Sisters of the Past

Sister Genevieve - Joan Greig

Profiled in July 2004

30 August 1918 - 30 June 2004

 Joan Margaret Greig was born in Wellington, the eldest child of Lucy Fox and Donald Greig. She eventually had three younger siblings Mary, Don and Marie. When she was five years of age the family shifted to Wanganui. Don died in World War II and Marie died when she was a teenager. When she left Sacred Heart College Joan worked in clerical positions and at the Post Office.

In 1941 at the age of 23 Joan entered the community of the Sisters of St Joseph. She was professed on 21 January 1944 and by then she was known as Sister Genevieve. For the first decade of her religious life she taught at Sacred Heart College and then at Tenison College in Hastings. She was quickly recognised as an expert teacher, who had high expectations of her students . She herself worked single-mindedly for their achievement.

By 1953 she had achieved a BA from Victoria – and later received her MA. She was very disciplined with her use of time, and study and preparation of her lessons was a high priority. In 1953 she became Principal of Sacred Heart College, a post she held until 1970. Genny, as we always called her, was of a reserved and reticent personality with a natural shyness. She utilised her considerable talents of intelligence and industry to fulfil her principalship remarkably well. At the same time she was on the Leadership team of the Sisters community for approximately 18 years. During these years she fulfilled the taxing role of general secretary for the community.

When she retired from the principal’s position she continued teaching at Sacred Heart and made that adaptation very easily. She was a renowned English, History, Latin and French teacher, and was very open to new ideas…taking the French class to New Caledonia; accompanying staff on geography trips with students. Despite her insistence on standards and a rather firm exterior in the classroom, behind the scenes there was great concern for her pupils. She would often express concern about a pupil and try to organise some help for them.

After 36 years of teaching – 31 of these at Sacred Heart, Genny became the College librarian and in this she thrived. Her love of books made it a fascinating place for her to be, it gave her a focus through which to keep up with world events, and it was a way of getting closer to many of the students. She certainly became a softer, more approachable and friendly guide to the girls at this later stage of her life. In 1981 a hostel for the students was being rebuilt, due to the demolition of the large brick building, and despite her sadness at the loss of this link with our past, Genny got behind the whole rebuilding project.

In community life the whole spectrum of Genny’s talents was seen… a wonderful cook; an expert craftswoman – who sewed, knitted, crocheted, quilted with great industry and enjoyment. She had a great taste for colour and an art in putting clothes together. Genny was also keen to discover new ways of doing things and loved being able to work through the challenge of difficult patterns, recipes etc. and exercise her enquiring mind. She was a keen student of Esperanto, a lover of art movies and followed current events intensely.

Sisters also benefited from her intellect. She always considered documents that were being written very carefully and tended to correct grammar and ably suggest improvements. Changes in community life appeared to be both frightening and yet freeing for her. Genny had many parts - one part of her self which longed for the regimented security of the past, and another which rejoiced in the creative ways of living being opened up to her. It was as if there was always a tension between the traditionalist and legalist and the one who sought fullness of life.

In 1990 Genny took on the role of community archivist and did this work from Levin. She also had a cancer scare, which slowed her down somewhat. The following year she pursued her archivist work from Hawera. At 77 years of age Genny became part of the new Quinlan Court community and continued pursuing her love of reading, dressmaking, quilting, and knitting. She was also a consultant for Diane Strevens, who was writing the book In Step with Time, which dealt with the history of our community.

By 2001, now aged 83, Genny’s health had deterioriated and she became a resident at Nazareth appreciating the security which Nazareth provided for her. However her illness progressed and she became confined to bed for the last 20 months of her life. She died peacefully on 30 June 2004. Her funeral was held at St Mary’s Church, and she was buried at Aramoho Cemetery, Wanganui.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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