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Sisters of the Past

Sister Dolores - Agnes Connolly

Profiled in March 2005

6 October 1904 - 12 May 1990

 Dolores was born Agnes Connolly at Geraldine Flat, South Canterbury, a beloved only daughter among three brothers. Her mother Mary, nee Maloney, died when she was a child, and her father, Jeremiah, a farmer and the local Member of Parliament, idolised her. His second wife died very young and very suddenly, having given birth to a son and a daughter.
Throughout her life she maintained an interest in politics - always reading the newspaper from cover to cover and making suitably perceptive comments, especially when elections were in the offing!

From her childhood she possessed a great love of the feminine and the dainty. She loved us to dress suitably and in pretty colours. She attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Timaru and recounts with pleasure that "I arrived as a small frightened child. Yet the Sisters permitted me to wear my own pretty, blue frock for a few days, before obliging me to don the ugly uniform ... uniforms did not permit of prettiness!" We can only imagine what she thought about the uniform she wore for most of her life!

Dolores' spirituality was also nurtured early. There was a chapel in the Connolly home and many Masses were offered there. She tells of arriving at school in Timaru to be met by a statue of the Sacred Heart welcoming her. She writes "Years later, my heart thumping in fear, I stood at another convent door. The door opened. Standing before me was a statue of the Sacred Heart. Peace came to me! I had come home!" The home she had come to was of course, the old Sacred Heart Convent building on St John's Hill, when she entered the Sisters of St Joseph in 1931.

For most of her convent life Dolores' mission was that of hospitality - to be receptionist at the door of that very large building, to welcome all who came. She was very well known for her cheerful smile and her thoughtfulness. She kept notebooks with the names of boarders' and sisters' family members recorded so that she could show a personal interest in each person. An article she wrote for the Sisters tells of her love of this position, her distress when the building was removed in early 1983 and her delight to find that the door she opened for so many years later stood at the entrance to the Sacred Heart Chapel.

After the demolition of Sacred Heart, Dolores was very sad. She lived at Mt St Joseph and became involved in the local community, joining the Old Folks and the Pioneer Association. She visited the senior citizens, the ill, the lonely and the bereaved. She now went out to people who used to come in to her door.

Dolores also went out to others through letter writing. Many who travelled delighted in receiving her letters, so full of details which other writers would overlook.

Ill health had haunted Dolores for the greater part of her life and eventually in 1988 she took up residence at Nazareth Rest Home. At that time she underwent a great physical and spiritual darkness, experiencing a lot of mental anguish. Out of darkness came light, for on the other side of this fearsome valley, Dolores became the most gracious, sweet, loving lady, much loved by staff.

Often people who have lived a life of service cannot receive love. Dolores could receive love. Her sufferings had made space for it.. She loved being involved in the activities of others' lives, whether it was praying or partying, and she was happy and pleased to receive expressions of affection and compliments. Dolores could receive our love and God's love and therefore she could give it all away again.

Sister Dolores died at Nazareth on 12 May 1990. Her funeral was held at St Mary's Church Wanganui, and she was buried in Aramoho Cemetery.

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