MERCY Sister Deborah Flaherty, who left Ireland on her 17th birthday on a mission to Australia, is celebrating more than 53 years later.
Albany Creek parish, where Sr Flaherty now lives, held a party on February 23 for her golden jubilee.
‘I look back with joy and happiness, and thank God for many wonderful blessings,’ she said.
Asked to nominate some of the highlights of the past 50 years, Sr Flaherty said: ‘I have met God in many places and in many people, and it’s very hard to pick out a special place or special person.
‘My God has always been a God of love and compassion.’
Sr Flaherty, who came from County Kerry in Ireland, was one of a family of nine.
Three of her sisters entered religious life and a brother is a priest in Florida.
She came from Ireland on the ship ‘Orion’ with five other girls to join the Sisters of Mercy at All Hallows’, Brisbane.
They were received as postulants on April 9, 1950, and professed as part of a larger group on January 13 and 14, 1953.
Sr Flaherty went on to teach in primary and secondary schools, with her first posting to Charleville.
She taught in Rosalie, Maryborough, Warwick, Darra, Bundaberg, Sandgate, Wynnum, Ipswich and All Hallows’, before working as a pastoral associate in Petrie parish.
She then trained as a school counsellor and worked as a school pastoral worker at Deception Bay and Albany Creek.
These days she is a pastoral care worker at Prince Charles Hospital, Chermside.
Sr Flaherty has studied theology and undertaken renewal courses in Australia, England, Ireland and Wales.