Tecla Scala was born in Italy, in a little town between Sorrento and Naples, on 31st December, 1921 to Rafaele and Maria Catena Scala. She was born into a big Catholic family some of whom migrated to Australia, and when she was six years old, Tecla came here with one of her older brothers. I think her father was already here and later her mother and sister, Clara, were to follow. The family were involved in the fruit and vegetable trade especially in the markets. According to Tecla, ‘Scala Coffee’ which the family made, was the only coffee worth drinking. Love of her family was always a significant part of Tecla’s life. If there was a gathering of the clan, Tecla made sure she was present. When she was in St. Anne’s, a visit from her nieces, Veronica and Josephine, was very special to her.
At age 21, in 1942, Tecla entered the Marist Sisters and with Sr Gabriel, became one of the first two postulants to be received as Marist Sisters in Mittagong, where most of the sisters had gone during the war years. She was professed in 1944 and so began her long life as a Marist Sister. She was given the religious name of Sr. Angela, and for most of her religious life, was affectionately known as ‘Angie’. She was to minister in many different countries, including New Zealand, Fiji and her beloved Italy, as well as different states in Australia. Both primary and secondary schools were part of her ministry, and it was in the latter that her giftedness in domestic science and sporting prowess came to the fore. Not only was she able to produce wonderful culinary dishes but what a great netball coach she became. Many the trophies her teams won in school and district competitions; and how distressed she was when they lost. Allied with these sporting achievements was her passionate support for the Manly Sea Eagles Rugby League Team; on one occasion, when the team was losing regularly, Angie rang up the Team Coach to give him a few pointers!!
I think you may have gathered that she was a passionate, energetic lover of life. People were her special concern and when her teaching days in school ended, she took up a pastoral care ministry mainly among Italian families in the western suburbs. Never loath to speak her mind, she chided any one who may have become a little negligent in Sunday Mass going or were tardy in having the baby baptized. On the other hand, many were the times when she would go to the Markets and return home to Merrylands laden with fruit and vegetables which she bundled expertly and then delivered to families in need. Generosity was her second name.
Gifted with artistic talents, Tecla showed these in her culinary skills, producing Christmas and Jubilee cakes that were exquisitely iced and decorated. One Christmas she made a delightful ginger-bread house for Dario, her much loved grandnephew. Italian dishes were her speciality and how delicious were her soups, lasagne and pasta dishes. When she was in St. Anne’s Nursing Home, Chris, our Care Coordinator, for whom Tecla had a special love, would take Tecla for a pasta treat. How Tecla looked forward to that. Knitting and crocheting were further accomplishments of Tecla’s – always wonderfully executed. Again, she had green fingers and plants flowered under her care.
Our Tecla was a woman who ‘spoke her mind’; her favourite saying was: ‘I say what I think’ and speak she certainly did. None of us who were with her at our congregational assemblies will ever forget Tecla and her ideas. Never was she too fearful to expound on what she saw ought to be happening even if she received little encouragement or support.
This carried over to local community matters. She was a great fan of Talk-back radio and John Laws was her pin-up boy. How often did she offer pearls of wisdom over the radio and when she was living at Canley Vale, in a rather needy area, she would contact her local member to tell her a few home truths of how politicians should be helping more.
Her fearlessness – perhaps sometimes lack of prudence – was often visible when she would lecture drug addicts whom she found in the local park in Canley Vale as she was on her way to daily Mass at 6.30 a.m. Trying to tell her that it might be wiser to just greet them and continue on was useless. To her they needed some friendly advice, and she was the one to give it….and I must say, they listened to her and generally treated her with respect.
Tecla’s passionate nature saw her cling to her Catholic Faith and Marist Life with great zeal and love. Daily Mass for her was a must and so, too, her love of Mary, our Mother, shown in her great devotion to the praying of the Rosary. Her prayer embraced all her loved ones, first and foremost, her family members, not forgetting her religious family and any one in need. She was a feisty yet very loving character, with a heart filled with generosity and goodness. At times her forthrightness could be quite daunting but in spite of that, there was a loveableness about Tecla that couldn’t be denied.
I’ve been privileged to journey with Tecla over the last few years during her time in St. Anne’s, where she was cared for so lovingly by the Sisters of St. Joseph and the staff there. Each time I visited Tecla we prayed the Hail Mary, together with the marist invocation, ‘Mary, Our Mother, Our First and Perpetual Superior, pray for us.’ Tecla prayed that prayer so fervently. She also loved to have me sign her forehead with the sign of the cross and the prayer..’May the Lord bless you and keep you; may His Light shine upon you and give you peace.’ And her prayer was answered and her death was so very peaceful.
May Tecla now be enjoying the fullness of the Resurrection where she knows fully how much she is loved by God and by us. May Mary, Our Good Mother, receive her daughter, Tecla, with great joy and love, and may Tecla not be telling the Lord how to run Paradise.
Enjoy your new life Tecla. Please pray for us.
(Written by Sr Carmel Murray sm)