Doreen died peacefully at St. Anne’s on Saturday afternoon, 29th November. She took us by surprise, surrendering to our loving God quite unexpectedly on the eve of Advent, the beginning of the Year dedicated to Consecrated Life. Earlier this year, on 25th May, Doreen celebrated her 100th Birthday, thoroughly enjoying the parties organised in her honour. She delighted in the occasion, and the opportunity it provided to bring people together. Doreen lived life to the full, and her love for others and interest in their welfare never wavered. We have no doubt that she is now enjoying the company of all who have gone before her, resting in the embrace of God, to whom she had given herself so completely.
Doreen Mary McOscar was born in Sydney of Irish parents – Ellen and Hugh – on 25th May 1914. She was the second of two children and grew up in a close-knit family with her much-loved older brother, Vincent. The family settled in Daceyville where Doreen attended St. Michael’s Primary School for most of her early years before enrolling in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, Kensington, for her Secondary education. Doreen’s home suburb of Daceyville was very dear to her, and she always expressed deep appreciation for the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, who fostered her love of learning. Over the years Doreen remained close to her extended family – enjoying the visits of cousins from different generations and discovering more about her family tree.
In 1935 Doreen entered the Marist Sisters at Woolwich, where she had attended a number of retreats for young women. She was professed on 25th January 1937 and was known for many years as Sr. Felician before returning to her Baptismal name of Doreen.
Throughout her long life, Doreen’s commitment to the Work of Mary never waned. She lived the Gospel in the manner of Mary, drawing others to experience the love and mercy of God. Doreen touched the lives of many through her ministry in fields such as education and pastoral work, spiritual renewal and faith formation, Congregational leadership and Marist Laity animation.
Doreen began her Marist ministry as a Primary and Secondary teacher. In 1940 she started her studies at Sydney University and was the first Australian Marist Sister to graduate from there with a Master of Arts Honours Degree. Her thesis on John Henry Newman was received with acclaim. Doreen had a great love for English literature, which she shared with her pupils. Her high regard for the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins was well known. She took delight in savouring the rich expressions of his verse. I well remember her introducing my class to poems such as The Windhover, Pied Beauty and God’s Grandeur: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God…” Her enthusiasm for poetry was infectious, but it was the depth of Doreen’s faith and spirituality that made the most lasting impression upon us.
Doreen was the founding Principal of Loreto Secondary School in Levuka, Fiji, and Cerdon College, Merrylands. She was also Principal of Marist Sisters’ College Woolwich. Doreen’s students held her in high esteem and her interest in them remained life-long. Ex-students of Loreto, Cerdon and Woolwich would often visit Doreen and many turned to her often to seek wisdom, encouragement, advice and spiritual guidance.
In 1972 Doreen began theological studies at the Marist Fathers’ Seminary, Toongabbie, followed by a course at the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila, the Philippines, and a period of study at Corpus Christi College in London. Shortly afterwards she lectured part-time at the Marist Fathers’ Seminary in Toongabbie and assisted with the teaching of catechetics. In the mid-70’s Doreen was elected General Councillor and moved to Rome to serve the Congregation in this leadership role.
On her return from Rome some years later, Doreen joined the team at the Marist Spirituality Centre, Marcellin Hall, Auckland, New Zealand. Here Doreen worked closely with other members of the Marist Family – priests, brothers, SMSM sisters and laity – with whom she formed lasting bonds.
In 1984 Doreen returned to Australia, engaging in pastoral work in Torquay (Victoria), Blacktown (western Sydney) and Gladstone (Queensland). As in her previous ministries, Doreen’s ready ability to relate with people across all faiths and cultures, and her genuine interest in young and old alike, endeared her to all whom she met. She had a breadth of vision that enabled her to dialogue with openness about issues facing the Congregation, the Church and the world. She was committed to ecumenism and all that would bring people of faith together. Her animation of Marist Laity continued throughout her years at Marian House and she never ceased to remain vitally interested in all things Marist.
Doreen moved to St. Anne’s on 25th October 2011 and continued to reflect the presence of Mary to those around her – residents, staff and visitors too. Doreen was a most gracious lady, attentive to others and appreciative of the loving care she received. She always joined in activities at St. Anne’s and encouraged others to do the same.
Indeed, Doreen was always affirming and encouraging – helping others to believe in themselves, and to have confidence in their abilities. Through her warmth and freedom of spirit, she exuded joy that enlivened others, and many felt uplifted when they received a letter or phone call from Doreen.
She was determined and tenacious – and very particular! We all knew how difficult it was for her to make a decision about buying a new blouse, or pair of shoes. She was so petite and finding just the right fit would often prove impossible. Doreen made us smile, she made us think, she brought light to our lives, and we will miss her greatly.
Pope Francis said recently that the effectiveness of consecrated life depends upon the eloquence of lives which radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full. We thank you, Doreen, for the eloquence of your life and the inspiration you have been to us. You have followed Christ in the spirit of Mary, loving as God loves us. May you enjoy the rewards of eternal life. Rest in peace, Doreen.
Sr. Julie Brand SM – 5th December 2014
Sr Felician was my English teacher in Year 12 at Woolwich, and I loved her classes! She always told us that when she went to heaven, she was going to drive Tulip (again) – the little blue car she used to drive in Fiji – and read Dante in Italian. One other major thing she taught me – by example and not by word – was the way she would pick up papers and rubbish in the playground when she was on playground duty. I continue to do it when I do relief teaching these days, and the kids certainly take note of you “walking the talk”. Thank you Sr Felician (aka Fleabags).
Sister Felician’s passing has left me with a sense of great sorrow and emptiness. She was my mentor through the pioneer years of Cerdon College where her tenacity and wit, her vitality for life, her love of sport and competition with rival schools, her constant support of my family, her love of the English language and her guidance and firm direction steered me into the vocation that I have followed for nearly fifty years. I came from a poor migrant family, so she had to fight tirelessly to keep me in school by chasing, relentlessly, after scholarships from local organisations. She praised my merits and (secretly, I think), shared my love of mischievous episodes throughout Junior Secondary classes. She was the first to congratulate me on my acceptance into OLMC, Parramatta, where she insisted that my recognition as a peer was never going to come from how tall I could stand, but how respectfully I could communicate with people- and she was right.
After coming to Australia in 1955, without a word of English, I became infatuated by the woman who made teaching me the language seem like a gift that I would never wish to discard. Today, I still mention her name as the true nurturer of my love of the English language. I still think of her whenever I receive praise, commendation and admiration from fellow teachers for that pursuit of excellence and perfection in my teaching of English to the many students that have passed under my tutelage. I have attempted to model my teaching style on hers and, not surprisingly, I have a level of respect from all my students that is, at times a source of envy from my peers. And the best part of that is the fact that many students recall my lessons with similar affection with which I remember my lessons with Sister Felician.
This is a small space to devote to a giant in my life. Let me conclude this small tribute to a person who has inspired many and will live well beyond her passing through the legacy that she has left behind. Vale my friend, my inspiration.