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Monday, 10 January 2022 12:43

Eulogy: Sr Maria Regina fdnsc (8.10.1932 - 2.1.2022)

srmariaregina 250May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be Everywhere Loved!

As we were moving towards the close of the beautiful Feast of the Epiphany, our much-loved Sister Maria Regina was blessed with her longed-for epiphany, the vision of God, face-to-face.  At approximately 9.00pm on Sunday, 2 January, she gently slipped into the embrace of God whom she had lovingly and generously served. Regina was 89 years old and within days of celebrating the 65th anniversary of her Religious Profession as a Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

To Regina’s Sister Helen, Brother Ian and all her relatives and friends who loved her so much and are deeply saddened by her death, we offer our deep sympathy and love.  We also offer sympathy to those who join us from around the world, especially, our Sisters.

Regina, as we called her, was born Marie Germaine Cawood, in Sydney, on 8th October 1932 to Stanley and Ethel Cawood, the eldest girl of six children. In 1942 the family moved to Alice Springs, where her father worked as a tourist guide, he was instrumental in starting the first tours to Central Australia and to what is now called Uluru. Regina’s grandfather was the Government Resident at Alice Springs and he had helped to look after the needs of the first Missionary of the Sacred Heart, Fr Long when he arrived in Alice Springs in 1929. He also welcomed the first Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, including Regina’s Aunt, Sr Germaine Cawood who arrived in Alice Springs in 1938. Soon after they arrived, they began the first Catholic School in Alice Springs, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and it was here that Regina attended Primary School. No doubt in this dry dusty land the seed of Regina’s vocation was sown. Regina completed her Secondary education, as a border at OLMC Parramatta. It was in the Northern Territory that Regina developed a deep respect and love for our Aboriginal Sisters and Brothers. Sisters recall how she helped them have a deep appreciation of aboriginal people’s culture, story and beauty, which came from her own respect and genuine regard for our first Nations people.

After leaving school she completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney, qualifying as a secondary school teacher. In 1955 Regina entered the Novitiate at Bowral and was professed in January 1957 at Hartzer Park. She had a deep appreciation of education and learning and took opportunities to attend presentations on diverse topics, including Theology and Sacred Scripture, areas which were only opening up to religious and laity in the 1960’s.   

Regina was a brilliant woman, not only intellectually. It seemed that whatever she turned her hand to, she excelled at: dressmaking, knitting, crotchet work, cooking! She was always ready to assist others in whatever way she could. In all of this, she was unpretentious, humble and unassuming.

To say that she was an avid reader is a major understatement. Her reading covered a wide range of topics, such were her interests. I suspect that many book shop owners lost a little profit because Regina had read a book or two while visiting their shop! The 15 minute ‘pop in’ to the bookshop became more than an hour!

Over the years, Regina’s ministry took her into a number of areas: secondary school teaching, Director of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Teacher Training College, Kensington, Supervisor of Secondary Schools for the Australia Province, Regional Leader for the Northern Territory, Community Leader, Provincial Councillor and General Councillor. She moved from one to the other with her typical calmness and gracious manner.

Regina found education a richly rewarding apostolate and rejoiced to watch her students mature and grow in their faith and in knowledge and move into their chosen careers. Despite her own giftedness - or perhaps because of it - she could adapt her teaching style to make learning attractive to all students. She was particularly eager to make devotion to the Sacred Heart, as it was then called, attractive to young people through a variety of images, different from the traditional image of the Sacred Heart, which would speak more appropriately to them.

Vatican Council II (1962-1965) ushered in an era of profound change in the Church and consequently in religious life. In 1977 our Congregational Leader asked Regina to work with another Australian sister, Sister Thérèse Farrell, to revise our Constitutions or Rule of Life. This was a major undertaking. Regina and Thérèse attended at the Pontifical University in Rome where they studied the Documents of Vatican II and the history and theology of religious life in depth before beginning the revision required. The revised Constitutions were approved by the Holy See in August 1983 and remained in place for thirty years. In accomplishing this work, Regina’s contribution to the life of the entire Congregation, not simply of the Australian Province, cannot be overestimated.

Regina was a beautiful Sister and those who lived with her remember her as a gracious, kind, gentle, caring person who treated everyone with equal dignity and respect. Regina was known for her generosity and thoughtfulness. She was a great collector of things old and new only to be able to give them away to those in need.

When it was becoming apparent that Regina’s health was failing and she was asked to transfer to St Joseph’s Aged Care Facility, she accepted the decision with her typical composure. It was here that she was beautifully cared for until her death.

We thank God for the many gifts given to Sr Maria Regina, we thank the Cawood family for their gift of her to our religious family.  She loved you greatly.

We will remember Regina as a woman of deep faith who lived our Spiritually of the Heart through her beautiful humanity with tenderness and compassion.

We thank you Regina for your graciousness, kindness and warm smile.

May your gentle soul rest in peace.