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Sisters of the Past

Sister Madeleine - Elizabeth Murphy

Profiled in August 2002

31 July 1903 - 29 March 2001

The child born to Bridget (nee Byrne) and John Murphy in Colyton, Feilding on 31 July 1903, was baptised Elizabeth. She was the 6th daughter, and had one brother. Her parents were a farming family with Irish roots. With five older sisters to be responsible and help an ailing mother, Elizabeth and her brother fully enjoyed the freedom of farm life. When her mother died an older sister became her second mother. Another sister, Mary (Sister Bernadette), joined the Josephites when Elizabeth was seven. At 18 years of age Elizabeth wanted to join the sisters also, but permission was not given. She entered when she turned 21. We see here something of the quiet determination, strength of purpose and restless search that characterised her life.

She took the religious name Madeleine and was professed as a Sister of St Joseph on 22 January 1928. She had already been involved in teaching in the primary school at Gonville in Wanganui, and in the year of her profession went to Waipukurau, them on to Taihape. Thus began her long life of primary school teaching in places such as Patea, Hawera, Manaia, Otaki, Hastings, Wanganui, Waverley, Levin, Kelburn Wellington, Plimmerton, Mairangi Bay Auckland, Taupo, Feilding.

Madeleine was a very matter-of–fact woman who gave herself wholeheartedly to her teaching. Once she had retired from teaching, she became involved with St Vincent de Paul Society. She loved life and particularly in her retirement years, took every opportunity she could to enjoy different experiences. She moved to Nazareth Rest Home in 1996. Life continued to have much in it for Madeleine and at the age of 92, she took to the skies in a small Cessna plane for a sight-seeing trip over the city of Wanganui.

After a hip operation Madeleine was confined to a wheelchair. To her delight a battery-powered chair was found for her and she was to be seen all round the Rest Home. She kept her interest in people and enthusiasm for life right to the end. She died peacefully at Nazareth on 29 March 2001.


Sister Madeleine ready to take a look at Wanganui from the air.
Photo courtesy of Wanganui Chronicle 20-1-96

Gallery / Whakaahua

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