Sisters of the Past

Sister Stephanie - Eileen Tobin

Profiled in January 2004

4 February 1928 - 29 December 2003

 Eileen Margaret Tobin was born in Wellington in 1928, the eldest of four girls, children of Patrick and Anne Tobin. Eileen was educated and worked in the capital until coming to Wanganui in 1954 to train as a Sister of St Joseph. She took the name of Stephanie, and began a teaching ministry which was to span 28 years. Her many years in the classroom showed Stephanie to be a gentle teacher both in primary and secondary schools around the lower North Island.

She was not always in the best of health, having suffered asthma since childhood. However she didn’t complain and accepted health and sickness with equanimity through her whole life. Neither did she always have a sense of security. The changes in the Catholic Church were disturbing for her and the new freedoms in religious life during the 60’s and 70’s worried her. She had strong opinions in these matters but being a woman of integrity she knew when to let them go.

Stephanie spent many years in Levin, and was respected and appreciated by a wide circle of people there. She became involved in indoor bowls and enjoyed the competitive aspect of the game. Her gentleness, honesty and goodness attracted people to her throughout her whole life.

Family were a major part of Stephanie’s life. For many years she spent time every year holidaying in their homes and followed the growing up of nieces and nephews with interest and love. Her family were with her through thick and thin and she was strengthened and comforted by them.

In her last four years, Stephanie was a patient in the Home of Compassion in Wanganui. It was to be the season in her life of physical weakness but mental strength and courage. Sickness brings times of loneliness and loss. Stephanie battled with and succeeded in conquering these difficult times by undertaking new projects – she churned out handwork that she previously had never tried, she interacted with the staff, she developed new and special relationships with many people.

Words found in her own writing which surely were her prayer over her last four years:

O God – I wait in the unending darkness
like a chrysalis on a lonely limb.
Teach me to wait patiently
while my wings grow strong
for my time to fly has not yet come.

Stephanie’s time came peacefully at Wanganui Hospital on 29 December 2003. Her funeral Mass was celebrated at St Mary’s Church, Wanganui by her Sisters, her family and a large number of her friends.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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