Sister Pauline Marcella Coll was born on 16 January 1939 in Maryborough, Queensland. She was the youngest child of John and Evelyn (née Smith) Coll.
Born to older parents, Sr Coll knew and admired her parents as they aged. She described her father as a gentle, strong man, well-educated and with a strong instinct for justice, and saw her mother as an extrovert, very sensitive, and as someone who loved caring for others. Sr Coll’s older siblings are Mary, John, Patricia and Ann.
The Catholic faith underpinned Sr Coll’s family life. The family moved with changes in their father’s occupation and Sr Coll’s education changed with it. She was educated in her early years by the Sisters of Mercy at Maryborough, Clayfield and Gympie, before the family moved to Brisbane, Queensland, where she met the Good Samaritan Sisters at Wilston.
After completing her education, Sr Coll chose to work and enjoy life. For almost five years, she worked at the Commercial Bank and crowded a lot into her life, with involvement in tennis, singing, Children of Mary, the DLP (Democratic Labour Party), modelling, little theatre and youth group at Newmarket parish.
On 2 July 1959, she entered the Good Samaritan Novitiate at Pennant Hills, New South Wales, and was given the name Sr Marie Bernarde. Following the changes after the Second Vatican Council, she returned to her baptismal name, Pauline.
Sr Coll was professed on 6 January 1962 and completed her teacher training that year at St Scholastica’s Teachers’ College, Glebe. She taught primary school in Manly and Canberra from 1963 to 1969. During these years, she also completed her Bachelor of Arts. It was during this time that she lost her mother in 1967 and her father in 1968.
In 1970, Sr Coll moved into secondary education where she ministered as a classroom teacher, deputy principal and principal.
From 1979 onwards, she enjoyed a variety of ministries, including work in an inter-congregational development project amongst the people of Shalvey in Western Sydney, secondary school religious education co-ordination, adult education at Najara, Queensland, and secondary school pastoral care.
After a year of Clinical Pastoral Education at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, and two years of school-community liaison at Warriewood, Sr Coll returned to ministry at Najara where she was appointed Director of the Spirituality Centre. It was here that she was a pastoral carer at Carseldine, before spending three years as Resource for Reiki and Spirituality for Life Journey.
Sr Coll was a dedicated student throughout her life and worked hard to acquire the knowledge and skills needed in her ministry. She studied both in Australia and overseas and gained qualifications in liturgical studies, psychodrama, reflexology, reiki, bio-regional and world education, ecology and world education, and advanced training in the Myers Briggs Indicator.
Sr Coll’s strong sense of social justice brought her to work with the CLRI Social Action Office for Eco-Justice in 2000 as co-ordinator and resource person. In July 2005, she was to be the co-ordinator of the Good Samaritan Desk for Anti-trafficking of Women and Children.
Her exceptional and tireless work in the early years of Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking Humans (ACRATH) was recognised in 2014 when she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.
Sr Coll was much loved for her enthusiasm for life and all it asked of her. Many who knew her experienced her deep compassion and caring support in times of illness.
She is remembered by many for her sensitive care and support of the dying. She had a deep love of creation, ecology and theology inspired by the writings of Teilhard De Chardin, Thomas Merton, John O’Donoghue and Peter Phan.
Sr Coll spent the last three years in Perth’s Ballycara Retirement Village, enjoying a gentle rhythm of life and engaging with residents in a range of activities until early this year when she was diagnosed with cancer.
Sr Coll, who, throughout her illness, sought quality of life rather than quality of days, passed away peacefully on 9 October 2015 aged 76 and in the 57th year of her religious life.
Courtesy the Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and The Good Oil.