By Olivia Bunter
Beloved member of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea, Sister Mary Berry RSM, died on 28 June 2019.
One of six siblings, Mary Agnes Berry was the second child and first daughter of English-born parents, Thomas Michael Berry and Marie Bertha Schell.
From very early in her life, Sr Mary was associated with the Sisters of Mercy of the former West Perth Congregation.
She attended school in Leederville for all of her schooling from 4 years of age, so early in order to be able to accompany her brother Joe.
“A fond memory for Sr Mary was Sister Margaret Mary Pombart at St Mary’s Leederville tenderly caring for her small charges,” Beverley Stott said of her late friend.
Sr Mary’s first ministry was as classroom teacher in the junior grades and instructed the more senior classes in commercial subjects and in the subject, taught then as a specialty by many sisters, the Art of Speech.
“Mary taught for many years at St Mary’s Leederville and at St Brigid’s Primary School in West Perth and was elected several times on to the Leadership Council of the Congregation and for some time was the Congregation Bursar, known during that time as Mother Thomas.”
Around 1974, Sr Mary was asked by the Superior of the day Sister Joan Flynn to attend a Formation Program at the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila in the Philippines which she did very willingly.
“This time drew out of Mary the depth of her spiritual being and she returned to Australia accepting the request in 1976 by the Major Superiors and the Bishops to found as first Director the Maranatha Institute, at first for the ongoing formation of the Religious in Perth and then opened up for the people of Perth, offering Adult Faith Formation.”
Today, the institute continues to gift the people of Perth as the Centre for Faith Enrichment.
In 1990, Sr Mary was appointed Vicar for Religious for the Archdiocese, a joint appointment with Fr Chris Ross and so began a period when Mary dedicated herself to listening to the cares of religious, as life for us grew in complexity.
“Mary spent the last years of her life out at Craigie first in the Convent then she took up residence in the far end room of Mercy Health Aged Care,” Beverley Stott said.
“She wrote simple spiritual poetry to articulate her faith and love, often demonstrating her regard for individual sisters and friends and love and pride in her family.”
Beverley shared with those present, a piece of favoured poetry of Sr Mary’s, “The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson”, concluding the reflection.
“After 98 years, 79 of them as a vowed religious, we are here giving thanks for this generous life. We are sad and we shall miss her special spirit among us.”