off to the Lake, and a peacock which got as far as Sacred Heart gate. Her brother, Alf, also came to New Zealand and farmed in Upper Aramoho.  He later became a milkman, delivering each morning to Sacred Heart Convent, where his daughters were boarders.   Regis always prepared a tray with a pot of tea and hot buttered toast for him.  His son Kevin, used to serve as altar boy for the early morning Masses at Sacred Heart.

Sister Regis died at Sacred Heart Convent on 18 December 1960, and Mass of Requiem was celebrated for her in the Chapel.  She was buried at Aramoho Cemetery.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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