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Friday, 04 March 2022 14:13

Eulogy: Sr Gertrude Mary Kennedy fdnsc (4.5.1933 - 16.2.2022)

srgertrudekennedy 250

I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of God - Margaret Mary Alacoque

These words from St Margaret Mary Alacoque capture well the driving force behind our dear Sister Gertrude Mary’s life.  Deep faith in the one who called her and loved her unconditionally. At approximately 3.15pm on Wednesday, 16 February, our dear Sister, Gertrude Mary came face to face with the one she had lovingly and generously served for over six decades as a Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

To Gertrude Mary’s sister Monica, 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 via livestreaming from around the world and throughout Australia, especially our Sisters.

Gert, as we called her, was born Margaret Mary Kennedy, in Sydney, on 4th May 1933 to John and Gertrude Mary, the eldest of three children. When Gert was about two years old, the family moved to Grafton where she lived until she entered our Congregation. Gert’s father was a commercial traveller and bookkeeper. Her mother was musical and belonged to the Bankers Operatic Society. Gert’s love of music and the theatre began at a young age when her mother took her to symphony concerts and movies. The family had a strong Irish Catholic faith, with love of the Mass and rosary. Her mother’s deep devotion to frequent communion overflowed onto Gertrude Mary.

Gertrude Mary attended Primary and Secondary School at St Mary’s College, Grafton. After completing her studies, she attended Library School at the Public Library of NSW, qualifying with a Preliminary Certificate of Librarianship and was employed by Grafton City Council as a librarian at the city library.

When growing up, Gertrude Mary said she was always; “reading, reading, reading”. She wrote, “When the library came to Grafton, I forced my younger sister to join so that I could borrow books from the children’s library”.  This was how she became interested in librarianship.

Gert loved dancing and a highlight of her secondary schooling was that she learnt dancing and she was allowed to attend the school ball at Woodlawn College in Lismore which her brother attended.  She was very happy that Peter repeated a year and so she was able to go twice to the Ball!

While working at the Library, Gert borrowed a book called; The Nun: Saint Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart by Margaret Trouncer. She was struck by the life of St Margaret Mary and by her devotion to the Sacred Heart.  She also read missionary stories in The Annals and Harvest magazines at home and read every pamphlet available when she went on Children of Mary retreats. 

After working for six years and with quite a full social life, going to dances and playing tennis, she recalled “It became very strong in my mind that I had to do something about this vocation business”.  She wrote to Kensington and was then in contact with Mother Concepta.  On 31st May 1956 she commenced her initial formation at Hartzer Park.

Gertrude Mary made her first Vows on 6th January 1958 and then began her long life as a secondary school teacher, in Kensington, Bentleigh and Enfield. Having completed her BA and Dip Ed she taught French and Latin, as well as English, Maths, Geography and History.  She was an excellent teacher who was greatly appreciated by her pupils and their parents. When contacted about her death the immediate response from her former students was one of praise, commenting that Sr Gertrude Mary was an excellent teacher, had great knowledge about a wide range of subjects, was approachable, always kind and caring. Even though Gert was very clever she was unassuming and self-effacing and never pushed herself forward. Later Sr Gertrude Mary was responsible for school administration both as deputy and as principal. In these positions she took great interest in the education and welfare of the girls in the schools and cared for the staff. Gert had a genuine love for her students and their families. She kept in touch with many of her students after they finished school and when they visited her, she showed a great interest in them and their families.

In 1990 when doing an Italian course in Adelaide, Gert applied and won a scholarship to study Italian for a month in Perugia, Northern Italy.  In 1994 Gert moved to Bowral for two years. Here she interviewed sisters for their life stories. She assisted at the Catholic Education Office when living at Daceyville from 1996 to 2001. Once again, she found herself doing what she loved, being a librarian for the Primary Schools in the Eastern Region. Gertrude Mary acquired many skills in her training for and lived experience as a librarian. These remained very much part of Gert's personality: she was a diligent researcher, an avid reader and a careful notetaker with a scholarly approach to research. She was moreover very obliging in sharing her information. As one Sister commented; ‘rather than make the effort to look up a point of knowledge often I would just ask Gert a name, the title of a book, an event or a date and I wasn't the only one who did this; she was not only accurate but very gracious in her responses’.

In 2002 moved Gertrude Mary to Maristella community Kensington.  Here one of her main ministries was part-time receptionist at St Joseph’s Aged Care Facility.  As Gertrude Mary’s health was failing, in 2011 she joined the community of St Joseph’s at our aged care facility, where she was beautifully cared for until her death. In her early years as a resident at St Joseph’s she showed obvious delight from visits by the Sisters and others and she could entertain them for ages with stories of all that had happened since their last visit.

Sr Gertrude Mary was an unassuming beautiful person, a woman of deep faith and practical concern for others and a valued friend and colleague to many.

We thank God for the many gifts given to Sr Gertrude Mary, we thank the Kennedy family for their gift of her to our religious family.  

We thank you Gert for your interest in us, your gentle presence and your endearing smile. May your humble soul now rest in peace.