Vale Sr Doreen Clarke


Sr Doreen Clarke
Sr Doreen Clarke

Doreen Monica Clarke was born at Crescent Head on 2nd February 1919 at the family home at the foot of Dulconghi Mountain. When she was about four, they moved to Yarravel.

Doreen spent all her school life at the Sherwood Public School. They were happy, carefree days and included the one-and-a-quarter mile walk to School. They went to Mass in the little country Sherwood Church where she made her First Holy Communion and Confirmation.

At Yarravel, they were all at home for most of the time. As well as the tennis games, they joined in the inter-school sports where each year Doreen won the high-jump and sometimes the races.

After a holiday with an Aunt and cousins in Wauchope, Monica and Doreen began working in Kempsey. Her last job at the Railway entitled her to a free pass, so she went to Bowral to see her sister, Sr Anastasia, who was there again. Sr Bernadette was at Thursday Island at the time.

In November 1940, Monica and Doreen went to Bowral to enter the Convent. They were professed as Religious of The Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart on 2nd July 1942. Monica took the name Sister Jeanne, and Doreen took the name Sister Virgil.

After making our three Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, they were truly Religious and left the Novitiate for Kensington, the main congregation Convent in Australia.

In 1943, Doreen went to Bowral for a while and then to the Convent in Leura. She went to Kensington in 1945 to see Sr Bernadette before she returned to the Northern Territory mission at Bathurst Island when it was re-opened after the War. It was the first time that Doreen had seen her since she entered the Convent in 1934.

It was on 2nd July 1945 that Sr Monica and Sr Doreen were at Bowral again to make their Final vows with eight other Sisters.

In 1946, Sr Doreen went to Bentleigh in Melbourne. After six months, she went to Alice Springs where she stayed for five-and-a-half years.

While she was in Alice Springs, her father, Thomas, died in Kempsey on 7th April 1947. Doreen hadn’t seen him after she left home to enter the Convent. Sr Anastasia and Sr Doreen were together for a while when Sr Anastasia went through Alice Springs on her way to Arltunga to the Aboriginal mission there.

Sr Doreen left Alice Springs at the end of 1951 and went home to see her family before going to the Missions in Eastern Papua. She arrived in Sedeia Island on the first Friday of February 1952. She went to Nimowa Island in June, waiting for the opening of the Mission at Rossel Island. They were the first Nuns the Rossel Islanders had ever seen.

On 14th November 1952, Sr Xaviera, Sr Kathleen O’Keefe and Sr Doreen arrived at Rossel Island. On 1st December, they were presented with a motherless baby to rear, named Sam. At Rossel Island, Doreen did the cooking.

In 1955, she moved to Nimowa Island, and there taught Grades 1 and 2. The pupils ranged from six to fourteen years old, as there were no Government schools there at that time. Again, many of her pupils were taught the basics of the Catholic Faith, as well as the ABC etc.

In 1958, Sr Doreen went to Australia to see her mother, Maud, who was dying. She was in a nursing home and four of the Sisters were able to spend a few weeks with her before returning to their Missions. She died on 10th April 1959.

In 1960, Sr Doreen returned to Australia as she felt the heat very much. She was in Kensington for a while, then she went to Elmore, Victoria, in 1961, again doing the cooking etc. In 1963, she went to Kilburn in South Australia to the Convent there.

Later, she joined the Sisters in the Teachers’ Training School at Kensington, as she always wanted to teach. In October 1965, a Sister at Daceyville in Sydney became sick and Sr Doreen was asked to take her place there.

In 1966, Sr Doreen began studying for the Leaving Certificate at Bentleigh, which she did by correspondence, helped by some Sisters teaching at the Bentleigh College in Melbourne.

In 1966, she went to Darwin to teach Grade 4. Sr Doreen passed English for the Leaving Certificate of South Australia while in Darwin.

She was asked to start a new school at Nightcliff about seven miles out of Darwin in 1967. So with another Sister and, she began the school with Grades 1 and 2 in the Mass Centre there. They began to build the schoolrooms that year, adding a new class each year.

Sr Doreen began teaching Grade 3 at St Paul’s Bentleigh in 1970 where she remained teaching until the end of 1975. In January 1976, she returned to Elmore where she taught Grades 3 and 4. She left Elmore at the end of 1981 for Bowral, helping in the Centre.

Early in January 1984, she visited Darwin for Sr Anastasia’s Golden Jubilee. Sisters Bernadette and Monica were there, so it was a great reunion, except for Sr Patricia.

Sr Doreen left Tasmania in January 1987 to join the Daceyville community in Sydney where she continued to teach remedial classes.

It was a sad day for Sr Doreen and for many other Sisters on 11th December 1992, as it was the final day of the school—the Daceyville School was handed over to the Marist Brothers after seventy-nine years teaching there.

At the beginning of 1993, Sr Doreen returned to Bowral, helping in the Centre. Her teaching days were over at the age of seventy-four.

Sr Doreen’s 80th Birthday, on 2nd February 1999 was the first birthday she ever celebrated. She lived at the Kensington Convent and celebrated her 90th Birthday on 2nd February 2009.

For many years she prayed for her beloved Lord to take her, and her prayers were answered in the early hours of 14th September 2013. Doreen was aged ninety-four.