May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!
These words, from the Book of Wisdom, are taken from the Church’s Liturgy for the Mass which was celebrated on Wednesday December 30. On that day, just before sunrise, the Lord did stoop down from his heavenly throne to call Noelle to himself: Come you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage, the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25, 34). Noelle answered his call, peacefully giving herself into her Lord’s keeping.
Noelle was born on November 20, 1935, in Paddington, Sydney, the youngest of Albert and Monica’s two children. To Noelle’s brother Ron, her sister-in-law, Margaret, her nephew Stephen, nieces, Joanne, Carolyn, Susan, Lisa and their families, we offer you our deepest sympathy and the support of our prayers, as you grieve the death of your much loved sister, sister-in-law and aunt, whom we know, also loved you dearly.
Noelle lived and grew up in the Sydney suburb of Daceyville, receiving the sacraments in the parish church of St Michael’s, attending St Michael’s Primary School and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College at Kensington, where she completed her Intermediate Certificate. It was during her school years that Noelle also took violin lessons and thus began her association with her loved violin, fondly known as ‘Fidelie’. After leaving school, Noelle trained as a stenographer / typist in the Public Service before joining a shipping company, where she worked for the next ten years. Of her home life, Noelle wrote: When Dad was 17 years old he left his homeland of Italy and came to Australia, where he met Monica, and although there was a language barrier, their romance progressed and they were married. .. As well as our Australian aunts, uncles and cousins, we had ‘adopted ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’: the families of the seven Italian immigrants, with whom Dad boarded before his marriage. … I remember whole days together, making pasta and sitting down to a great feast. Our home life was very quiet, stable and sheltered.
In 1957 Noelle went to Italy to meet her grandfather and other family members. Noelle found this visit to be of great significance and a life-changing event. It was here that on the feast of the Assumption, Noelle accompanied her cousin to Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Monte Berico. This Basilica had been built by the local people in thanksgiving to Our Lady, who had, in 1800, rid the town of a plague that had struck the community. Noelle continues the story: Following the Mass, pilgrims were filing behind the main altar … they were placing their hand on a plaque depicting the apparition of Our Lady. When I placed my hand on the image, I was shocked to hear rise from my heart the plea: ‘Give me a vocation’ and it was done. A trip to Rome in the coming weeks, with my cousin, saw us visit the Pastorelle Sisters, as my cousin hoped to enter when she was older. I spoke to the Foundress and made arrangements to return in two years to enter.
Noelle continues: After three months I returned home and quickly became involved in many things. I went to dances and joined the youth orchestra. I loved work and had great friends. Two years later I did return to Italy, accompanied my mother. We had a wonderful time, despite the language barrier. I did not, however, return to visit the Sisters. Once back in Australia I again became immersed in many things, until everything lost taste and I knew I could no longer run from Him. An appointment with Mother Concepta, the Australian Provincial of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, followed and arrangements were made for me to enter in April 1961 at Hartzer Park, Bowral. …. When I finally said my ‘yes’, I was given the strength to face the opposition which my decision to enter caused. My brother and sister-in-law were a great support and always have been. In time both my parents could see that I was happy and Dad was won over by the Sisters, particularly Sisters Frances Mary and Venard.
After her profession in 1964, Noelle was appointed to Kensington, where she completed the leaving certificate and for the next three years, used her secretarial skills, assisting the provincial secretary. Then followed three years at Bentleigh, where, among other things, Noelle studied cookery at Emily MacPherson College, and also attended the Assumption Institute. Noelle loved these courses, which were to equip her for some of her future ministries, one of which, following her perpetual profession, included her appointment to Hartzer Park as Socia. Here, over the next three years, she worked with the Novices.
Noelle reflects on the next stage of her journey: A misguided belief that I could speak Italian saw me sent to our Generalate in Rome in 1973. It was the surprise of my life! Here I was the English speaking secretary working with a French counterpart, Sr Cecile Marie Petit. French was the language of the house. I had only one word! Fortunately Sr Cecile Marie had studied English at school but was reluctant to speak it. Despite these drawbacks, we became close friends. This friendship remained strong over the years, with Cecile Marie still communicating with Noelle via email, until the time of Noelle’s death.
