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Sisters of the Past

Sister Adrian - Mary Nesdale

Profiled in July 2005

31 October 1909 16 September 1988

 Mary Nesdale, the youngest of 12 children of Mary and Patrick Nesdale, was born in Kimbolton, in the Manawatu region of the North Island. She spent her happy childhood years on the family farm, attending the local primary school. Her secondary schooling began at the Convent in Te Awamutu, and when her family moved to Ashurst, she finished her schooling at St Joseph’s in Palmerston North.

Mary spent nearly 10 years working in Wellington, flatting with some of her sisters. She enjoyed a full social life, was a competent tennis player, and had a great love of horse racing. In her late teens she was interested in nursing, but a period of ill-health brought advice against such a pursuit. In May 1937 she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St Joseph in Wanganui, and was professed in 1940. Now Sister Adrian, and despite feeling a certain loss of independence, she loved her chosen calling. As the years moved on, all who met her as teacher, fellow religious, and chance acquaintance, immediately caught her sense of personal fulfilment shown by her joyful manner and warm heartedness.

Adrian taught commercial subjects at Sacred Heart for 22 years, and never flagged in her efforts to propel even the most unwilling student through examinations and out into an excellent job and career. She never forgot those whom she had taught, following their progress and showing interest in their families. She had an infectious laugh and a great capacity for fun. She was also a capable thinker and eloquent speaker.

In 1959 she was elected Superior General and gave 12 years of service in that role. She undertook with great energy the work of studying and recording the early history of the Sisters. The highlight for her during those years was the setting up and bringing together of all five autonomous groups of the Sisters of St Joseph in New South Wales, Tasmania and Wanganui. Adrian’s vision and enthusiasm contributed much to the Federation of the Sisters of St Joseph coming into being in 1967.

In later years despite intense physical pain, Adrian remained actively involved in the pastoral care of many people in Wanganui and beyond. Her enthusiasm for life never diminished, and neither did her interest and commitment to her family, and to her religious congregation. She died on 16 September 1988, and at her funeral was held in St Mary’s Church, where a large congregation of family, friends, former pupils and Sisters gathered for her farewell. Adrian was buried in Aramoho Cemetery, Wanganui.

Adrian’s life certainly bore witness to the text from the Josephite Constitutions:
“We who have taken up their task must press on into each age
as it unfolds, in a like spirit of daring, strong in our commitment to love”.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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