May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be Everywhere Loved!
Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit
for your hidden self to grow strong,
so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith,
and then, planted in love and built on love ... until, knowing the love of Christ,
which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God. (Eph 3,16-19)
Sister Leah’s life witnessed to the power of this prayer. She was a woman of deep faith for whom Jesus was the love of her life. With Mary, she contemplated the pierced Heart of Jesus and entered into the mystery of that Heart, opening herself to be transformed by his love and thus empowered to share this love with all with whom she came into contact. (cf. FDNSC Constitution 5) In turn, Leah was greatly loved by her sisters in community, her family, relatives and friends.
Leah was born on 19 February 1921, at Northcote, Victoria, the second of the seven children of George and Mary (nee Sullivan) Bolt. She was baptised at St Joseph’s Church, Northcote, on 6 March, 1921, and later made her First Holy Communion (1927) and Confirmation (1929) in the same Church. For Leah and her family, these were days of very special celebration. Leah’s solid, simple faith was fostered at home and at school. Her father was not a Catholic but he insisted that the children attend Catholic schools and faithfully practise their religion. He himself was received into the Church two days before his death.
The Bolt home was a happy one: theirs was a close-knit family. However, deep sorrow befell them with the death of their mother when Leah was just nine years old. It is impossible to imagine the impact of her death on her husband and their seven young children. It necessitated that the family leave the home they had grown to love and move to a larger one able to accommodate a housekeeper who was needed to care for the home and particularly for the younger children. With her older sister, Mary, Leah assumed much responsibility not simply for assisting with house chores and the care of the younger children but, more importantly, for ensuring that the family remained a happy, united one. In addition, these were the years of the Great Depression and life was not always easy but the family was blessed as Leah’s father was an engineer and thus was assured of good, regular employment.
Leah’s parents valued education and the children were encouraged to do well at school. Leah received her early education from the Sisters of the Good Samaritan at St Joseph’s Primary School, Northcote, and held fond memories of the Sisters. She was a good student and, at the completion of her primary schooling, won a scholarship Our Lady’s College (now Our Lady of Mercy College), Heidelberg, under the care of the Sisters of Mercy. Given the family situation, Leah left school after gaining the Intermediate Certificate. She readily secured employment with her typing and book-keeping skills and frequently worked in the accounts department of an office, an area that appealed to her meticulous attention to detail.
Like many young Catholic women of the time, Leah was a member of the Children of Mary Sodality and valued the opportunity it offered to continue her formation in the faith. She also joined the Pallottine Younger Set which emphasised the importance of full participation in the apostolic mission of Jesus. This gave her an insight into the mission work undertaken by the Pallottine Fathers among the aboriginal people of the Kimberly area, and the films they shared with the Younger Set highlighted the great need for people willing to minister in foreign missions.
These involvements did not detract from Leah’s social life! She had a wide circle of friends and enjoyed dancing, live theatre, cinema, and sports. Yet, in the midst of this, the call to religious life was gently – and sometimes, not so gently – nudging. This was not easy for Leah as understandably, felt she was needed at home.
On 21 November 1951, at the age of thirty, Leah answered that call and entered our Novitiate at Hartzer Park, Burradoo, taking the name Sister Mary St Anthony. She made her First Profession of Vows on 2 July 1952 and was finally professed three years later. Her novitiate companions remember her as mature, gentle and lady-like and possessing a rich life-experience.
Following her profession Leah was appointed to Kensington where she completed the New South Wales Leaving Certificate. In 1955 she joined our community at Bentleigh as a trainee teacher. In December 1956 Leah gained Victorian Teachers’ Registration. With this qualification she moved into secondary education and thus began her long and varied life as teacher. After twenty-five years teaching in our Colleges in Bentleigh, Kensington, Darwin, Nauru and Kiribati, Leah welcomed the opportunity to complete the teacher-librarian program at the Brisbane College of Advanced Education, Kelvin Grove. She then returned to St John’s College, Darwin, as the Senior School Librarian, a position she held for five years before going to St Francis Xavier’s School, Daly River, as the Librarian. After six years Leah she returned to Bentleigh where she remained, apart from two years in our community at Corazon, Werribee, a centre to promote well-being for individuals and families, especially those experiencing distress or disadvantage.
Leah was always keen to participate fully in the life of the community. From her earliest years she was well practiced in caring for her younger sisters and brothers and for the home and these beautiful qualities never left her. She took a great interest in her sisters in community and beyond, and was generous in her care to make the convent a home. Whatever was asked of her, she did with dedication and generosity.
Leah was blessed with a remarkable memory for names, dates, and events and with a genuine interest in people. She kept in contact with her family, whom she dearly loved, with friends from school and the friends of her sisters and brothers. Her ready connection with the sisters in community, the teachers with whom she worked, and the students she taught was nothing short of extraordinary: what she remembered about them and the interest she showed in them and their families was remarkable. She respected each of them and never betrayed a confidence.
During her long life Leah saw many changes in the church and religious life. She appreciated these and wrote: “Changes in the Church were welcome and especially, over the years, I learned to see the wisdom of changing religious life styles. More freedom for personal preferences in prayer and in time schedules helped me to feel more myself and to have personal responsibility for my life with less stress.”
In recent weeks Leah’s health declined significantly and she joined the community at St Joseph’s Aged Care Facility here at Kensington. Last Wednesday the Lord gently took her to himself, a faithful and much loved Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Her nieces, Mary and Anne, and her nephew, Bill, were with her when she died.
We praise God for his many gifts to our Sister, Leah.
We thank God and the Bolt Family for their gift of her to our religious family.
We honour you, Leah, 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 with Helen Simpson FDNSC
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent Chapel, Kensington
31 August 2017