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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Ada Mary, Sister Mary de Chantal Rolfe

Born: 1887; Died: 1972

Ada Mary Rolfe was born at Ginninderra near Yass NSW on 8 June 1887, the daughter of James and Bridget Rolfe nee O’Keefe or Keeffe. James was a grazier at Bedellick, and both he and Bridget had also been born near Yass. Mary was one of the ten children born to James and Bridget. At the age of 19 years, Mary entered the Good Samaritan Novitiate on 29 June 1906 when the Novitiate was at St Scholastica’s Glebe. Mary received the name of Sister Mary de Chantal. She made her promises of perseverance, conversion of life and obedience according to the Rule of the Oblate Sisters of the Good Samaritan on 26 June 1909 in the presence of Cardinal Moran.

Sr de Chantal commenced study for her teacher’s qualifications at St Scholastica’s and received her registration in 1913. Sister began her teaching career at St. Brigid’s North Fitzroy in 1910 while living at Northcote and was still at St. Brigid’s when the North Fitzroy convent was opened in 1914. Seven years later Sister became Superior at North Fitzroy 1921-1926 and thereafter at Hamilton, Port Pirie, Balmain, Reservoir, again at Port Pirie 1941-1946 and Koroit. In many of these places Sister M de Chantal was also the primary school principal and teaching full time. After these many years of responsibility Sister taught at Coragulac for a year in 1950 and then at Preston. From 1955 until 1968 Sister taught at Reservoir by which time she was 80 years of age.

Apart from obviously being so capable, Sr Mary de Chantal was indeed a remarkable woman to have given her life so totally to ministry. In 1969 Sister retired at Reservoir before moving to St Benedict’s Infirmary at Northcote in 1970. While still being active and mobile Sister was able to render much assistance to the other sisters at St. Benedict’s. This she did with loving kindness and solicitude. She also took charge of the floral decorations in the Santa Maria Chapel. Sister Mary de Chantal died on 10 July 1972 at the age of 85 years and in the 67th year of her religious life. The Vigil and Requiem Mass for Sister were held at the Santa Maria Chapel in Northcote, Victoria and afterwards Sister was buried at Fawkner Cemetery, Victoria.

Sister Mary de Chantal was said to be a double first cousin of Sister Mary Pierre Rolfe, some 16 years her senior. Their fathers are cousins and mothers are sisters.

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