Words of remembrance for Sr Margaret Case


Sr Margaret Case

August 18, 1931 – August 5, 2021

Mass of Christian Burial, August 18, 2021

St Vincent de Paul Church, Strathmore, Melbourne

Her motto: Thanks be to God and Mary Immaculate

It was February 2, 1956 – 65 years ago – that I first met Margaret Case, writes Sr Denise Hannebery:

At the Essendon Airport we boarded a TAA plane to Sydney.  It was my very first time on a plane – I think Margaret may have travelled on a plane before – but we were off on the big adventure to join the Sisters of Charity.

We were met in Sydney by two Sisters of Charity and taken to Potts Point. From there we were driven to Wahroonga where a brand new Novitiate awaited us.

We were the first group to begin our training in this new Novitiate and we were the largest group ever to join the Sisters of Charity – there were 17 of us. The Novitiate was built for 80 and there were 53 in training at that time.

It did not take very long for me to know that Margaret grew up in Williamstown with her parents, Margaret and Alfred, and her brothers, Richard, Pat and Bernard, and her sister Maureen.  Margaret travelled from Williamstown to CLC to school and had just completed her Leaving Certificate when we met.

Margaret had a great love for her family and they were very loving and supportive, especially her only sister, Maureen.  Two of her brothers, Richard and Bernard, were into sailing and we all knew when they were in the Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race.  We would be glued to the radio or TV to hear their progress.  By the time I lived in Hobart it was Margaret’s two nephews who were sailing so I can remember going down to the Dock in Hobart to see them sail in. It was very exciting. I can also remember meeting them and telling them I knew their Auntie Margaret.

Pat was into cars and car racing.  He came to see Margaret, when we were still in the Novitiate, proudly showing Margaret and us, his very dirty, dusty car – I think he had just come from racing in Bathurst.

Most of us, who came from interstate, did not see our parents for six months. They were invited to come to our “Clothing in the White Veils.”  No one was allowed to take photos of any Novices but luckily Mother Joseph did not know that Mr Case, who was sitting in the front seat, in the Chapel, had his camera with him.  He took wonderful photos and generously sent them to our parents who treasured them. The photos I reproduced in our booklet were all photos Mum had safely kept.

On that special ‘white veil’ day we all received a new name – not chosen by us but given to us. Some of our group were lucky enough to get a female Saint’s name but Margaret and myself got a male saint’s name. Margaret was Sister Patricius, which is Latin for Patrick, and I was Sister Denis. I did wonder why I had to go to Fort Street Boys High School to do an exam, when I was in NSW!

It was customary too in those days to be a Nurse or a Teacher, whether you were suited to that vocation or not.  Margaret became an infant school teacher but it was not until 1978, after doing a year of renewal, at the National Pastoral Institute, that she decided to look at other options. The first was a Parish Coordinator’s role at St Gabriel’s Reservoir and the following year, a CCD role at Leura and then at Cabramatta.

There was a beautiful tribute to Margaret in the Sacred Heart Cabramatta Parish Newsletter this weekend. It read:

“In 1980 Sr Margaret arrived at Sacred Heart Cabramatta and eagerly joined our Liturgical/Sacramental team and worked on improving existing well-established programs, for the catechists, including workshops, to assist in planning interesting lessons. Sister had the gift of music and singing which proved invaluable in the Liturgies and Masses for special occasions such as First Holy Communion, Easter and Christmas. Sister spent four very happy years at Cabramatta in this role. She was gifted with a great sense of humour and always had a twinkle in her eye!”

That sense of humour was spoken of as a “whimsical sense of humour” by her friend, Sister Josephine Cannell, who is 103 years old and has a magnificent memory.  She is here with us today. She often took Margaret to Comely Bank in Healesville and they worked happily together to care for the property. When Josephine went to Sydney for two years it was Margaret who looked after Comely Bank. She really enjoyed this.

But it was to Josephine that Margaret confided that she would really like to study music again but she would need a good teacher. Josephine contacted an ex-student of CLC who worked at the Conservatorium and was a Professor at the University.  She prepared Margaret for more music exams and those who lived with Margaret at Strathmore at that time, myself included, knew all those exam pieces off by heart – in our heads not with our fingers!

The Sisters of Charity Leadership Council arranged for one of the two garages here at Strathmore, to be converted into a Music Room for Margaret, so she could take private pupils for music lessons.  C hildren would run around, after school, to have music lessons with Margaret. It was at this same time Margaret joined the parish choir here – she really enjoyed that and made  wonderful friendships with the choir members.

After some years Margaret had a desire to learn the harp so she could go into Aged Care Facilities and share music therapy with the sick and elderly.  This was unwittingly preparing Margaret to leave Moonee Ponds where she was living at the time, to go to St Catherine’s Balwyn on May 16, 2014.

Usually this transition is very difficult, but for Margaret it was a very peaceful change.  She joined in all the activities at St Catherine’s and she played the piano at some of their social gatherings.

During the seven years at St Catherine’s, Margaret has inspired many of us with her peace and deep sense of gratitude.  It would seem to me, that it has been her personal motto, written in her heart and around her Profession ring, that has brought this about. Margaret’s motto is “Deo Gratias et Maria Immaculata” – “Thanks be to God and Mary Immaculate”. As Margaret slowly became more and more immobile and cheerfully rocked gently in her special chair, the words she uttered most to her wonderful carers were “Thank You” Deo Gratias.

She greatly appreciated when a carer would paint her nails, or put some pearls around her neck, or a beautiful scarf.  It was Mary Gabrielle and Liz Reid who have been very great carers and health supporters of Margaret over these seven years, and there was never a special occasion when they would not arrange prayer and a delicious afternoon tea.  I can remember one gathering when Margaret said “Did I hear someone say cake!”  Margaret loved cakes and chocolates.  Fortunately Jesus talked about the Heavenly Banquet so I think she will enjoy Heaven!

Today we can all join Margaret in saying “Deo Gratias et Maria Immaculata” – “Thanks be to God and Mary Immaculate!”  Amen.

Image 1: Sr  Margaret
Image 2: Sr Margaret At Our Lady Help of Christians, Eltham, in 1976
Image 3: Sr Margaret celebrating her silver jubilee in 1983
Patricia Scully presents Sr Margaret the Papal blessing for her Diamond Jubilee
When we have so much to praise the Lord for, we must not complain.
True affection is to rejoice in the happiness of our dear ones. Never allow a sentiment of resentment to enter into our hearts.
Pray, reflect and consult – and may the divine spirit direct all to God’s greater glory.
May our dear Lord Jesus fill your hearts with His own love. Amen!
We must have patience with others as He has patience with us.
Under every difficulty try to pray fervently.
We have much to thank Him for, even for those little drawbacks on our comforts and conveniences.
Do pray that justice may be accomplished in peace and that truth may prevail.
Go on now as steadily as you can, relying on the Divine assistance and fear not.
What we do ought to be done well.

The Sisters of Charity acknowledge the First Peoples and traditional custodians of this land where we live. We respect, value and honour their history, culture and spirituality. We are committed to standing in solidarity and to actively working for justice, peace and harmony in this land.

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