Sisters of the Past

Sister Margaret Hurley (formerly Sr Joanna)

21 December 1921 20 October 2012


Profiled October 2012

Margaret was born in Patea, South Taranaki, on 21 December 1921 to Hannah Josephine, nee Crompton, and Arthur Hurley.  She was the third member of the family, after her sister Joan and her late brother Dermot.  She grew up on the family farm, attended the local sole charge school at Opaku, and later attended Sacred Heart College in Whanganui.   There in addition to her basic subjects, Margaret learnt the violin, and had painting classes.   On leaving school, she joined her parents in Auckland and taught the violin.

On 3 May 1945, Margaret travelled to Whanganui and entered the Sisters of St Joseph.  She was professed on 20 January 1948 taking the religious name of Joanna.
There were many significant family connections with the Sisters of St Joseph.  Her grandfather James Crompton, born in Australia, had been cared for by Fr Julian Tenison Woods when he was left orphaned.  Other family members of the Sisters of St Joseph were her cousins Srs Augustine and Agatha Hurley, her aunt Sr Ita Crompton, and her cousins Marie and Kathleen Crompton.

Sacred Heart College in Whanganui was the place of Margaret’s first appointment, taking violin lessons, Social Studies, and art.  Soon after, in 1950, she had her first experience of life in a branch house, when she was missioned to Hastings and assisted in the infant school.  From then on she taught all levels of primary school classes at different times in Whanganui, Hawera, Patea, Ohakune. 
In 1955 she attended Loreto Hall, the Catholic Teachers’ College in Auckland, and later attended night school to achieve her Diploma in Fine Arts, as well as University Courses in counselling skills

In 1965, Margaret was appointed to Taupo as a full-time parish worker, teaching music as well.  She moved to become an Area Adviser with the Wellington Catholic Education Office and was based in the Manawatu.
When the Ohakune Catholic School closed she became Area Adviser there, and with Sr Marie Crompton worked in Waiouru and Taihape as well.

The years of 190-81, Margaret spent on exchange with the Lochinvar Sisters of St Joseph in Australia working in the parish of Forster-Tuncurry. 

Margaret then began a very special part of her life when she was missioned to Murupara in the Central North Island. This was almost total immersion into Maori culture, and the two Sisters were adopted wholeheartedly by the Maori people. It was also very much an ecumenical parish. When the Sisters were invited to be industrial chaplains to the Kaingaroa Logging Company, Margaret found herself working as a social worker, parish administrator, and as chaplain to the forestry workers.  The friends Margaret made in Murupara were to last her life time.

After six years in Murupara, Margaret spent a year’s study in Cross-cultural Theology and Maori Spirituality at the Anglican Seminary in Auckland. 

From Auckland back to Whanganui, Margaret became part of a community of three, living in a state housing area, and administering an emergency house.  As well caring for those who needed urgent accommodation, Margaret taught a reading programme at Kaitoke Prison.   When the time came to leave this ministry, she volunteered as a teacher of English to new New Zealanders, forming many friendships among new migrants.
In 1998, Margaret moved into Quinlan Court as one of the original residents, but she continued to be involved in the community.  Ten years later her failing health meant a move to Nazareth Rest Home in 2009.  There she continued to take advantage of many of the courses on offer at the Josephite Retreat Centre, and continued the contact with her friends.

In Margaret’s own words “Hasn’t it been an interesting life?”  It certainly has!
Margaret Hurley was a person who loved life, who opened herself to every possibility of using her gifts in service of others as a Sister of St Joseph.  Her interest in, and respect for people, meant that she was able to connect with those of various ages, ethnic groups, and from very different backgrounds.   Her sunny personality, her beaming smile, and her ability to laugh at her own foibles, drew others to her.

She derived much joy in her life from her violin, and as well as teaching she later played for liturgies, to entertain others, or simply to enjoy herself.  Music held a special place in her life.  She continued her painting as long as she was able, and many are the possessors of the cards she made of her art works.

After sustaining a fall, Margaret’s health took a turn for the worse, and she died peacefully at Nazareth on 20 October 2012.  A Vigil Service was held for her in Nazareth Chapel on 23 October, and Requiem Mass was celebrated in St Mary’s Parish Church on 24 October 2012.  She was buried at Aramoho Lawn Cemetery, Whanganui.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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