WHEN her fledgling pharmacy career brought a young Bernadette Teasey to “a small fishing village” in south-east Queensland in 1948 little did she know she’d still be there about 65 years later.
The Burleigh Heads parishioner has been involved in just about every facet of parish life over those years.
Most recently Bern, as she is known, was on hand to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Burleigh Heads Care and Concern group that she, along with the late Toni Spinks, co-founded in 1983.
Franciscan Sister Agnella Callaghan had “collared two likely ladies” to get the group up and running and Bern admits that a deep-seated need to help people and a strong faith makes it easy to help when needed.
By 1983 Bern Lane already had an impressive record of involvement in the Burleigh Heads parish, continuing a legacy set by her own parents in her childhood community in the Hunter Valley in NSW.
Bern was born in Greta, the fifth of the seven Teasey children to an English Catholic mother and a father of Irish decent.
With the family living next door to the Catholic church they were heavily involved in its activities.
“There were a lot of young Irish priests back in those days and we would look after them so they became part of our family,” Bern said.
She said her mother was well educated and determined her children would be the same.
‘Three of my sisters went into teaching and my eldest sister went into business and it was suggested I should also look at teaching but I wanted to look around for something different,” she said.
After completing her secondary education at St Catherine’s Catholic College, Singleton, a 16-year-old Bern secured a pharmacy apprenticeship and headed off to Sydney.
“It was all different back then, we did one full year in the pharmacy learning all about dispensing then the next year-and-a-half we spent half the day at the shop and half the day at Sydney University.”
After working for several years in Sydney, Bern, at 21, decided it was time to try something different and headed north to take up a job in that “small fishing village”.
“I was there for a while and then worked for a year in Roma but ended up back at Burleigh,” she said.
It was here she met her husband David Lane in 1950.
“His father owned the pharmacy where I worked so there was no getting away from him. We were married in 1952 and celebrated our 60th anniversary last year,” she said.
“We went back to Greta to be married and then rented a flat in Tweed Heads as there was just nothing for permanent rental in Burleigh in those days.”
Bern said the couple was involved in the Church and its community from the first days of their marriage.
“My husband coached the convent school softball team and we were both in the Catholic youth group in Coolangatta,” she said.
“Actually we played tennis with Bishop (John) Gerry in those days and when he was down here a few years ago he saw me and remembered me as his old tennis partner.”
By the time the couple had enough money to buy a house and return to Burleigh Heads in the late 1950s the first of their three children was born and Bern had settled in to raising her family and serving her community.
She said there had always been a good group of willing people ready to step up and help the parish.
“No one did anything alone but that was the whole feeling in those days, it was a community all doing things together, helping each other whenever you were needed so you took on whatever was suggested you do,” she said.
Bern was a member of the young mothers’ group, the school Parents’ and Friends’, helped set up and volunteered on school tuckshops, taught religious education in state schools and took on Church ministries such as reading and Communion ministry as women became allowed to do them.
She said although she was a stay-at-home mum she did help her husband in his sporting goods store and the tap on the shoulder to start the Care and Concern group came along at the right time.
“My husband had just sold our business so I had time on my hands. I just wasn’t envisaging this (Care and Concern co-ordinator) but how could you say no to Sr Agnella?”
Bern said she and Toni, an accountant, headed off to Brisbane to be taught the correct way to start the ministry, which they “followed to the letter”.
“Toni and I then called meetings with the CWL (Catholic Women’s League) and the St Vincent de Paul (Society) about the need to start a Care and Concern but we could see the needs that they weren’t able to fill,” she said.
“CWL were doing a very good job but they weren’t driving and the St Vincent de Paul was male only so there were lots of jobs that needed a woman.”
Bern said the local community “jumped in straight away” and there were about 50 initial volunteers and that quickly grew to about 120.
“The needs were transport, visitation, child-minding, home help and home handyman,” Bern said.
“In those days there wasn’t the welfare groups that now abound, but, mind you, there weren’t all the restrictions either.”
Not content to just follow the “instructions” for setting up a Care and Concern group, Bern decided she also needed to do some training in taking telephone calls.
“I just thought ‘I need to be respectful and courteous and caring’ so I volunteered with Lifeline and I became a telephone counsellor where I was also a volunteer for many years and ended up being a counsellor at Lifeline as well,” she said.
She stepped back from her roles in about 2000 but said while her life was taken up it was also fulfilling.
“My husband and I had holidays and we took lots of trips away and it’s altogether been a very fulfilling life,” she said.
That life continues to be fulfilled, with Bern still regularly meeting up with a number of friends from that early-1960s young mothers’ group via a book club and she and David are still active within their wider Burleigh Heads parish with Bern still taking Communion to the sick.
Bern summed up her life and years of community service as being driven by her faith – “my love of God which flows over into love of neighbour and the people that you see who need help”.
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