I am Mary Burke, now Sister Philippa from Tuam. Co. Galway where I was born on 24th August 1927. I attended the Mercy Convent at Tuam where Mother Assumpta a Dominican visited the school and told us about her Congregation. I was very attracted to her explanation of Religious Life and as I had already decided that I was becoming a sister, the Dominican Order became my choice.
Psalm 89 reads: ‘Our span is 70 years or 80 for those who are strong’. I must be very strong since I am now 82. At the age of twenty I entered the Novitiate of the Newcastle Dominican Sisters in Rosary Priory where I spent three and a half years. During that time I received the habit and made First Profession on 28th July 1949.
On a cold morning on the 1st December 1950 nine Sisters boarded the Bloemfontein Castle bound for Durban, South Africa where we were to minister to the people of South Africa. What a journey, water, water everywhere, no land to be seen for weeks till we arrived in Cape Town. One of my companions, Sister Antonia announced that she had a Christmas cake in her case and each evening the Christmas novena was sung before we retired for the night. Sister Otteran was happy to see us all in our cabins ready for sleep. However, we, the young professed together with Sister Antonia and Sister Brenda met to enjoy the Christmas cake and it lasted over a week and did we enjoy it!
After spending twenty five days sailing the high and rough sea we finally arrived in Cape Town harbour and were met by the Irish Dominicans Cabra Sisters who brought us to their convent where we enjoyed a delicious cake and tea. After which we returned to the ship to continue our journey to Durban. On our arrival in Durban we were met by Mother Clement and three of us continued our journey by car to the South Coast. Sisters Brenda and Antonia were assigned to St Elmo’s, Umzumbe and I continued my journey to Port Shepstone with Mother Clement who was the Prioress.
I loved looking at the beauty of the Indian Ocean and admiring the beautiful sunshine and the beauty of creation. Teaching became a great pleasure for me as I loved the outgoing spirit and spontaneity of the children. In my retirement I have continued to love and enjoy God’s wonderful creation and can honestly say that ‘I am happy in the Life’!