Sisters of the Past

Sister Teresa - Josephine Schmitt

Profiled May 2013

August 1848 8 June 1927Teresa_Schmitt_4

Josephine Schmitt was born in Wurtenbourg, Germany in August 1848. 

Josephine entered the Sisters of St Joseph Community in Perthville, Bathurst NSW on 6 February 1877, and was professed as Sister Teresa on 7 April 1880.  Just one week later she was part of a group of four young Sisters who left Sydney by steamer for Whanganui New Zealand, to begin a new foundation.  Her companions were Sisters Hyacinth Quinlan, Clare Rubie and Joseph Kinsella.

The Sisters received a great welcome from the Parish priest, Dean Kirk, and parishioners when they berthed in Whanganui in the early hours of 24 April 1880.   They were immediately faced with a large Convent which was not quite ready for habitation, and they were expected to take care of the School, boarding pupils, orphans and some new recruits for the order.  For the first week they stayed in the Presbytery.

In 1883, Sisters Teresa, Aloysius and Hyacinth journeyed up the Whanganui River to the Mission at Hiruharama (Jerusalem). They were accompanied by Suzanne Aubert, and Srs Teresa and Aloysius remained there to help in the establishment of a school.  Two years later they returned to Whanganui.   Sister Teresa was greatly loved by the Maori people and for many years they would visit her when they came down river.

In April 1889, Sister Teresa was chosen as Mistress of Novices, and was again chosen in 1893.
In 1896 she was chosen as Assistant, and also discharged the duties of Mistress of Novices as that Sister also had school duties. 
She was elected Superioress in 1899, and chose Sisters Clare as Assistant, Columba as Bursar, and Gertrude as Mistress of Novices. 
Sister Clare later resigned Office, and Sister Xavier was chosen to take her place.
In 1902 Sr Teresa was re-elected to lead the Congregation, and she was re-appointed in 1905.  On the election of Sister Columba as Reverend Mother in 1908, Sr Teresa was chosen as Bursar, and she was re-appointed in 1914.

When Sr Teresa was teaching in Whanganui, her nieces, the Links from Carcoar New South Wales, were sent over to Sacred Heart as boarding pupils.  Three of them entered the Congregation after completing their schooling and became Sisters. Mary became Sr Evangelist, Josephine was Sr Lawrence, and Tilly became Sr Rita, a much loved teacher at Holy Infancy School Aramoho, Whanganui. 

A fourth member of the family, Catherine Links, returned to Australia and married. Her great great grand-daughter Anne Derwin, became a Sister of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, and was elected Congregational Leader in 2007.  In 2011 she visited Whanganui, and the places that were significant in Sr Teresa’s religious life. 
In 2013 when the Decree of Fusion of the Sisters of St Joseph Whanganui and the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart was approved, Anne Derwin was Congregational Leader of the new Congregation.

Sister Teresa died on 8 June 1927, the last of the four founding Sisters. Requiem Mass was celebrated in Sacred Heart Chapel by Father Kimbell SM. 

The local newspaper stated: ‘In an eloquent panegyric Father Kimbell referred to the great loss the Sisters had sustained in the death of Sister Teresa, and made special reference to the deceased Sister’s beneficence and charity.’ 

Sister Teresa was buried in the Heads Road Cemetery, Whanganui.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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