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Thursday, 15 September 2022 20:02

Sister Marie Céline Nolan fcJ RIP

Ssr CelineMarie CÉLINE fcJ, a dearly loved member of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, died peacefully on 26 August 2022 at St Catherine’s Aged Care Balwyn. Sr Céline was in the 84th year of her life and in the 64th year of her religious profession. Born in Wangaratta, Sr Céline was a dedicated teacher, nurse, and pastoral carer. She worked in Benalla as a Pastoral Minister from 2007 until August 2021. 
Céline was nearing her seventeenth birthday when she responded wholeheartedly to God’s call to become a Faithful Companion of Jesus.  She entered the Society at Genazzano Convent, Kew on 2 February 1956 and six months later, on 8 September, she received the habit. 
After the reception of the habit, Sr Céline began two years as a Novitiate. During this period, she was immersed in professed life as a faithful companion of Jesus. Living according to the Society’s Constitution: 
“We seek, through the aid of His grace,
To imitate and follow Him
Since He is the way which leads to life.”  
Towards the end of her Novitiate, she began her teacher training and obtained a Primary Teacher qualification.  She went on to teach at Sacred Heart in Kew and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Deepdene.  She also taught at St Philomena, in Portsmouth Rhode Island in the late 60s. 
In community, one of Sr Céline’s tasks was to walk the convent dog, Shar, a strong-willed German Shepherd.  Sr Céline would recount funny predicaments Shar led her into.  For example, she was crossing Burke Road at its busiest when halfway across the road, Shar dug his paws to the bitumen and refused to move.  He wouldn’t budge, leaving Sr Céline and Shar in the middle of the road, with traffic moving around nun and dog −a sight to behold. Another night, Shar decided to stretch out across the back door for a change. Sr Céline came home in the dark after night duty, unaware of Shar’s presence and went head-over-heels over Shar.
In February 1973 whilst resident in the FCJ Community in Richmond, Celine spent a year nursing with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Northcote. This was a life-changing experience for Sr Céline and soon after she began nursing training at Sacred Heart Moreland. In 1977 she qualified as a State Registered Nurse. 
At the conclusion of her Nursing training, Sr Céline was chosen to undertake a Tertianship, a third year of spiritual study. This took place in America from September 1977 to July 1978. After her Tertianship, she was missioned to work at the FCJ Nursing Home Redriff in Kent England, where she made sure to learn as much as she could from the experience. After gaining further nursing experience in the UK, Sr Céline returned Australia, to take up nursing duties once again at Sacred Heart Moreland and at FCJ’s, St Raphael’s, on the Genazzano property, where she endeared herself to all the FCJ Sisters who resided there and to the staff. Some of the staff became her lifelong friends. 
She held this position until the early nineties when she was granted a sabbatical which saw her travelling to New Zealand where her sister, Bernadette, resided. Whilst there she took part in a renewal programme. Amongst her belongings, in her eyes, was one of her masterpieces, a humble attempt at creating a vase. Others likened it to the Leaning Tower of Pisa with a solid base!
A Tribute to Sr Céline by the FCJ Sisters: 
As Faithful Companions of Jesus
                As stated in our Constitutions, “We dedicate ourselves unreservedly for the greater service and glory of God.” Celine lived this to the fullest with her love and care for the aged, house bound, lonely and infirm. Those who were looked after by her experienced not just her nursing ability but the gentle face of Christ, allowing Jesus to work through her. 
Celine lived each day − in the words of our foundress - 
                 “We bear the name of Jesus and unceasingly seek, in the spirit of our foundress, to make known and loved the name of Jesus, his Spirit, his Heart and his Mother.” 
Out of the richness of our name which Céline loved deeply, she was able to express this gift throughout her nursing career. She dedicated her whole self to the glory of God through those who needed care.  When Celine lived in our community in Richmond, a beautiful expression of her love for the frail and elderly was evident with her care of Br Jack Stamp SJ, whom we affectionately called, “Stampie”. Towards the end of his life, he had to have daily dressings changed on his legs. This was agony for him. He would only let one person take on this responsibility and that good deed was carried out by Celine. No one else was allowed near him. This created a great bond between them. He trusted her completely, as neither of them made any fuss.
Besides the tasks of a nurse on night duty, Celine found time to knit. She was brilliant at knitting. Wherever Céline went, her knitting basket followed. As the years progressed her rheumatoid arthritis took hold, and her fingers could no longer handle the intricate patterns she had once so easily created. 
About a month prior to Christmas, out would come the Christmas Cake recipe handed down to her by her mother. Céline became renowned for her fruit cakes and at Christmas time it would not be surprising to see six Christmas cakes on the go all at once. Many a packet of mixed fruit, sultanas and of course a little drop of brandy would be expertly stirred together by Céline. The aroma coming from the oven permeated every room in the house. But it wasn’t just at Christmas, that cakes were made; up until recently, Celine would make the Jubilee cakes for our Sisters. A friend would then be given the task of icing and decorating them, but the best part was the moist fruit cake. 
