Sisters of Today

Sister Francesca Bourke

Profiled in July 2005 (updated March 2013)Francesca_Bourke

I was born in December 1922 - the second child of the Bourke family of four. My father Michael was a New Zealander born of Irish parents, and my mother Catherine emigrated from County Monaghan, Ireland, at 14 years of age.  She was the only member of her family to come to N.Z.

We lived on a farm which my father, aged 18, took over in 1903, and the farm was simply surveyed and virgin bush.  Both our parents were Catholic. Distance necessitated we attend the local state school for primary education but each of us had the opportunity to attend Catholic schools for secondary education.  We three girls attended Sacred Heart College, Wanganui.  Our family had strong connections with the Sisters of St Joseph through Sisters Gabriel and Clement Malone.  Their mother, a cousin of our grandmother in Ireland, brought our mother out from Ireland in 1908.

On leaving school I spent 1939 keeping house for the family while my mother had her first trip home to Ireland.  In 1940 I entered the Sisters of St Joseph whom I had known most of my life and admired.  I was professed in 1943 and began studying by correspondence for Teacher's Certificate.  I taught in Wanganui, Hastings and Feilding, and have spent long periods in Wanganui.

From 1959 to 1981 I was involved in leadership and administration for the Congregation.  This provided me with many challenges and varied experiences, including involvement in the Josephite Federation from its earliest years.

The opportunity came my way to do hospital and prison visitation for some years.  Early in my life I was able to accompany a more experienced Sister doing visitation of families and consider this to have helped me considerably in understanding the struggles and joys of family life.  When Pregnancy Counselling was having problems getting people to answer phones during the night hours I was invited to attend some courses and follow up meetings and took a night a week for several years.

In 1981 I was involved in pastoral work in Central Hawkes Bay.  A privilege which came my way over the last twelve years or so has been being a member of the Faith and Light Sunflower Community Core Group which plans functions for intellectually and physically handicapped people.
In 1998, the Sisters opened Quinlan Court Retirement Complex for Independent Living.  I became one of the original residents.  In my time here I have learned much from the men and women of all denominations who have been part of this community probably the most valuable has been how to grow old gratefully and gracefully.

My interest in art has enabled me to use this gift within the Sisters of St Joseph and wider community.  I thank God for my birth family and my Josephite family, as both have contributed to a rewarding life spent in the service of God’s people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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