May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!
As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation,
and the time has come for me to be gone.
I have fought the good fight to the end;
I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith;
all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me,
which the Lord the righteous judge, will give me on that day of judgement. (2 Timothy 4, 6-8)
Last Tuesday evening, Sr Eugenie, just seven hours after arriving home at St Joseph’s from St Vincent’s Hospital, heard her beloved Lord say: Come to me, you who labour and overburdened and I will give you rest. … (Matt 11:28) and as she gently and peacefully took her last breath, she may have replied, in the words of 2 Timothy: my life is already poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish, I have kept the faith. … (2 Timothy, 4:7)
Eugenie Mary Kennedy was born in Brisbane Queensland, one month short of eighty nine years ago. She was the eldest of the three children of Mary Ellen and Albert, who have predeceased her. To her surviving brother, Allen, her sister Ailsa, their families and her dear friends, some of whom are with us today, we offer you our deepest sympathy and the assurance of the support of our prayers as you grieve the loss of your much loved ‘big’ sister, and dear friend, who also loved you and valued your friendship and support.
Eugenie’s father was born in Scotland of strict Protestant parents. (She was very proud of her Scottish heritage, the ‘Kennedy’ tartan and the kilt.) Her father migrated to Australia where he met and later married Mary Ellen, a Catholic. Her father’s family was bitterly opposed to this union. Eugenie wrote: I have vivid memories of severe poverty during the depression years. There was no assistance from the extended family. Mother had been an orphan; her parents died when she was only two years old. Father died aged fifty four from a sickness resulting from injuries sustained while fighting in World War 1. Mother lived until she was ninety.
Due to the depression the family was forced to move from place to place searching for work. Consequently, Eugenie attended many different Government schools, but she did attend a Catholic School for a short time and it was there that she was prepared for the Sacraments of Reconciliation and her First Communion. While attending Sandgate High school, she was successful in gaining a boarding scholarship to Lourdes Hill Catholic College in Brisbane, where she passed her Junior certificate and undertook commercial subjects, thus equipping her for the position as a stenographer in the work force.
Upon leaving School, Eugenie became a member of the; ‘Children of Mary’ Society, the Parish youth group and The National Catholic Girls’ Movement. Of these times she wrote: Friendships were formed and the most influential of these were the friendships with Maureen Hogan, who later became Sr M. Terence fdnsc and Veronica McKee, who became a Holy Spirit Sister. We used to meet at St Stephens Cathedral Brisbane for the Eucharist before going to work. Influenced by the example of Maureen and Veronica and desirous of also becoming a missionary, I applied to enter the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. As a result of which I was disowned by my father’s side of the family.
Dean O’Leary, the Parish Priest of St James’ Coorparoo, writing a reference for Eugenie to go with her application to the Provincial wrote: The bearer of this note, Miss Gene Kennedy, is about the most respected Catholic Girl in this Parish, and one whom the Clergy can ill afford to lose. I have no hesitation in recommending her most strongly to your Order. Eugenie entered the Postulate at Bowral in November 1946 and was given the name in religion of Sr Mary Daniel. She made her First Profession of Vows in July 1948, at Hartzer Park. One month after her profession, Eugenie’s dearly loved father died.
After her Profession, Eugenie moved to the Community at Kensington. Here she resided for the next four and a half years, studying and undertaking her nursing training at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, where she graduated as a General Registered Nurse. Eugenie then went on to St Margaret’s Hospital, where she studied obstetric nursing and graduated as a registered midwife. A few months after the opening of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Hospital Randwick in 1954, Eugenie joined the community and the nursing staff and recalled that she ‘felt very much a part of the founding community.’
Apart from six months in 1955, spent nursing at the Channel Island Leprosarium in the Northern Territory, twelve months at Kensington in 1968, while she undertook further studies at the NSW College of Nursing, becoming a Ward (Nursing) Manager and a further six months at Kensington in 1976, while completing a Missiology course at St Columban’s Seminary, Turramurra, Eugenie was to spend the intervening years, between 1954 and 1995 in the Community at Randwick.
Until the closure of the hospital in 1976, Eugenie, or Sr M. Daniel as she was known at that time, was in charge of the surgical ward, and as the Ward Manager she had the responsibility for the ‘hands on’ training of the nurses assigned to that section. Her meticulous attention to detail in all that was involved with the running of the theatre, the care of the patients and the high standards and expectations that she placed on herself and all those who worked with and under her, earned for her and for that area the dubious title of ‘Daniel in the lion’s den’. One senior medical officer, even summoned the courage to place a toy lion in Sr Daniel’s office, and he ‘survived’, (so did the lion), as Eugenie was able to see the ‘funny side’. Eugenie was a dedicated nurse, an excellent trainer, who led by example. She was a highly respected professional manager amongst her peers and the other medical professionals, whether it was at the hospital at Randwick or at the Prince of Wales Hospital, where she served as a Ward Nursing Manager from 1977 until 1995. In this latter capacity, Eugenie described herself as a ‘Missionary’. God alone would know the number of souls she ‘touched’ during these years of faithful service. Over all these years, Eugenie endeared herself to many and the friendships formed were very special.
For the next three years Eugenie was in charge of the hospitality at Hartzer Park Retreat and Conference Centre at Burradoo. Here, again her loving care, dedication and attention to detail were a trade mark of all Eugenie’s undertakings. In 1997, Eugenie had the opportunity to take part in the Cor Novum program while on a pilgrimage to Issoudun, the ‘Roots of our ‘Congregation’. While in Europe she was also able to visit her father’s home in Scotland. She recalls: I met, for the first time, a first cousin, (from my father’s family), that had disowned me, when I entered the Convent. This encounter meant so much to me.
In 1999, Eugenie moved to the Maristella Community at Kensington, where for the next sixteen and a half years Eugenie, while being the deputy leader of the Community and the bursar, for many of these years, gave of herself untiringly, to the health care of the Sisters in the Kensington and local Communities and to the Missionary Sisters who came to stay at Kensington while undergoing medical treatment. Even while struggling with her own declining health issues, Eugenie, courageously carried out her duties, assisting Dr Brajtman with the weekly clinics, and enjoying the ‘cuppa’ with him after the clinics, while engaging in many a stimulating conversation. She never lowered her professional standards: the duty of care, which she managed to execute with that ‘no-nonsense approach’, coupled with a very compassionate, loving heart, which was a reflection of her own sense of being deeply loved by her God. We also saw evidence of her creative side, in the beautiful tapestries that are to be found in our Convents; the greeting cards, for all occasions, that she spent many hours creating with such love, care and flair and which she then sold to raise funds for the works of our sisters on the missions. Eugenie enjoyed the time that she spent at the ‘card making’ classes and the friendships that she formed there.
Ten days after suffering a stroke, and being admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital, Eugenie came ‘home’ to St Joseph’s, where many Sisters were able to spend some time with her, until finally, with Sr Carmel Smith at her bedside, she was able to surrender herself to her loving God in response to his invitation: Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater things; come and join in your master’s happiness. (Matt. 25:23) Eugenie may you now rest in peace.
Sr Elizabeth Little fdnsc
Kensington NSW July 19, 2016