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Sisters of the Past

Sister Charles - Teresa Vickers

Profiled in November 2005

1881 - 15 December 1958

 Born in Hastings in 1881, Teresa Vickers was the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs W Vickers. She entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph at Wanganui in 1899, and was professed on 4 February 1901 .

At Hawera, when she died on 15 December 1958 , a long life of devotion to her church and the wider community ended. Throughout New Zealand Sister Charles was fondly remembered, particularly in Hawera, Hastings, Wanganui and Feilding, where she spent her religious life as a teacher of outstanding ability. She was particularly well-known in the Hawera district where she spent 29 years.

Her Christian charity expressed itself in all spheres of work and her influence was very much wider than the confines of her own classrooms and congregation. Much of her spare time was spent in visiting the poor and sick of the parish, and her services were lovingly given wherever comfort or assistance were needed. She was a great advocate for those who were poor. With her indomitable spirit she would approach those who were well off, and expect them to share their various resources.

Possessed of a contralto voice of magnificent quality and range, she would undoubtedly have had an outstanding musical career had she not chosen religious life. As a teacher of singing she earned the gratitude of very many singers whose musical gifts she was able to develop. Possessed of indefatigable energy, she was still in charge of the classroom of Forms 1 and 11 at the Hawera Convent School until a few weeks before her death. Some idea of her talent as a teacher is shown in the fact that her students won boarding school scholarships for several years in competition with those from all other schools taught by the Sisters of St Joseph of Nazareth. One year her candidates secured both first and second places.

A group of Polish boys who were brought to New Zealand after the war arrived to live in Hawera. They attended Hawera Convent School and Sister Charles was very supportive of them, both in their day to-day living needs and their education.

Family members have happy memories of Sister Charles visiting. She would always reach down into the depths of her petticoat, and she'd bring out goodies especially for the children; bottles of ginger ale, sweets, some of Sister Benedict's beautiful baking.
A number of her nieces and nephews also embraced religious life.

Sister Charles was so well known in Hawera, that on the day of her funeral all the shops in the main street closed as the funeral cortege passed through the town. It was a mark of respect, as shopkeepers and shoppers alike stood along the street in silence to honour and farewell a great woman. Her Requiem Mass was celebrated in St Joseph 's Church, and she was buried in the Hawera Cemetery.

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