By the late 1940’s the NZ government was finding it impossible to provide adequate medical care for the people of the Chatham Islands. The government made a request of the bishop who knew that the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary (SMSM) were founded for just this kind of missionary work and these sisters responded generously and courageously to the need taking over the staffing of the Chatham Islands hospital for fifty years from 1949.
While the presence of the “Catholic Nuns” on the Island was initially viewed by some with apprehension and even suspicion, within weeks these remarkable women became the heart and soul of life on the Island.
This week two of those who served as sisters here 30 and 40 years ago have returned, and this morning the community celebrated Mass together before processing to the hospital to unveil a “story-board” as a lasting tribute to the presence of the sisters. It has been a delight to witness the heart-felt welcomes that these sisters are receiving since arriving back on Thursday.
Bishop Barry Jones sent his own tribute asking me to pass on the message that the sisters were “legend in our diocese, and especially for the priests who served on the Chathams.”
The images below, and the snaps from the story-board tell the story.
the guests of honour, Sr Aidan & Mary-Ann
I didn’t realise this, but the smsm’s were not the only sisters who served here.
Below: Sr. “Ig” in the kitchen.