May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!
I know in whom I have believed,
and I am confident that he is able to safeguard until that Day
all that I have entrusted to him. (2 Tim. 1:12)
These words of St Paul to Timothy captured for Sister Thérèse her conviction that despite the difficulties that form part of life, “All is well, all manner of things are well” (Julian of Norwich). Last Thursday morning, Thérèse’s belief that her Lord would always be there with her and for her was realised when he gently took her to himself. She was in the eighty-ninth year of her age and the sixty-ninth of her religious profession.
Thérèse was born in Ipswich, Queensland, on 7 July 1927, the ninth of the ten children of James and Helene Farrell. (Helene was the sister of our late Sister M Aidan Kerwick). Her parents and eight of her siblings have predeceased her. To Thérèse’s sisters, Rita and Phil, to her nieces, nephews, cousins, and their families, we offer our deepest sympathy and the support of our prayers. You know well her deep love for you, her pride and joy in you, and her gratitude to you.
The Farrell home was a happy one: theirs was a close-knit family. Thérèse’s parents were strong Catholics and the practice of the faith was central to family life. She recalled that “Mass, Confession and Rosary (with trimmings) were daily or weekly occurrences”. The “old” Memorare to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was a valued “trimming” on the Rosary and Thérèse later wrote, “I loved that prayer”. Our Blessed Lady became an important part of Thérèse’s life.
Not that the family did not know suffering. The death of her brother, James, in 1933 of leukaemia at the age of eighteen years, was a great sorrow, particularly to Thérèse’s parents. Also, like many families during World War II, the family had the anxiety of knowing that two of the boys, Bernard and Jack, serving in the Royal Australian Air Force faced constant danger. Thankfully, both returned home safely.
Thérèse’s father, James, held a senior position in the meat industry and this resulted in the family moving to New South Wales during her early years. After a few years they returned to Queensland. In 1932 James accepted a position as General Manager of the Wyndham Meatworks and the family transferred to Perth in December of that year, and settled in the then developing suburb of Nedlands. The move to the West meant separation from the extended family in Queensland. Thérèse’s appointment to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, Corinda, Brisbane, for six years in the 1950’s brought her the joy of renewing her acquaintance with her Queensland relatives and she maintained her contact with them until her death.
Thérèse received her early education from the Loreto Sisters in Nedlands. At the age of ten, due to her mother’s illness following surgery, she and three of her sisters became boarders at St Brigid’s College, Lesmurdie, conducted by the Sisters of Mercy. Study presented no difficulty to Thérèse: she was a gifted student. She regarded the Sisters of Mercy as excellent teachers and in later life commented that she modelled her own teaching on theirs. The Sisters of Mercy also had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and this together with her love for Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and influence of her aunt, Sister M Aidan, led her to the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Thérèse entered the Congregation at Bowral on 4 July 1945, taking the name Sister M Canice. Following her profession on 2 July 1947, she trained as a teacher at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Teacher Training College, Kensington, and in 1949 began her ministry in teaching, a ministry which spanned over thirty years. Thérèse taught in each of our Colleges. At a young age she was recognised for her creative and effective administrative skills and she served as Principal in our Colleges at Corinda, Enfield and Kensington.
In 1968 Thérèse interrupted her years in the schools and completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of New South Wales, majoring in English, French and Psychology, achieving a high distinction or distinction in each unit studied. She obtained a Diploma in Education from the University of New England in 1972. Thérèse was a woman of broad interests and competence. She had a great love for languages – English, French, German and Latin - and enjoyed teaching them. Not a few students attribute to Thérèse their life-long love for English literature. It is not surprising that the works of William Shakespeare and the poems of Frost, Tennyson, Keats, Hopkins and T. S. Eliot, among others, retained their place of importance on her bookshelf. She also had a deep interest in history, particularly European History, and was able to make it come alive. In addition, Thérèse taught Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry to senior classes. Her own great love of learning and her breadth of approach meant that she was a brilliant educator: her lessons were meticulously prepared and interestingly presented. She had a genuine love and concern for her students as individuals and had no difficulty in taking time with less able students until they grasped the topic under consideration. Thérèse found education a richly rewarding apostolate. She rejoiced to watch her students mature and grow in their faith and in knowledge and move into their chosen careers. She kept in touch with many of them well after they had left school, sharing their achievements and their sorrows. In their turn, her pupils remember her with much affection and appreciation.
Vatican Council II (1962-1965) ushered in an era of great change in the Church and consequently in religious life. In 1977 our Congregational Leader asked Thérèse to go to Rome to work with another Australian sister, Sister M Regina Cawood, to revise our Constitutions or Rule of Life. This was a major undertaking. On arrival in Rome Thérèse spent the first year at the Pontifical University of St Thomas where she studied the Documents of Vatican II and the history and theology of religious life in depth before beginning the revision required. After writing an initial draft she travelled to various Provinces within Europe and beyond to consult the Sisters on the draft. While this was at times difficult, it carried the bonus of being able to see much of the world and particularly of Europe, which Thérèse revelled in: it was an enriching and thoroughly enjoyable experience. The revised Constitutions were approved by the Holy See in August 1983 and remained in place for thirty years. In accomplishing this work Thérèse’s contribution to the life of the entire Congregation, not simply of the Australian Province, cannot be overestimated.
In 1993 Thérèse was appointed National Director of our OLSH Associates, a group of lay women and men who share our charism, spirituality and mission and who work to make the Heart of Jesus loved in their own circumstances, according to their particular vocation. In this role, as in all others she held, she worked with generosity and devotedness to support the Associates in their commitment and life-journey. She travelled all over Australia, visiting groups; she published the bi-monthly magazine, Ametur, to offer spiritual reflection and guidance. She found her work with the Associates very gratifying. Thérèse maintained an extensive correspondence, writing to numerous Associates, sharing their joys and sorrows, and offering spiritual counsel. Not that her correspondence was confined to the Associates: family, Sisters, former colleagues and former students have appreciated her interesting, newsy and beautifully written letters.
Over the years Thérèse served as Leader of our communities at Bentleigh, Randwick and Mascot. Whether as leader or as a member of the community, she was keen to participate fully in the life of the community. She was a loved and respected community member.
The above words speak of Thérèse’s achievements and they were significant. But behind the achievements is a woman who cannot be captured in words. Thérèse had a simple yet deep spirituality: she was a woman of prayer. She was wise and was a respected mentor to many, a gifted woman who put her gifts at the service of others with humility and magnanimity of heart. Thérèse appreciated beauty wherever she encountered it - in nature, music, language, and particularly in people. She maintained a keen interest in life whether it be at the local level or on the international scene and was careful to keep informed. She was a dignified lady who aged gracefully, a faithful and much loved Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
We praise God for his many gifts to Sister Thérèse. We thank God and the Farrell family for their gift of her to our religious family. We honour you, Thérèse, and thank you, and we give you back to God, grateful and privileged that you have been our Sister and our friend. May your noble soul rest in peace.
Moya Hanlen FDNSC
OLSH Convent Chapel, Kensington, 21 January 2016