Sister Makareta Gilbert sm, formerly known as Sr Basil, died suddenly in Whangarei, New Zealand, on September 9th, 2013, while visiting her sister, Amelia Kanara. Makareta was one of three Maori sisters who joined the Marist Sisters after a congregation founded by the late Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Liston, had been disbanded. Of the three Sisters who became Marists, Kare has already passed away and Sister Rose Harris is now the only remaining Sister of the original group. Makareta was preparing to celebrate 60 years as a Marist Sister in January.
Makareta was born and baptised in Waihou, Hokianga on July 4th 1932. Her primary education was at St Joseph’s school in Panguru. As she had to help look after her younger siblings, her secondary education had to be through the correspondence school. After her profession in 1954 she spent most of her life as a teacher in New Zealand and Australia. She taught in Putaruru, Karori, Mt Albert, Waitaruke (Northland) Herne Bay, Merrylands, (NSW) and Burwood (Vic). After her return to NZ she took up a position in Rawene State School and taught there for 4 years. Some of her first pupils, now in their sixties, say that they will never forget her classes or herself! Later Makareta moved into pastoral work in Kaikohe and Matata. Her last appointment was to Tawa and the little church of Te Ngakau Tapu on the hill, where she made a valuable contribution to the life of the Maori community as she had in so many other places. She was an expert in Maori spirituality and by sharing her knowledge and love of this spirituality has enriched many of her own people as well as many pakehas over the years.
Makareta was farewelled in a Vigil Mass in Mount Albert, Auckland, and in a special way by her Marist sisters as she lay in their chapel there. The Sisters shared many memories of her: her generosity with her time and talents, (playing the guitar and singing, sewing, cooking, making cards…), her wonderful sense of humour, her frequent bursts of laughter, her endless supply of stories! On the 11th her body was taken up to the marae in Waihou, her birthplace, where she lay for two nights. Many of her family, and friends, as well as the Marist sisters, came to say goodbye to her there. It was moving to witness just how much she was loved by them all. Many of her nieces and nephews spoke of the great influence for good “Aunty Bas” had been in their lives. She had never hesitated to challenge any deviation from the right path! On Friday 13th September after a beautiful Requiem Mass celebrated by Pa Henare Tate and three other priests, she was buried in front of the little Waihou church beside Father Wanders who had been parish priest there when she was a little girl. The Maori community saw this as a great honour.
May she rest in peace.