SIXTY years ago Sister Mary Trainor said “I do” to a life of dedication to God.
She hasn’t regretted a single moment as a Sister of Mercy.
In her diamond jubilee year she looks back at the people she’s met, those she’s helped and what she’s learnt from those in her care.
In the early 80s Sister Mary was given a two-year consignment to work as a chaplain at Bloomfield hospital.
She stayed there for 22 years.
“I can say that that was the most marvellous, humbling, wonderful experience I would ever have dreamt of,” she said.
Sister Mary found out the hospital had no Catholic chaplain and then decided to take on the task.
“It was an injustice so I asked to go,” she said.
There Sister Mary met the most wonderful she woman she had ever come across.
There was a Sister of Mercy staying at the hospital who was receiving psychiatric care. The woman was partly the reason why Sister Mary took on the role of chaplain for so long and reinforced her faith in her vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and the service of the poor, the sick and the marginalised.
“She just stole my heart,” she said.
“I learnt so much from these people.”
Because of her memories of her time at Bloomfield Sister Mary said she never for one moment regretted becoming a Sister of Mercy. She never thought about what life would be like with a husband or children.
“I would never have had the wonderful opportunities I have had,” she said.
“One of the things I learnt was that being there was more important than doing. Being superceded the doing. I call it the sacrament of presence.”
Sister Mary spent 25 years of her vocation as a music teacher.
She said it was the only way the order could raise money to survive and to fund the Catholic schools.
Eventually the government started paying lay staff to teach the students and the sisters were able to move on from teaching.
That was when Sister Mary discovered her calling in life, pastoral care.
She certainly did not miss wearing a habit.
After Vatican II, the Pope called on religious orders to question how effectively they were holding true to the values of their founders.
The Sisters of Mercy, founded by Catherine McAuley, chose to put their habits away because Catherine was a woman of the people.
“It was more of a barrier than an integrator,” she said.
“It is also a very Eastern custom, wearing a veil and it represents women’s subservience to man.”
That was not the only major change Sister Mary has witnessed in her 60 years. She saw the gradual decline of convents and the election of three popes.
Sister Mary said the convents worked when the sisters were less diversified.
She said convent life was very monastic.
“Regimented isn’t exactly the right word but they only worked when everyone got up at the same time, ate at the same time, cleaned at the same time and left for school at the same time,” she said.
Once the sisters’ roles moved into more pastoral work like psychological care their schedules became too diverse and therefore many started to move into private dwellings.
With the inception of lay people and money from the state government there were fewer and fewer reasons for sisters to stay in convents.
Sister Mary said she believed the church was heading in the right direction with the election of Pope Francis.
“I’m thrilled to bits with the new one,” she said.
She said his passion for pastoral care in the slums of Buenos Aires was a good sign for the church’s future.
But she said the only way for the church to move forward was through honesty, integrity and courage.
The highest priority for the church was to deal with the “paedophile horrors” that have occurred worldwide but Sister Mary does not believe breaking the confessional seal was the way forward.
“I don’t believe the people who committed these horrors would have gone to confession,” she said.
“The people who knew about it and did nothing would not have heard about it through confession, they would have heard off the grapevine.”
Sister Mary said the Vatican need to step up and take control and deal with the criminal element of the abuse.
“They did not disseminate between sin and crime,” she said.
“They saw it as sin and the church deals with sin but they must see it as a crime.”
Sister Mary wrote a song about her vocation and the lyrics of the song represent the fourth vow of the Sisters of Mercy.
“Be my hands, be my feet, be my heart, be my love,” she said.
The fourth vow the Sisters of Mercy take - the service of the poor, the sick and the marginalised - is the reason Sister Mary has held onto her faith, dedication and commitment. The reason she hasn’t regretted her vocation in life and the reason she met so many wonderful people who gave her insight, honesty and a reason to push forward and help others.
A function will be held in honour of Sister Mary’s diamond jubilee on Saturday at noon at Kenna Hall. There will be a two-course meal provided and drinks for a cost of $25.