Meet Sister Catherine McAuley
Frances McAuley was born in Colac, Victoria, on October 31st, 1871, the daughter of William McAuley and Jessie nee Tomkins. Her father was the nephew of the Foundress, Catherine McAuley, mentioned in the Annals of the Sisters of Mercy as “Wild Willie”.
Frances and her sisters, Emily and Jessie, were educated at the Convent of Mercy, Geelong. Before her entry into the convent Fanny or Fannie (as she was affectionately known), had taught in the primary and secondary school in Kyneton. On 15th September, 1891, Fanny was interviewed by His Grace the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr. Carr relative to her vocation and then entered the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Kyneton on September 24th, 1891. She was received into the Congregation on March 25th, ,1892 and was given the name in religion of Sr. M. Catherine. She made her profession on April 17th, 1894 in St. Mary’s Church in Kyneton. In 1895, a primary school was opened at Malmsbury and Sr. M. Catherine was appointed in charge of the school. She also taught at Lauriston, Trentham, Kyneton, Woodend, Warrnambool and Burnie.
In appearance she is said to have resembled relatives of her own age living in Ireland. She was tall and proportionately broad, of fine physique. She had a fair complexion, rosy cheeks, beautiful bright blue eyes, and even in old age possessed a pleasing countenance. Her friendly smile and depth of understanding won for her many genuine friends, and helped to influence the great number of pupils who were fortunate to come under her care. She was gifted in many ways and was generous in passing on all she had to give. She was always calm and generous, ready to use wherever she could the talents God had given her.
Sr. M. Catherine retired from teaching a few years before her death and spent her last days in Kyneton. During the night before her death, two Sisters watched and prayed by her bedside. The night was cold and windy and the Sisters thought the patient was asleep, but she opened her eyes and showing her concern said, "Sisters, close the door you are in a draught". – so like the "comfortable cup of tea"! Sr. M. Catherine died on September 11th, 1952.
Photos – Above: Sr. Catherine in 1895; Right: Sr. Catherine c.1950