Returning to Australia in 1975, Noelle was appointed to the Primary Boys’ Boarding School at Bowral, where she was able to use her culinary skills and also had some contact with the boys. Noelle recalls: It was a bit of a challenge because I am not very good with children, but I could get them out of bed and enjoyed time in the library with them. From Bowral Noelle was appointed to Alice Springs, where she fell in love with the Northern Territory and all it had to offer. She wrote: I relished the magnificent landscape, the mothering role for the Indigenous and non indigenous children in the John Paul Hostel, and the support and friendship of the other religious and lay missionaries. … It was there that I became involved in a ministry close to my heart – the work of the Marriage Tribunal, through Fr Brian Healy msc. After I had typed his interviews, he suggested to Bishop O’Loughlin msc that I attend the Institute Tribunal Course. This began an association with Tribunal work, part-time and full-time, which spanned twenty six years and went hand in hand with other ministries.
In 1984, at the request of Bishop O’Loughlin, Noelle was appointed to Darwin, as the Bishop’s secretary. Following his death she continued as secretary to Bishop Ted Collins msc. Noelle took up the violin again and joined a small group of musicians, who went on to become the nucleus of the Darwin Symphony Orchestra. Noelle loved the violin, for it spoke to her heart and was very relaxing for her. Ill health necessitated Noelle’s return to Kensington in 1989, where she was provincial secretary until she was appointed Community Leader at Botany. While in this role she continued with the Tribunal work as well as parish secretarial work and parish liturgy. Then followed six months in the Daceyville Community before returning to Kensington, for six years, as the Leader of the Maristella Community. Noelle enjoyed the variety of life which this position afforded her. She was able to use her gifts and talents in many ways such as: overseeing and attending to maintenance, cooking and housekeeping.
Following the completion of her term as Community Leader Noelle was a member of the Randwick, Rosebery, Little Bay, St Joseph’s and Maristella Communities. During these years she continued her work with the Sydney Marriage Tribunal, was a member of the Provincial Council for three years and Community Leader of our Sisters, who were residents at St Joseph’s. In 2005 Noelle was a participant in the Cor Novum program in Issoudun, France and was able to fulfil a long held dream of visiting Lourdes and Kruger Park on her homeward journey. Another highlight during these years was what Noelle described as an unexpected privilege in the latter part of my life, that of being involved in the process leading up to the beatification, on September 13, 2015, of Samuel Benedict Daswa, a layman, husband, father and teacher, who became South Africa’s first martyr. Noelle travelled to South Africa, three times while undertaking this work. She writes: I had always dreamed of working in South Africa and when the opportunity came I thought ‘Thank you Lord’.
Noelle had a great interest in the history of our Province and over the years was instrumental in collecting various items of historical value, cataloguing them and setting up a small ‘heritage centre’ in the basement of the Provincial House. Only days before her death, Noelle was still arranging for work to be completed, such was her passion and dedication. Linked with this passion for the historical, was her love of the things of nature and things that were linked to the memories of experiences that played an important part in her life. Various rocks and shells, photos and artefacts, formed a meaningful part of Noelle’s collection and each object had a special link to Noelle and her life.
In the final paragraph of her memoirs, Noelle wrote: My journey as a Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart has been blessed in many ways. I have received multiple gifts – my vocation, my family, my varied ministries and those I have ministered to, friendships in community and the wider community. I have been truly blessed.
While Noelle has given thanks for the blessings of her life, those of us who have been touched by this life give thanks to God for the gift of Noelle in our lives. Now that your earthly life has come to an end Noelle, we pray that you will enjoy your eternal rest, as the heavenly choirs of angels welcome you into paradise and into the presence of your loving Creator God.
Noelle, may you rest in peace.
Sr Elizabeth Little FDNSC
January 6, 2016