Records Manager and Archivist

 Sister Veronica Reid

Sister Veronica Reid IBVM was a woman who lived by the words of Mary Ward, “women in time to come will do much”. 

Born in 1922, Veronica was the second child of George Reid and Mary Kendall. She and her six siblings experienced difficult times during the depression years, and consequently, the Reid children knew how fortunate they were to have regular meals and warm beds.

Sister Veronica had a lifelong enduring love for rural Australia. Despite growing up in Melbourne, she chose to  live with her grandparents in the country at the age of 14. Rural Australia tugged on her heart strings and her devotion to supporting outback families was evident throughout her life. However, it was through her aunt, Mother Evangeline Kendall, that Sister Veronica first met the IBVM community in Ballarat. Veronica first joined the IBVM at the age of 25 in 1947. She was then fully professed in December 1955.

Sister Veronica worked in Loreto schools all around Australia during her early years with the IBVM, teaching mostly primary aged students. However, from 1969 onwards, her role changed to the care of boarders, working here at Normanhurst until 1978. She built close relationships by showing love to those around her, using both words and actions. Veronica also kept a very close eye on maintaining clear boundaries for students. Despite referring to her as ‘The Dragon’, students respected her just decisions. In return, it has been reported by ex-students, that Sister Veronica nicknamed them ‘The Rogues’.

During this period, Sister Veronica formed strong connections with many students that would continue beyond the school gates. Some she visited whilst they struggled through nursing training, others when they had young families to care for. An ex-student once said that she ‘gave much and loved much’ (Laing, 2016). Sister Veronica was able to navigate that fine line between raising her young students with compassion, whilst also firmly guiding them to become women of integrity, all with a sense of humour.

At Normanhurst, Sister Veronica is remembered in the naming of the oval as well as the Veronica Reid classrooms nearby. One of Sister Veronica’s responsibilities here at Normanhurst was caring for the grounds, including coordinating a major project to transform the oval into a more usable space for sports. Under her direction, the oval was levelled using fill from nearby roadworks. A group of fathers assisted her in completing the laying of new turf on the oval. Sister Veronica took responsibility for many tasks including organising lawn mowing, sweeping, and moving sprinklers to keep the new turf well-watered. When it came to transport around the grounds, Sister Veronica began with a bicycle before progressing to a tractor. She took great delight in driving this grand machine around the school grounds, even giving rides to the youngest students in the primary school.

There are many more examples of Sister Veronica’s heart for social justice. She was a woman who gave deeply of herself to others. Many who knew her testify that she was available at a moment’s notice in times of crisis. She worked very hard and approached life with a combination of courage and sincere love, using her gifts where the need was greatest. Boarders who had once felt intimidated by her, learnt in their adult years that Sister Veronica was a reliable woman of strength, generosity and compassion. She always had words and acts of encouragement for those who needed them most. Throughout her life, Sister Veronica truly embodied Justice, Felicity, Sincerity, Verity and Freedom.

 

References:

Browne, Frances., (2011) Sister Veronica Reid IBVM. Normanhurst: Loreto Normanhurst Archives.

Laing, Mary Jane, interviewed by Rowena Curtis, Loreto Normanhurst, 26 May 2016.

 

Mrs Rowena Curtis

Records Manager and Archivist