Home' Greymouth Star : April 15th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 5
Sister Anne McLaughlin places a
plate of freshly baked mu ns on
the table as Sister eresa Scott
settles back clasping a cup of
freshly brewed tea at their Cobden
"I love baking. It's something I really
enjoy," says Anne.
Sisters in religion they have worn the cloth
for many years as Sisters of Mercy, working
as lay people in the West Coast community.
Both enjoy the lifestyle they have chosen
and while it is a pathway built on religion it
is the role they play in their community that
is important to them.
"We prefer being called by our Christian
names rather than being called 'sister'. Sister
is more like calling a woman 'Mrs,'" Anne
Anne McLaughlin was born in Blaketown
and lived there until she was three, when
the family moved into Blackmore Street,
which was a pronounced Catholic area of
"Mum (Emma) and dad (Frank) moved
house when I was just a little girl. Dad
worked as an engine driver in the Railways.
I had ve brothers - Frank, John, Paul, Jim
and Philip - and two sisters, Mary and
eresa was born in Timaru to Rachel and
Leo Scott, one of nine children raised on the
family farm home at Lyalldale.
"My father worked the farm, which was
just out of Timaru and there was never a
dull moment around our place with all us
kids - Margaret, Mary, John, Ray, Colleen,
David, Peter, myself and Jo --- that's our
"I went to St Andrew's Primary School
and later was a boarder at Sacred Heart
College, at Timaru."
Anne, meanwhile, attended St Patrick's
Primary School in Greymouth before
moving next door to St Mary's High School
for a year and one month, when the family
moved to Christchurch and she nished her
education at St Mary's over there.
"I had thought about being a religious
but trained as a primary school teacher and
taught for a couple of years," Anne says. "I
loved ballroom dancing, which was nearly
every Saturday and Sunday night back then.
I couldn't possibly go into the order then,
people weren't getting married at 17 years
old back then so it wasn't until I was 21
years that I decided to join."
eresa says she also had thought about
joining the Sisters of Mercy, but decided
instead to help out on the family farm with
a focus on going to teachers' college at some
"It was when I turned 21 I went and saw
the nuns and was accepted two weeks later
and ended up going to teachers' college in
Both Anne and eresa spent time
preparing for their life-changing direction,
and after lengthy training and preparation
they were accepted as full members of the
Each took the name of a saint when they
became Sisters of Mercy. Anne became
Sister Assisi and eresa, Sister Brigid.
"Looking back, when I was young it
wasn't an unexpected choice to join the
religious," Anne says. "I did two and a half
years training at Timaru, while the Marist
Brothers did their training at Claremont.
Gosh, over the years our family did a lot
of trips down that roadway as three of
my brothers --- John, Paul and Jim --- all
became Marist Brothers. I think they were
just following one another. Dad had always
said to them, though, 'if ever you want to
come out, then you come out'. ey all did
eventually, but all taught for many years
before they decided to leave."
Anne McLaughlin came to Hokitika
and taught there for two years while also
completing her bachelor of arts. She then
transferred to Greymouth, teaching there
from 1967, and has many memories of the
old convent in Tainui Street, where the Tai
Poutini Polytechnic sits today.
"It was a big building, plenty of walking
up and down stairs, but a building with
character. I remember being in the old
convent during the Inangahua earthquake,
all the plaster falling from the ceiling and
the walls - it was quite an experience.
" ere were 19 sisters in the convent back
then, and music was a large part of the
convent, it was our bread and butter."
Anne has taught at a number of schools
during her time as a teacher, including a
stint as the last principal of St Mary's High
School in Hokitika, and deputy principal
of Villa Maria School in Christchurch for
"It was a very sad time for me when they
closed St Mary's Hokitika. We had 100
pupils but it wasn't nancially viable. I found
the closing very di cult and stressful --- we
had lovely sta ."
eresa came to Greymouth in 1969 and
taught new entrants before moving to the
Sockburn Catholic school for ve years and
then on to St Bernadette's in Hornby.
"I was at St Bernadette's for 17 years.
While in Christchurch it was 'a time of
change', I think would be the term," she
Old habits die hard but it was the time
of protest and ghting for human rights; a
case of 'sisters in arms' and uniting against
apartheid and the Vietnam War and ghting
for prisoners' rights.
