In 1974 Fr Alan Connors, the Parish Priest of St Patrick’s, invited the Marist Sisters to be involved in Pastoral Care in the parish, and so it was that early that year Sr David Fitzmaurice began a ministry that was to continue for 13 years. While sister’s interests extended to the whole parish, the major part of her work was in the Millers Point – St Brigid’s area.

sr-davidSr. David was greatly loved by the people and made herself available to all. It was her dream that the local people in need of aged care would be able to find this close to home and friends. She was very involved therefore in the early days of preparing the groundwork for the setting up of Darling House which has become a beautiful and gracious aged care facility in the heart of the area.
Sr David was Darling House’s first patron. Sister visited people at home, and with the assistance of willing drivers, she also visited parishioners and local residents in nursing homes and hospitals all over Sydney.

sr-joan-sheppardSr Joan Sheppard took up the ministry on Sr David’s retirement from her work in the parish in December 1986. Joan took up this ministry from 1987 to the end of 1989. During this time she had responsibility for the bookstall in St Patrick’s, but her particular strength was in her relationship with the people in the St Brigid’s / Millers Point area. For these three years she was very faithful to the regular visitation of parishioners, particularly to those who were alone, isolated, ill or bereaved. Joan had the wonderful gift of an attentive listener, and was able to be with people in the times of need. She also continued the practice of visitation of parishioners and local residents in hospitals and nursing homes.

sr-gemmaIn 1990, Sr Gemma Pearson began her ministry in a similar way with responsibility for the bookstall at St Patrick’s and pastoral care. Gemma’s relationship with the people of Millers Point was different in that her family had resided there since the early 1900s and she had lived within the parish until she entered the convent with the Marist sisters. ( She was and is affectionately known by many as ‘Marie’)

Gemma worked closely with the people as advocate for their needs and in 1994 felt that she could do this more effectively by living in their midst. And so the Marist Sisters gave permission for her to move into the area. Her High Street home became a place of welcome, open to parishioners and those in need – a warm attractive home, particularly because of the flowers. One resident said “The sisters live where the flowers are”. This insertion in the local scene enabled Gemma to respond to a need for a Breakfast Programme for children. With the support of a group of very willing helpers she established St Brigid’s Breakfast Club, not only meeting immediate needs but forging bonds that would last, with the children, the helpers and benefactors. Gemma also began a programme of teaching English as a second language, this was particularly helpful for a few parishioners who through their involvement in the classes began to see themselves as members of the community. For about 12 years Gemma taught Catechetics at Fort Street Primary School and prepared children for the Sacraments. Her relationship with the school from the very beginning was warm and welcoming and she loved the children.

Gemma acted as pastoral leader with St Brigid’s Church Committee in the different aspects af parish life eg liturgy, music, funerals, and celebratory gatherings which brought the St Brigid’s people into close community. In the wider local area Gemma was also appreciated and honoured for her work for which she received a Premier’s Award for care of the aged, and a Rotary Award, on the occasion of their Centenary, for her service to the community. In 2009, after almost 20 years of ministering to and with the people of St Brigid’s, Gemma said ‘goodbye’ to this work and ‘au revoir’ to the people whom she loved so much.