Brigid Furlong, or we knew her, Sr Laurentia, was born in Tipperary – I presume there is no need to spell out which country! She made her novitiate in Peckham and Paignton, in England, being professed on the 26th October, 1939, which almost coincides with the outbreak of World War II.
The War was to play an important role in her very early years, As a young professed she was called on to take some child evacuees in 1941 to Fishguard, which was a relatively safe centre from the bombing in London. She would tell us the story of her evacuation and her part in it. She remained there for a year with one other Marist Sister but living with the Sisters of Mercy. This whole episode had a very deep effect on her as a young sister. Indeed, living in England where both Peckham and Paignton, houses of the Marist Sisters were and where she stayed, were bombed. When the war was over in 1945 she set out for Fiji. Such was her courage.
She was one of the first arrivals after the war. Her first appointment was at Levuka. She spent the next 25 years in Fiji in many of the mission stations, none of which was easy. With a few short breaks, she remained there until 1972. She was an excellent teacher and very kind with the children she taught, though the climate was not always easy for a native of Tipperary. Again we see that determined courage.
Australia was the next stopping place with an appointment to Gladstone, then Keilor in Melbourne and finally North Mackay where she remained for some years, with a break in Ireland when a family member was ill. In these appointments she was really great, relating well to the children, and most especially to those she was taking who had specific learning difficulties.
Not very often, but now and again, she showed she was a woman of great spirit. One such occasion occurred in Mackay, when the superior had made a promise to drive her across the river to St Pat’s for Confession every second Saturday. The superior had the misfortune to forget, but I can tell you she never forgot again. Laurie, as we called her, could be very volatile.
When she came to Sydney and lived at Blacktown all her hidden artistic gifts came to the fore which she hadn’t been able to apply herself to before. Painting and craft became works of art in her hand and she was able to use these gifts to support the parish craft stall. As well she was a great nature lover, especially of the birds.
What she loved most however, was organizing the monthly Masses held in the Blacktown house for the elderly and disabled. She prepared the Mass with every bit of care she could muster and enjoyed the company of those who attended. She extended this pastoral care to those in hospital whom she visited every week.
But all this time, what I think very few of us knew was the ill-health she managed to hide and that was with her for many years. When she was well in her nineties, she went to Marian House and then to St Anne’s where she was cared for so lovingly.
Laurie, you can now enjoy to the full the God you loved so much and Mary, his Mother. As our Mother Foundress says,
We shall be very happy
at the hour of our death
if we have known how to take advantage
of all the moments of life.
Laurie, you certainly knew how to do that. May you rest in peace.