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Home » News » Oldest sister in order founded by Mary MacKillop marks 80th religious anniversary and 100th birthday

Oldest sister in order founded by Mary MacKillop marks 80th religious anniversary and 100th birthday

Sr Anne Cavanagh

Year of celebration: Sr Anne Cavanagh.

LOCHINVAR Josephite Sister Anne Cavanagh has double cause to celebrate this year – the 80th anniversary of her religious profession and her 100th birthday.

The world was a different place when she was growing up in a large family in the Hastings River region of NSW. 

Anne Imelda Cavanagh was born on July 12, 1916, in Wauchope, and was the third-eldest in a family of 12 children.

At the time, the world was embroiled in war; early on, electricity and “laid on” water was at a minimum; men went to work, women stayed home; and animal-drawn vehicles still were the primary form of transportation.

Sr Cavanagh is the Lochinvar Josephites’ oldest living sister.

A spokesperson for the order said Sr Cavanagh “gleaned (from her parents) a rich interest in the local people and an awareness of practical life and politics”.

“She recalls growing up on Rawdon Island and, in 1920, the family moving to the Boorganna property on Bulga Road on the Comboyne Plateau, where she soaked up a love for ‘a beautiful area with some rainforest, creeks, waterfalls, wooded gullies and ridges and cleared areas. The soil was rich red, the air crisp and clean’,” the spokesperson said.

To mark her 80th anniversary of religious profession and 100th birthday, Sr Cavanagh shared with the sisters some memories of her early years.

Anne and her brother began school in 1922 when she was seven.

“The Boorganna school was what was known as a subsidised school,” Sr Cavanagh said.

“The building was a one-roomed, timber structure with a shingle roof. (It) was set in a paddock with a few trees round about.

“The classroom was small to house about a dozen pupils, furnished with long desks and stools, a blackboard and a tall stove in the back corner which provided warmth for the students and boiled water for the teacher’s tea.

“Our work was done with slates and pencils. There was no water supply, so the pupils took their own cans of water as well as their lunches.”

Sr Cavanagh’s parents moved to Byabarra, closer to Wauchope, in 1925 for the sake of furthering their children’s education.

“I think a significant part of childhood ended when we left Boorganna,” she wrote. “Life was never again quite so carefree and wondrous. I guess this is part of growing older even as children and having more responsibility in the family.”

Anne attended the public school at Byabarra from “3rd Grade to 1st Year”, then boarded at St Joseph’s, Port Macquarie, until her intermediate certificate.

Her leaving certificate and Diploma in Bookkeeping and Commercial Work was gained at St Joseph’s, Lochinvar, in 1933. 

Anne entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St Joseph on December 28, 1933, and was known as Sr Mary Fintan. She was professed on July 1, 1936, and qualified as a teacher the year after.

Sr Cavanagh taught infants’ classes in Wingen and Dungog, and from 1939 to 1966 taught primary classes. She was principal at some of the schools in the Maitland diocese.

One of her students from Cundletown remembers her as being an innovative and interesting teacher.

She moved into secondary school teaching, and later qualified as a librarian.

Sr Cavanagh relished her year of formation and study in Melbourne at Yarra Theological College in 1978. On her return to Lochinvar she taught in the secondary school, and in 1983 she was appointed official archivist for the Lochinvar Josephite congregation’s resource centre and library.

“To this position she brought her many gifts and researched widely the archival material of the congregation and shared her expertise,” a spokesperson for the congregation said.

“Anne also assisted with the diocesan archives.” After almost 70 active years, Sr Cavanagh retired in 2004 and brought her caring presence to other sisters in retirement.

“In 2013, with declining health and eyesight, Anne went, reluctantly, to Kurri Hospital for respite then Calvary St Joseph’s Sandgate where she quickly made herself at home,” the spokesperson for the congregation said.

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