Sisters of the Past

Sister Camillus - Ada Christine Vincent

Profiled in October 2004

15 December 1906 - 5 November 1992

Ada Vincent was born in Auckland in 1906, the third child of Joseph and Maude Vincent. Both her parents died when she was very young and she was cared for and educated by the Sisters of Mercy at St. Joseph's Orphanage, Upper Hutt. On leaving school she became a ‘self-taught’ dressmaker.
In 1931 Ada entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph in Wanganui and was professed on 24 January 1934. Now Sister Camillus, she was appointed to teach at the primary division of Sacred Heart Convent School and over the years, taught at Josephite schools in Hawera, Hastings, Waverley, Aramoho, Ohakune, and Feilding.

It soon became evident that her area of special success was in the junior school, particularly in the teaching of reading to the new entrants. It was said that no child passed through Camillus' classes without becoming a competent reader. Her friendships with these pupils and their families endured over the years.

Besides teaching, Camillus’ other interests were dress-making, tapestry, knitting, and all craft work - particularly pottery. How she taught herself dress-making no-one seems to know. Certainly she was a seamstress of great ability and competence, generous in using her talent for others and satisfied with nothing but perfection in whatever she made. In the days when Sisters all wore a uniform religious habit, Camillus mastered the art of habit-making to the finest detail. This sewing for the Sisters was a sideline to her teaching, so it was all done in her free time at weekends or at night. That was Camillus - she loved to give.

Camillus was a 'free spirit’, often a lone ranger, very much her own person, often pushing for change, daring to do something different. In her religious life there were roads and pathways that she had to walk down…and some wondered why. Often it seemed that when many were sedately waltzing, Camillus was away on a fast foxtrot. The music she heard was often different from others. She had to be true to herself and step to the music she heard. What sound was it that led her, in her 80's, to become a volunteer friend to the people with intellectual disability at Mangere Hospital? She said… 'I felt a call to reach out to those with special needs.' After the demands of this ministry, Camillus retired to Nazareth Rest Home in Wanganui.

Her relationship with God was the driving-force of her life. She prayed daily for long periods. Her favourite praying time was 9,10, 11 at night. When at Nazareth she could always be found in the chapel at that time. In community, Camillus was unpredictable - loveable. She brought light, love, colour, sometimes confusion into others’ lives. She was different, thought-provoking, generous. She was a wonderful example of a woman of prayer.

In the 1990, while still a resident of Nazareth, Camillus responded to a call to an alternative religious community life and extra ministry in Auckland. Two years later she returned to Nazareth. She said that though she didn't feel at all well, she was filled with great peace, and looked forward to being quiet and settled for whatever time was left to her.

Camillus died three days later, after spending her usual time of prayer in the Chapel. Her funeral Mass in Wanganui was attended by her family, Sisters, and her many friends. She was buried at Aramoho Cemetery, Wanganui.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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