The last of the Sisters of Mercy in South Grafton Parish, Sister Margaret Seery, is moving over the bridge to Grafton Convent to ‘retire’.
The last of the Sisters of Mercy in South Grafton Parish, Sister Margaret Seery, is moving over the bridge to Grafton Convent to ‘retire’. Adam Hourigan

Parish farewells its final sister

AS SISTER Margaret Seery packs her things at her South Grafton home, she is not only taking her personal items but also an important piece of Clarence history.

When she ‘retires’ from her role as pastoral worker for the South Grafton Parish and makes the move ‘over the bridge’ to the Grafton convent at the end of month, it will signify the end of the Sisters of Mercy workforce in that parish.

While she won’t be out of action when it comes to the odd home visit on the southside, there will no longer be any sisters based there full-time.

“Lay people will replace me and be working and living here,” Sr Margaret said from her lounge room, dotted with signs of packing for the imminent move. “I’m the last working sister in South Grafton.”

Sr Margaret’s contribution to the parish was celebrated on Sunday with a Mass at St Patrick’s followed by a gathering at the golf club.

Set to celebrate her 60th anniversary as a sister next year, said she loves her work visiting the elderly and the sick in the parish and was glad she was able to be there ‘on-call’.

“My time was my own. I didn’t have a husband or family so you didn’t have to delay anything. You couldn’t do that with a family.”

Sr Margaret has a long association with the South Grafton Parish, having taught at the old St Joseph’s site in two stints 20 years apart, in 1953 and 1973.

“I mainly taught Year 2. I loved little kids and loved teaching.”

Apart from being an educator all around the North Coast at various schools including Kempsey, Bowraville, and Casino, another career beckoned.

She always wanted to nurse and the Grafton sisters didn’t have nursing roles so in 1954 she moved to Lismore and trained for three years at St Vincent’s Hospital before working in aged care at St Michael’s in Casino and back in Grafton at St Catherine’s.

In the early 1980s, after feeling she needed some more challenging nursing duties, Sr Margaret moved to Sydney to work at busy St Vincent’s Hospital.

“I was in the ear, nose and throat and plastic surgery section. It was interesting work.... I can teach you how to change your face now.”

Some of those secrets must have rubbed off on Sr Margaret as she hardly seems like someone of ‘retirement’ age.

Apart from good skincare, she also said she believed happiness was a factor in staying young. “I’ve been happy all my life. I think that’s down to what you make of it,” she said.



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