Words of remembrance for Sr Kathleen Munce RSCPrint
Sr Kathleen Munce RSC
30 October 1922 — 28 July 2021
Motto: ‘God Alone’
Mass offered in the Giovanni Chapel, St Vincent’s Private Hospital, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, on August 5, 2021
Sr Jeannie Johnston remembered her Sister and friend of 37 years:
It is not often that when one receives news of the death of a dearly loved member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity and a beloved companion that one’s heart actually dances for joy and sings Psalm 138: “ I give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart.”
This was my reaction when I received a phone call from Lynette Ybarzabal on the afternoon of 28 July, telling me that Sr Kathleen had died. Three times Kath journeyed to the Gates of Paradise and twice, God said to her, “Go back! We are not ready.”
So twice Kathleen came back to us to linger yet a while longer, awaiting the final call which came on Wednesday, July 28: “ Come! Veni Sponsa Christi…. Welcome home!”
Kathleen Anastasia Munce was born at Double Bay on October 30, 1922, the second child and only daughter of Peter Munce and Anastasia Fegan. Living at Double Bay in those days, Kath and her two brothers, Wally and Pat, grew up “messing around on boats.”
Kath, being a girl, was the forward hand and was quite deft at setting the spinnaker on their small boat. Kathleen attended Monte Oliveto Primary School at Edgcliffe and then went on to do the Commercial Course at St Mary’s Cathedral School in the city of Sydney.
On July 16, 1940, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Kathleen entered the Sisters of Charity and did her Novitiate at Bethania. She was professed on January 28, 1943.
Having completed her training as a Primary School Teacher at St Vincent’s Training College, Kath’s journey as a Sister of Charity was basically in New South Wales. in January 1944, Sr M Regina, as she was then known, was appointed to the staff of Mt St Patrick’s Primary School, Paddington. Two years later, Kath was given her only interstate teaching appointment.
Like many of us in the teaching ministry, she was to live at St Columba’s Convent, Essendon and to teach at St Teresa’s Primary School, Essendon. In 1949 Kath returned to Sydney and joined the staff of St Raphael’s Primary School, South Hurstville.
Kath loved music. It was at St Raphael’s that Kath’s musical gifts came to the fore. She trained the school choir to sing Gregorian Chant so that the Parish could hold the Easter Ceremonies in their own Parish Church instead of travelling across to St Mary’s Hurstville. Her first stint as a principal was at St Canice’ s Primary School, Elizabeth Bay. However, many Junior Professed at this time remember Kath as the Prefectress of the Mother House Chapel at St Vincent’s Convent, Potts Point, who brought light, joy, and a relaxed spirit into their lives. Kath was the foundation principal at Stella Maris, Shellharbour.
Throughout her life as a teacher what attracted people to Kath, and indeed throughout her whole life, was her smile and her gentleness. Gentleness is a gift of God. A gift which Kath developed and gave witness to throughout her life.
In 1975, Kath attended the Assumption Institute at Rosanna, Melbourne. Kath often said that the greatest blessing of her renewal year at Assumption was the gift of the most wonderful friend in her life, Sister Celia O’ Brien, IBVM.
Celia was a true gift of God to Kath, and not only Celia but the whole O’Brien Family who embraced Kath as one of their own.
On June 11, 2004 Celia joined Kath at Marycrest, the two friends spent these end times together until Celia’s death on December 17, 2007.
Kath’s motto “God Alone” says something about Kath’s hidden life with Christ in God.
At times during her life Kath did journey with Christ in the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and there were times when the burden of what lay before her provided difficulties for her.
But Kath was the epitome of Hope: Kath believed that Hope enabled her to listen to the melody of the future, to smile and to dance before God even though her body was ageing.
One thing Kath used to say to me when I would take her back to her room after Mass in Mt Olivet Chapel was “Jeannie, growing old is not for pussycats!” Getting old was not easy for Kath as she saw the diminishment of her gifts and talents.
Kath was musical – she loved to sing, she loved to play her flute but the tremors of old age affected her voice, her ability to play her flute and her beautiful copperplate handwriting. Kath with her courage accepted this as every day her ability to function became less and less.
For 18 years Kath was the Receptionist at Mt St Michael’s College, Ashgrove, and everyone who came to the front office spoke about the little gentle Sister with the beaming smile.
Kath was like the sparrow who sought a home in the house of God, a resting place beneath the altar of the Lord. Every day here at Marycrest for as long as she was able, Kath sat outside the front doors of Marycrest smiling and saying “Hello” to everyone who passed by.
But Kath also fed the birds, fed the lizards and waterdragons, and fed Tigerlily, the feral cat. One of the lasting mementos of Kath’s long soujourn at Marycrest will be the signs outside Marycrest advising people not to feed the birds, not to feed the lizards!
Kath said to me once that life is not a matter of being dealt a good hand but of playing a poor hand well.
Today as we celebrate her life, we thank God for the gift of Kathleen Munce in our lives as Sisters of Charity.
For the 37 years that I have known Kath, she never once complained, even though at times life did deal her a poor hand. She embraced all with a smile and the radiance of that smile proclaimed that it is the love of Christ that impels us.
So, pray for us, Kath. We will miss you. We will miss your gentle, smiling presence.