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Sisters of the Past

Sister de Chantal - Mary Ellen Christina Brennan

Profiled in June 2007

9 June 1910 6 July 1991

Mary Ellen Christina Brennan was born in Te Aroha on 9 June 1910 to John Brennan and Mary Ellen Louisa, nee Petersen.  John worked as a guard on New Zealand Railways.  Eventually Christina, or Chrissie as the family knew her, was joined by four sisters and one brother Josie, Margaret, Ivy, Violet and Ray.

Christina entered the Sisters of St Joseph on 31 December 1926, and took the name of De Chantal, which was an abbreviation of St Jane Frances de Chantal.  She moved into the teaching ministry and had a long and significant ministry as a proficient and capable teacher of the junior school.  Her teaching career began at the Levin Convent School in 1930, and she was one of the founding teachers of St Mary’s School Hastings, in 1959.
As well as teaching in the school, de Chantal taught music before and after classes for some years.  In her teaching years de Chantal moved around the various Josephite schools in Taranaki, Hawkes Bay and Horowhenua.  In 1937, her sister Violet also joined the Sisters of St Joseph, taking the name of Sr Fabian.

Sr de Chantal (or ‘Jane’ as she was sometimes called) was very skilled at tatting and knitting. She also made wonderful confectionary and sold this to the children at school to earn extra money for the community. In those days there was no government assistance for private schools and scant school fees.

De Chantal is remembered as a quiet, rather shy person, with an excellent sense of humour.  She was very correct and exact in all she did and had a very keen sense of duty.  Sisters recall her being a happy and enjoyable community member.

After many years of service to Catholic education, Sr de Chantal gradually moved towards retirement, from part-time teaching in 1975 to community presence in a number of communities until full retirement in Nazareth Rest Home from 1985.  It was during this time that she suffered a severe stroke that left her without speech and confined to a wheelchair.
Her death came on 6 July 1991, just under two months after her sister, Sr Fabian.  Sr de Chantal’s  Funeral Mass was held in St Mary’s Church, Whanganui, and she was buried at Aramoho Cemetery.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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