Her culinary skills also extended to me! When I was a postulant living in Genazzano, Céline was also a member of the community. She offered to help me learn how to cook. She suggested that if I was shown how to make a casserole and white sauce, I’d be set up for life. In to the kitchen we went one Saturday afternoon. The white sauce was an instant success as she taught me the hidden secret behind making a sauce with no lumps. It still is full proof.
The real adventure began with the casserole. All went well with the cutting up of the meat, the vegetables and making the sauce. I obediently placed it in the oven. We chattered away and finally I was given the nod to take the casserole out of the oven. To my shock and horror as I lifted the dish out of the oven, out came the top half of the dish, precisely cut in half with no casserole to be seen.!! I have never seen, to this day, such a clean cut of a dish. Nothing had cracked, it had just split. Why did this happen? Quite simple really. Céline had told me to put the temperature at 200 degrees Celsius. The temperatures on the oven turned out to be in Fahrenheit. The actual temperature was 400 degrees Fahrenheit and of course it had been in the oven for nearly two and a half hours. It’s no wonder it cracked. It was boiling hot. We never did repeat this recipe together.
Her love for people became fully evident when her path in life changed yet again. In 1992 Céline was missioned back to Richmond until 1998 and took up nursing again at St Catherine’s Balwyn where ironically, the last phase of her life was to take place many years later. 
In 1998, Céline began her life as a pastoral associate. She thrived in this role, working in the parish of St Ignatius, Richmond. Between 1998 and 2000 she was able to complete her Certificate of Pastoral Theology. She loved taking communion to those in Eric Pearce House, visiting the house-bound and working with the new arrivals from East Timor. She ran the sacramental programs, oversaw the lectors and developed the Bereavement group. She ran the Rainbow Program for parents whose children had been newly baptised and followed them up for the next five years. She officiated at funerals, liaising with Kings, the Funeral Directors, when the priests were unavailable. 
In her spare time, she became part of the St Vincent de Paul Group in the parish and worked one day a week in the Parish Office doing secretarial work. All this widened her contact with people from many diverse back grounds. The East Timorese worshipped the ground she walked on as she devoted her whole self to their needs. Many have her as their godparent for their baptisms. Some of them continued to keep in touch with her, even when they had re- established themselves in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. All of this gave her life.
But Céline had some other great loves in her life, her football team Essendon, the Races and her adorable cats. The cats came into her life whilst living at Richmond. She began with Trixie followed by Tommie and finally Millie. Sometimes one could see Tommie all harnessed for a walk around the FCJ College property in Benalla. Millie caused the most problems with Céline’s blood pressure when Millie sometimes decided to have a night out on the town. Both of us would go out and often search in vain for little Miss Millie. She was full of mischief. Sometimes we’d both be standing outside a neighbour’s house, encouraging each other to knock on the owner’s door and ask permission to search her back yard. Or we would chicken out and just go around the back to search for Millie to no avail. These nights Céline would not sleep until Millie had returned. She didn’t venture out for a while after that, as she would have received some very stern words from Céline. These cats gave Céline a distraction from the continual pain she was always in. Céline loved each one of them and they in turn loved her. It must have broken her heart to leave Millie behind last August. 
Céline had arrived in Benalla in 2007 and became part of the parish depending on how well she felt. At Mass one would see her following her Sunday missal as she could never hear the priest properly. As usual she had found a way around this challenge of not hearing. No longer being able to walk very far, Céline would have communion given to her whilst seated at her bench. Her dear friend, Margaret Brough, became her ever faithful chauffeur. This period in Benalla, I believe, was in preparation for God’s plan for her. Celine had returned to where she had first encountered the FCJs as a boarder and was able to catch up with her old friends. That was one thing about Céline, if you became a friend of Céline, you became a friend for life. Her loyalty knew no bounds. 
This time last year I said good-bye to Céline as the ambulance sped off to Wangaratta with her on board. Neither of us knew what was around the corner. As she was wheeled out of the house the last words, she uttered to me were, “Where is my pink jacket?” I raced back inside to fetch the pink jacket to be told that it was pointless to put it on her as there were too many tubes attached. Downcast I went back inside and wondered if she would survive the day.
Well, she did survive the day and eventually ended up in her former place of work, not as a nurse but as a recipient this time of the nurses’ love and care for her, as she had generously given over the years. Yes, Céline was very faithful, not just in all her varied ministries but also to her faithful companion. Without fail her prayer book was always opened on her bed praying the scripture of the day. 
Go now my friend, you have earned your place in heaven, in the loving embrace of our faithful companion, Jesus. No more pain, only the sounds of the angels greeting you in song where every sound will bring much joy to your heart. 
Go now Céline, His good and faithful servant.