Vale Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost

By Wendy Shaw

Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost OCD has been remembered for her vibrancy, strength, sense of adventure and her deep and abiding faith.

As a young novice, she was a founding member of the Carmelite community in Tasmania and celebrated the 75th anniversary of her religious profession in December last year.

Sr Mary died on 21 April, aged 94, surrounded by her Sisters in prayer at the Carmelite Monastery in West Launceston.

Fr Mark Freeman was the homilist at the funeral Mass for Sr Mary on 29 April.

He told mourners: “It seems to me that we, Sisters in Carmel, family members and friends have experienced our own, particular emanation of God, our own unique manifestation of the Wisdom of God, in and through the life of Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost.”

Sr Mary, formerly known as Monica Eileen Regan, was born in South Australia in June 1929, the sixth of nine children of Stanislaus and Ursula Regan. Three daughters went on to become Carmelite nuns and a son became a priest for the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Monica began regularly visiting the Glen Osmond Carmel from the age of 16.

“Less than a fortnight after turning 18, Monica entered Carmel,” Fr Mark said.

The section of the grounds at the Carmelite Monastery in West Launceston that Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost lovingly cultivated over many years.

“Here, this vibrant young woman was named for the Holy Spirit. Here, at Glen Osmond for one short year, and in Tasmania for more than 75 years, she has lived the hidden life of Carmel giving her all in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”

Fr Mark spoke of Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost’s long life of fidelity and love for the Lord, as well as her energy and enthusiasm for practical tasks, evident in the establishment of the beautiful gardens at the Carmel in West Launceston.  She was also the sacristan for many years, a key role in a contemplative community, and a talented calligrapher who produced beautiful cards sharing the wisdom of the Carmelite saints with the broader community.

Fr Mark added: “She has given her all with generosity and courage, so often in ways unseen and unheralded, but always with a joy so clearly the fruit of the Spirit of God deep within her …

“Never did she allow difficulty, pain or times of great suffering to diminish her sense of adventure, her generous embracing of life’s opportunities.

“All this, simply in order to be attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, so that she might come closer and closer to God and do whatever she could to enable this Carmel to thrive. She came here as one of the foundation stones of this Carmel and she has given her all to enable this action of God to flourish.”

Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost had “lived her years in Carmel with vibrancy, strength, a sense of adventure”.

As an avid gardener, Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost had a particular love for camellias.

“[P]ractical, generous, faithful and faith-filled, cheeky and quirky, beautiful in the Lord, filled with the Holy Spirit – our sister, our loved one, our friend and true companion in the Lord has taken the next step on life’s adventure into the fullness of God,” Fr Mark said.

“She has heard the Lord speak the words of today’s Gospel deep into her heart: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. … Learn from me, … and you will find rest for your soul’ (Matthew 11:28,29).

“As we bid her farewell and entrust her to God, let’s make sure that, within and outside Carmel, we continue to build on the strong foundation of faith, hope and love that her whole life has been.”

At the time of the 75th anniversary of the Carmelite Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Tasmania in June last year, Prioress Mother Teresa Benedicta of the Cross OCD paid special tribute to Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost, the oldest of the community’s sisters.

“We are especially blessed to have one of our original foundation members still in our midst, Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost, who came on the foundation from Adelaide as a 19-year-old novice in 1948,” Mother Teresa Benedicta said then.

“Sister is a wonderful inspiration to us all and a precious link with the 75-year history of our community.”

Family members travelled from interstate for the funeral at which Archbishop Julian was the chief celebrant. It was followed by interment at the monastery.

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