"It was the early 1970s and an era of
protest. ere was life after 3pm, and I
remember being in the middle of the
Cathedral Square in a cage with Sister
ecla. ere were many protests but I think
that one may have been for prisoners' rights
or the Vietnam War. During the Springboks
Tour (1981) I remember marching down
behind Lancaster Park and a car was
overturned and I thought 'oh, my gosh!'"
Anne says: "I was in Ireland at a
conference and saw the our bomb incident
which hit the All Black on the head. While
watching the tv over there I thought, 'oh,
my God, is this for real? I marched against
apartheid but certainly didn't wear a crash
helmet --- I just marched to the cathedral,
that's as far as I went. e others with the
helmets marched on further," she chuckles.
e 1970s were also a time of change
for the religious, and a move to working
closer with the needy and the community
in general. Sisters discarded their habits and
convents to work and live in the community
"I worked with street kids at a drop-in
centre called '6A'," says eresa. "I also
began working with community sponsored
refugees from the Vietnam War and looked
after them when they came to New Zealand.
It was amazing how quickly they adapted
and moved on. You actually teach them but
you also learn so much from them as well ---
how your whole worldly values change."
Anne, meanwhile, went with two sisters to
Hoon Hay to a State housing area to work
with the poor of the area known as 'Rowley'.
"We got involved in what was a very poor
area, where there were lots of families. We
did a bread run twice a week, ran sports
programmes and learning programmes. I
helped set up a resource area, and it is still
going today. at is what was needed in
the community. We supported ourselves by
having a baking stall in the Riccarton Town
"Farida Anisy was assisting with the St
Bede's Catholic education and Marianne
Cahill was a part-time chaplain. I did that
from 1988 through to 1995, and I think
we had an impact on our street and Hoon
Hay in general. We used to have afternoon
tea twice a year on the street and everyone
would turn up. We also had two mothers'
groups who would meet at our house twice a
week," Anne says.
While still teaching, eresa lived in the
inner city for 10 years and it was around that
time she became involved working with the
street kids of Christchurch.
"I lived near the City Mission and always
saw street kids. It was from 1992 through
to 1995 I worked in 'Hebrom' which was
supporting street kids and their families
and basically trying to reunite. ere were
success stories and it is a great feeling to see
families come together again."
It was in 1995 that Anne and eresa
decided to leave the city and look to the
West Coast as there was a need locally for
that help and support.
"We were out one night having a meal
when Anne and I thought about coming to
the Coast," eresa says. "Sister Rosalind?,
who was in Shakespeare Street, said she felt
there was a need for a presence in Cobden.
We came across with an open mind and
initially tried to get a State house but ended
up getting one at the top end of Ward Street
and were there for two years. Our aim was
working with helping young mothers,"
Anne: "We saw a need. A number of people
we met needed help and we went to a meeting
which was about accommodation which
turned up being a group which set up night
accommodation for men. ere was a de nite
need for a group to set up accommodation for
women and youth in need and to look after
them. at's what we did."
Anne and eresa having been active
helping in the West Coast for many years
and while times have changed both agree
there is still a need to be involved in the
" e clientele has changed in some ways
but there are still people who have a need,
not all from here, either," Anne says.
Both sisters say they enjoy their lifestyle of
choice and would do it all again if they had
their time over once more.
"We fully enjoy it. Like everyone, life
has its ups and downs, it's just a matter of
working through it. We'd never change what
we have done, we'd do it all over again,"
Anne says. "I like my baking, I also love my
photography and I love listening to music ---
I enjoy the opera and classics, as well as the
1950s and 1960s, but I don't like rap or jazz."
eresa: "I like a little music, craftwork,
sewing and crosswords. e West Coast is a
lovely place and so are the people."
PICTURE: Paul McBride
Sister Anne, left, and Sister eresa, at home in Cobden.
Acts of mercy
As young Catholic women, Anne McLaughlin and eresa Scott were inspired to follow their teachers in dedicating
their lives to God and the church by training as Sisters of Mercy. ey changed their names, lived in convents and wore
long, black habits from head to toe. eir only life outside the convent was teaching in Catholic schools around the
West Coast and Christchurch. All that changed in the 1970s with a reawakening, when 'nuns' gave up the convent life
to pursue a life that was closer to God, living and working among the less fortunate in society with true acts of mercy.
PAUL McBRIDE reports.
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