Sisters of the Past

Sister Ita - Mary Anne Crompton

Profiled in July 2006  

19 July 1885 1 May 1976

 Mary Ann Crompton was born in Otaki in 1885, daughter of James and Hannah, nee Quinn. She was the third child and second daughter in a family of 12 children. Her father was a blacksmith, well read and of strong faith. James was a staunch friend of Fr Melu, the French Marist missionary priest living in Otaki.

When the family shifted from Otaki to Whanganui, one of Mary’s boots was mislaid, so she wore a long skirt to hide her feet. This was referred to as her “coming out” as an adult! In Whanganui she worked in Dustin’s Bakery, and was a proof reader for the Whanganui Chronicle. She was engaged to be married, and had been bridesmaid for her older sister Maggie, at her marriage.

Mary joined the Sisters of St Joseph on 2 February 1912, three months before the Sacred Heart Convent opened in its new site on St John’s Hill. At the opening of the Convent on 12 May 1912, Mary, now known as Sister Ita, decided that that was where she would spend the rest of her life.

For many years she was a house sister preparing meals for the school sisters in the various convents around the lower North Island. After some years she became part of the teaching staff, teaching senior primary school students. She gained her ATCL in elocution, and was a very good teacher. Wherever she went Ita took a book waiting to go from school, or during Jubilee celebrations. She spent some years as part of the governing Council of the Sisters.

Sister Ita was proud of the association her father had with the early history of the Sisters. When her father was dying in Patea in 1919, she came to visit him with Sister Teresa Schmitt, one of the original sisters to come to Whanganui. When Ita introduce her companion as an Australian, James Crompton asked if she ever knew a priest by the name of Tenison Woods. Imagine the surprise when told that Fr Tenison Woods was one of the founders of the Sisters of St Joseph. He told Sisters Teresa and Ita the story of his boyhood.

“My father was a policeman, shot by the Ned Kelly gang. Soon afterwards my mother died. I was a young boy so I went to live with my eldest sister Alice, who married a Mr Peacock. Peacock resented me and treated me poorly. He had me droving cattle long treks through the Australian bush. So one day I ran away. Eventually I was picked up by a horseman, Fr Julian T4enison Woods. He cared for me, had me educated and developed in me a very strong devotion to Our Lady”.

Over the years, not only his daughter, but three of his grand daughters became Sisters of St Joseph Margaret Hurley, Marie and Kathleen Crompton.

During the last years of her life, Sister Ita suffered great pain from glaucoma, which eventually made her completely blind. She ended her days in the infirmary at Sacred Heart Convent where she died on 1 May 1976. Her funeral was held in the Sacred Heart Chapel, and she was buried at Aramoho Cemetery, Whanganui.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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