There is a lovely rhythm of symmetry that runs through Sr Frances O’Leary’s life. Late last year, the Mercy Place Warrnambool resident celebrated both her 80th birthday and 60-year anniversary as a Sister of Mercy in the very same year that Mercy Health turned 100.
The humble pride that Sr Frances exudes when she talks of her significant milestones is clear. Originally from Camperdown in regional Victoria, she was a teaching sister at many Catholic schools during her storied career. She knew she wanted to be a sister from the age of seven.
“I knew my prayers and I loved going to Mass,” Sr Frances says. Decades on, the 80-year-old still enjoys Mass.
To celebrate her significant milestones, Sr Frances was treated to a special lunch out with some of her fellow Sisters of Mercy in Warrnambool’s Liebig Street, before celebrating on the day of her 80th birthday — 18 December — with friends and loved ones at Mercy Place Warrnambool.
“We had such a wonderful time together,” Sr Frances says of her two celebrations. “It’s always a special day when I catch up with some of my fellow Sisters. And I received the loveliest bunch of flowers that brought me so much joy.”
Sr Frances is brimming with joy, particularly when she speaks of Mother Philippa Brazill, Mercy Hospital’s foundation matron, who looked out for Sr Frances when she was a teenager training to become a Sister at the Rosanna Convent.
“I knew Mother Philippa; in fact she was my guardian angel after I was professed,” Sr Frances recalls. “She said she’d always be there for me to have a chat and to help me along the way, especially during a time when I wasn’t well and questioning things. She was a beautiful woman who helped and guided me so much. She was very strict in the convent but in the community, and to me, she was precious.”
Joy seeps out of Sr Frances
In the same way that Mother Philippa was a guardian angel to Sr Frances, Sr Frances has mirrored that role to many others over her 60 years as a Sister of Mercy. She was a regular visitor to families in the community who were in need and she still helps to care for those at the home who are nearing the end of their lives. She is forever guided by the motto she chose to have inscribed on her most precious belonging: the Sisters of Mercy ring that she wears every day.
“My ring has on it, ‘Live on in me, and I will live on in you’,” Sr Frances lovingly recites.
“I love my motto. It’s from St John’s Gospel and that is how I choose to live.”
Last reviewed March 25, 2021.