Sisters of Today

Sister Catherine Ryan

Profiled in September 2006catherine_ryan

Greetings from the Hutt Valley, a part of Wellington to which I have returned after a period of fifty plus years.  This is the area in which I grew up and spent a happy, if somewhat sheltered ,childhood along with my older brother and sisters.  Except for one year,  I was educated by the Sisters of the Mission.  I knew nothing about the Sisters of St Joseph in my early years but in my teens our Waiwhetu parish priest introduced me to Sr Rosalie and then to Sr Rose.  The seed of a Josephite vocation was sown.

The seedling was transplanted to Mt St Joseph, Whanganui, in June 1951.  The novitiate years there would decide whether this young Josephite plant would survive!  Fifty-five years onwards it still occupies a space in the Black Joes’ garden, a little wilted perhaps but ever grateful for the climate and environment which have provided so many opportunities for spiritual growth and fulfilment.  The year 1953 saw me being launched into my first area of ministry.  With ten days’ notice I was told to prepare to take over a form three class at Sacred Heart College.  The prospect was daunting I’d had no training and felt ill prepared for the task.  However, the next twenty-five years gave me ample opportunity to acquire the necessary qualifications and to become very familiar with the classroom both at Sacred Heart and at Tenison College Hastings. The fact that neither of these colleges exists today is not, I hope, an indictment of my years of teaching there!

After a period in administration I returned to Hastings in 1988 and remained there for fifteen years.  Initially I was engaged in relief teaching at Hastings Boys’ High and at St Joseph’s Maori Girls’ College.  The period at HBHS was what I consider the most forgettable and unforgettable experience of my life - my sole venture into a state college, and a boys’ one to boot!  St Joseph’s was a wonderful opportunity to experience being one of very few pakeha within the world of Maori. This was a privilege, a sometimes painful one.

In an effort to fulfil our 1987 Chapter commitment to Women and Family, I became engaged as a volunteer in a number of local groups such as Hastings Women’s Refuge,  Birthright, Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Budget Advisory Service and ARLA.  All of these brought me into contact with a world I’d had no experience of and I could only marvel at, and be humbled by, the challenges that this world threw down to its women. At the same time I pondered the circumstances that had provided me with countless opportunities for growth and fulfilment, while at the same time denying others of this largesse. This became even more of an issue for me personally when I undertook tutoring at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison. Here I met so many men whose lives had been disadvantaged from childhood.  Such inequity and inequality of choices and opportunities remain an ever present enigma.

Back in the Hutt Valley since 2003, I continue to be involved in tutoring through membership in ESOL and through voluntary work with new learners of English at the local Weltech.  My ties with Petone parish have been strengthened through participation in St Vincent de Paul Society and in various ministries.  Who knows what the future holds for the fruit of a seed sown so many years ago.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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