Donna: It’s Christmas time and there’s not a better person I could think of to speak with at this time than a Brisbane legend, really. Sr Angela Mary Doyle. Tell us about your early life coming from Ireland.
Sr Angela Mary: I belonged to a family of nine. Christmas was a wonderful time for us and we were a happy family. We remained the best of friends throughout our lives, good memories of that. Christmas night we went to midnight Mass and of course the roads were dark, they were not lighted, but on every window in every house had a lighted candle marking Christmas night. It was a pretty sight.
And at Christmas time on Christmas night, we left the door ajar in case Mary and Joseph would want to come in – were looking for a place to stay, and they could come into our place. In actual fact, where they would’ve stayed I don’t know because we were packed out. There were twelve altogether in the house.
Donna: Alright, how did you get out to Australia?
Sr Angela Mary: I heard in my head one day a message, ‘Why don’t you give your life to God?’ It was very clear to me that message that came into me. I wasn’t thinking about it. And then I heard about a convent in County Cork where the sisters were training young Irish girls to come to Australia to be Sisters of Mercy. I joined them. And after some years I came out on a troop ship, 1947. All the army, air force and navy of Australian people were coming back, all excited about coming back, we were frightened about coming to a new country.
Donna: You’ve given a lot, what have been the highlights over the years?
Sr Angela Mary: The Queensland Children’s Hospital has a wonderful school in it. It’s got a principal and wonderful teachers who are really more like pastoral care workers, they’re lovely. They’re looking after sick children. And I was there one day for a function, I guess invited for a function, and I love them. They bring the children to the function and I was sitting there waiting for the formalities to begin. And a little child opposite me, I think he was about seven, pale face and he kept looking at me. And I just looked back at him and, gently, and I thought maybe he’s afraid of me. But after a while, he called me with his hands like this… he kept calling me to come to him. So I walked across and I thought that he’d tell me, as any little sick child would, ‘I’m sick’. I thought he’d say that. Instead of that, he looked at me for a while and he said, ‘I believe in God too’. And I was taken aback… so I said, ‘well that’s very nice, you believe in God and I believe in God’. He kept looking at me and then, looking into my eyes, he said, ‘And God is very near’.
Donna: How old was he?
Sr Angela Mary: About seven. I believe that was a direct message from God. And he looked at me while he said that. Then he put his arms around me and he hugged me. It was the most extraordinary experience; I never forget that. It was a very sacred moment with that little boy.
Donna: As we wind up 2018, how do you think our Church is travelling, and have you got a message for the church?
Sr Angela Mary: I’ve prayed about this when I knew you were coming and I thought, you know, we have to remember to reach out to people. When Jesus was among us, he came as a child. A child that became a man. A man that had only one consistent message and that was love God and love one another. I think the church is doing what it can. But we need to be closer to Jesus.
Donna: What will Sr Angela be doing for Christmas?
Sr Angela Mary: I’ll be going to Mass and won’t be able to go to Midnight Mass I think. But I’ll be going to Mass and I’ll be sharing Christmas here with the sisters I live with.
Donna: Do those Mater babies, children, adults do you catch up with them during the year and at Christmas time?
Sr Angela Mary: I was never actually an obstetric nurse. But I had a lot to do with people otherwise and I do see a lot of people who remember me when I was a lot younger. Somebody reminded me of something I did for her back in 1958. She was a lady from NSW. And her granddaughter wrote to me our mother remembered it always. All I did was when her husband died one night and she was there sitting with him. And in the morning, I said to her, ‘You need a shower now’. That’s all. And that woman from NSW remembered that. It’s the small things. They’re not big things. But they’re small. And we all need them. So let’s reach out.
Donna: I feel like it’s the closest thing to meeting Mother Teresa being with you.
Sr Angela Mary: I drove Mother Teresa around, I did.
Donna: Did you?
Sr Angela Mary: I did. 1981 it was. We had opened the new Mater public hospital and I was listening to the Mater people saying, you know, ‘when we walk into the new hospital, everything will be wonderful, we’ll be able to do all sorts of extra things and enough bathrooms, enough showers, enough toilets, everything’. And I thought, ‘Oh.’ I became afraid and thought they’d be depending on a building; it’s more than a building. And I heard that Mother Teresa was in Alice Springs. I got in touch with her or somebody belonging to her and she arrived here in Brisbane. I got her to come here to Brisbane. She addressed all the Mater people out in the open. It was good weather. So they would see what was the most important thing: to see Jesus in every patient that’s there and treat them regardless of circumstances. Good circumstances are fine, but wherever we are, it’s Jesus we’re treating. And that was the message she gave them. And we booked the City Hall one night and everybody came, it was packed out. She got the whole people sitting, praying. She had them saying prayers after; she taught them a prayer. It was wonderful.