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Sisters of the Past

Sister Beatrice - Therese Conway

Profiled in April 2004

6 June 1917 - 14 March 2004

 Sister Beatrice, christened Therese Conway, was born in Wanganui. Her parents had come from County Tipperary some years before her birth and the Irish links remained strong for her throughout her life. The untimely death of her mother when she was only 6 weeks old left her father to care for the baby. The sisters of St Joseph in Wanganui kept a close watch over the young dad and his daughter, and when Therese’s father had to go north, the sisters took over the care of Therese at 3 1/2 years of age.

When Therese’s dad remarried some years later, Therese returned home, but eventually made her way back to Sacred Heart Convent to join the sisters. In 1939, Therese, now known by her religious name of Beatrice was professed. Her first assignment was to Hastings and so much did she love it that after several years in other convents she returned to Hastings in the early 60’s and had been part of the parish there until her death.

Beatrice was a music teacher. Her little music room at the old convent was the centre of her ministry, not only to her pupils but their parents as well. Many of her pupils maintained their friendship with her long after their music lessons had ended. In between teaching music, Beatrice loved to visit and keep an eye on the sick and lonely. It was a special joy to take communion to the sick.

As the number of sisters in Hastings diminished, Beatrice accepted the challenge of living alone in a small flat. This was a time of special delight for her, offering her the opportunity to take the initiative in organising her life and ministry. This she did with dedication, and her little flat became a place of welcome, and a point from which she could go out to visit someone sick, to do messages for shut-ins, to carry baking to someone in need – or to engage in her favourite pastime of cards.

After a serious illness in 1997, St John of God Holy Family Home offered Beatrice care which developed into full-time residency. Beatrice set about ensuring that life would continue to be as full and engaging as she had always experienced it. Despite the impairment to her hand, she delighted in her many interests – gardening, knitting, listening to her beloved music. There was always a warm welcome and a cup of tea.

A visit to Ireland in the 1980’s allowed Beatrice to get to know her Irish family. This was one of her greatest joys and blessings, and gave her a sense of real belonging. Beatrice was truly a woman of faith. The deep faith of her Irish roots sustained and supported her to the end. Eucharist and praying the rosary were an integral part of her daily observance and everybody’s intentions were included.

Beatrice died at St John of God Holy Family Home, Hastings. Her funeral Mass was held in Sacred Heart Church Hastings, on 16 March 2004, and was attended by a large congregation of her friends and parishioners. She was buried the next day, St Patrick’s Day, in Wanganui.

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