May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!
There is one ONLY THING to do here below:
To love Jesus,
to win souls for Him so that He may be loved.
Let us seize with jealous care every least opportunity of self sacrifice.
Let us refuse Him nothing –
He does so want our love!
(St Therese of Lisieux to her sister Celine)
These words of St Therese of Lisieux, taken from one of her letters to her sister, Celine, perhaps could sum up for us the life and ministry of Sr Elaine North, who had a special devotion to this saint and who quietly and peacefully departed this life to enter eternal life, just before midday last Wednesday.
Elaine Mary North was born eighty three years ago at Grenfell, NSW, the eighth of Thomas and Agnes North’s sixteen children. Her parents, her sister Imelda and brothers Thomas, Gregory, John and Terence, no doubt were waiting to welcome their daughter and sister as she joined them in their heavenly home. To her remaining siblings: Yvonne, Clare, Peter, James, Fr Bede, Richard, Barbara, Paul, Marita and Annette, sisters and brother-in-laws and the extended North family, we offer our deepest sympathy and the assurance of the support of our prayers as you mourn the loss of your much loved sister, aunt, cousin and friend, who loved you dearly.
Elaine lived her early years in the country, where she spent a very happy childhood, living in a big home, with rose gardens and fruit trees to climb and plenty of room to play with her brothers and sisters. Her mother was a faith-filled person and her father a convert from a strict Presbyterian family. The family rosary each evening was a part of their daily lives as was music, with their mother, a music teacher, playing the piano and their father playing the violin. At the age of seven Elaine almost drowned. She was pulled unconscious from the river where she had been swimming, and was resuscitated. The memory of this event stayed with Elaine and as she grew older she believed that her life had been saved because the Lord wanted something more from her.
When Elaine was in Year Four the family moved to Kensington. Elaine attended Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College. Elaine wrote: I missed the country life very much. The pace of the city life was too fast and too crowded, but it continued to be a very happy, unspoiled time. I was more interested in sport than studies. I had many lovely friends and attended daily Mass, which was central to my life. One of my duties at home was to help prepare the family for Sunday Mass – setting out the Sunday clothes, cleaning the shoes and preparing the boys’ altar boy clothes. My cousin, Sr Annette Herbert, who was an OLSH Sister, took an interest in me and wrote long letters to me about the missions.
Through her teenage years, Elaine felt that God was calling her to be a religious. She had a strong desire to be a nurse and to go to the Missions. Elaine continues her story: I found my relationship with Jesus growing deeper all the time. My response was unfolding, though at times I did pray that I would not be a nun! The Lord did not give up on me and in November 1950, I entered the Postulate at Hartzer Park and was given Sr M. Christine as my religious name. In July 1952 I made my First Vows as a Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. After this I moved to Kensington and began my nurse’s training at St Vincent’s Darlinghurst.
Elaine’s first appointment was to the Leprosarium at East Arm in the Northern Territory. Here she worked with the Indigenous people who had contracted leprosy, provided general health care and administered the all important medications. After two and a half years in this ministry, Elaine undertook her training in midwifery at St Margaret’s Hospital in Sydney, before being posted to Papua New Guinea. Elaine was assigned to the mission of Budoya, on an island which was north of the eastern tip of Milne Bay Province. She was a foundation member of this community of Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and was instrumental in establishing a hospital there. Here her ministry was far reaching, as she tended to those, not only in the hospital and around the local area, but she also travelled on patrol to the villages around Budoya and the neighbouring islands. She was called upon to use her skills in the care of those suffering with contagious, tropical and common diseases, leprosy, injuries from accidents as well as maternity work. She was then transferred to Daio, an area on the mainland on the southern side of the bay where she again was called upon to use her nursing skills.
Following these years, Elaine returned to Australia, where she gained a certificate in Infant Welfare, before returning again to PNG, this time to Veifa’a in the Beraina Province. At Veifa’a Elaine was both matron of the hospital and Tutor nurse. She was responsible for the training of the young women who came from all parts of PNG. On gaining their nurses’ registration, these women returned to the country’s rural situations, where they often found themselves responsible for the health care of many, without the support of a doctor.
Ill health brought to an end Elaine’s twenty one years in PNG and she returned to Australia, where upon her recuperation Elaine became, for the next three years, the house ‘mother’ and nurse to the Vietnamese boys – refugees- who were in residence at OLSH College Bowral and who were studying at Chevalier College. Elaine’s caring and motherly approach helped these young people to know that they were in a safe place, where they found love, acceptance and peace at a most difficult time in their lives.
From Bowral, Elaine transferred to Tara in north-west Queensland. Here she remained for the next eight years. The President of the Rotary Club in a submission in support of the nomination of Elaine for Citizen of the Year wrote: As part of the Home Nursing Service under the auspices of the Catholic Church and St Vincent de Paul, in 1989, alone, Sr Elaine has visited one thousand, eight hundred and fifty three people and has travelled eleven thousand six hundred and thirty one kilometres, as part of this visitation … Her care and attention to the mainly aged people is very well known. In times of extreme stress for families of the dying, she has sat at the hospital on numerous occasions, all night, giving comfort and compassion. Religion, or lack of it, mattered not to Sr Elaine – everyone was an equal human being. … The tireless efforts of tender loving care and comfort to people of all persuasions and the thoughtfulness and graciousness of this wonderful lady are legendary in the Tara Shire.
During her time in pastoral ministry in St Therese’s Parish, Mascot, where she cared for the elderly, lonely and poor; ministering to the families in need at the San Miguel Centre, Richmond NSW; and visiting and walking with the Sudanese people in Blacktown, which was to be her last appointment in an active ministry, Elaine was known as the ‘quiet achiever’, whose prayerful, gentle presence reached out to and touched so many of God’s ‘little ones’. In his letter to Elaine at the time of her departure from Blacktown, Bishop Kevin Manning, the Bishop of Parramatta at the time, thanked Elaine for her untiring kindness, compassion and practical support given so unselfishly to the women and children who were struggling to make a new life in Australia.
Ill health was again taking its toll and it became necessary for Elaine to move to St Joseph’s Aged Care Facility, where for the next five and a half years, Elaine was the recipient of the same loving care which she had generously shown to so many others throughout almost sixty four years as a much loved Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. She had once written: My personal motto was that with Jesus and Mary anything worth doing was worth doing properly. And so with my mission in the Church, I have always tried to do my best with a pure intention. This has allowed spiritual growth in my life and a deeper encounter and relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Mother, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Elaine, may you now enjoy that special relationship in its fullness as you hear the King say: ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.’ (Mtt 25:34) Rest in peace, Elaine!
Sr Elizabeth Little FDNSC
Kensington, June 29, 2016