Dorothy May Conran, was born in Glebe on the 25th January 1920. She was the eldest of five children born to Edward and May Conran. At the time of her reception into the Marist Sisters Novitiate she was given the name Sr Carmel and then made her first profession as a Marist Sister in February 1940.
Sr. Carmel Conran was a rich woman, not in the way we usually think of riches, but because she had been endowed by God with many talents and she didn’t bury, waste or deny any of these. Our regional leader, Sr. Julie, writes “Carmel lived in loving faithfulness to her marist vocation and served the mission of the Congregation in three countries of our Region, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Carmel taught in both Primary and Secondary schools and was also a music teacher.”
For almost seventy years, as a Marist Sister, Carmel endeavoured to make the mystery of Mary in the Church, the daily inspiration of her life and actions in classrooms and music rooms among pupils, parents, friends and parishioners, endeavouring to think, to judge, to feel and to act as Mary did. Fort of these years were spent in New Zealand teaching classes or as a specialist teacher of music in Putaruru, Karori and Mt. Albert
In the eighties when the Catholic schools in New Zealand were being integrated into the Government Education System, Carmel was called upon to play a major role in this process. About this event, Sr. Julie recalls, “Her vision and her passion, together with her perceptiveness and clarity of thought equipped her well for her work with the Catholic Education department.” She worked on a committee with the Bishops and was the Liaison Officer for the Catholic schools, and was required to make sure that school buildings, Staffs, and Curriculum were all up to the required standard.
Carmel spent about five years in Fiji and was asked to work with the Columban Priests in a co-educational multi-cultural secondary school in Ba, Fiji. The student body was predominately Indian. At the time of Carmel’s death, Sr. Mary Frances, now in England wrote, “I have happy memories of our time in Ba at Xavier College. The Staff and Students, held Carmel in high regard and were very much aware of her interest in their well-being and development…” Carmel reached out in particular to the young girls who often needed her special help and advice as many of them came from rural areas and were poor.
When asked to fulfil leadership roles, Carmel always answered the challenge graciously. Our Congregational Leader, Sr. Jane Frances remarked, how “Carmel was a very strong person and a broad thinker with vision. I will never forget,” she says,” the steps Carmel took in New Zealand to bring us into the future. That Sector is very grateful for her style of leadership and her fearless approach. The Congregation always came first and she would forge ahead with Mary’s mission in mind regardless of her self. I also remember her wit and her ability to see through situations.” Leadership roles called forth Carmel’s expertise as an organiser, a planner, a forward thinker. During the six years that she was the leader of Mount Albert Community, a new convent was built. Much thought went into the planning and the result was a home for the sisters, that was functional, comfortable and artistically pleasing.
Carmel’s concern for her sisters was very evident. She was able to show empathy with them in both their successes and disappointments. She was quick to sympathize with the sisters whenever any misfortune or ill-health touched members of their families. Her interest was real and sincere and her kindness went out to many. As Sr. Julie reminds us, “she was also caring and compassionate to the older and frailer members of the community. I recall that she lived and served in Marian house for over ten years in total and also spent two years assisting the community of older Marist Fathers at Maryvale, Hunters Hill.
Towards the end of her life, Carmel spent three years in our small community at Rosemeadow. Although retired, Carmel contributed to the life of the parish. She helped in the parish office, loved meeting the parishioners, and joined the ‘getting to know you’ group. She also animated a Lenten Group. Carmel had a great devotion to the Rosary and was often seen carrying her beads. She was intelligent, very well read and could converse on many topics.
When Carmel’s failing health required that she become a resident at Chesalon Nursing Home she was asking us to pray that God would take her to Himself – she was waiting for God to say, “Come”. On the evening prior to her death, assisted by Srs Carmel Murray and Gail, Carmel renewed her vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience. Shortly after that Father Kennedy, the Parish Priest of West Pennant Hills, came and gave Carmel the Sacrament of the Dying. She entered eternal life on 23rd September 2009.
We give thanks to God for the gift of Sr Carmel’s life. We ask her to obtain blessings for us as she enters into Heaven and into the company of Mary and all our Marist saints. We also pray for her family, for her many friends and for all those who cared for her in her time of ill-health. May Carmel rest in peace.