Sister silently steals away

“I want to fold my tent like the Arab, and as silently steal away.”

These were Sister Bernadette Poidevin’s very simple but moving words which were reprinted in a special Requiem Mass order of service in SS Peter and Paul’s old cathedral on Monday, to celebrate her life and mourn her recent tragic death.

While it was Sister Bernadette’s wish that there would be no eulogy delivered at her Requiem Mass, a long time friend of the Poidevin family, Father Barney Lynch of Cobargo, did deliver an address.

Father Lynch who first met Sister Bernadette when he was transferred to Goulburn in 1947, told the crowd of some 600 mourners, “all of us at some time or another have to fold up our tents and move on, hopefully for the fullness of a life with God.”

“Sister Bernadette was a kindly, gentle nun who made her vows with the Sisters of Mercy 66 years ago. With her natural gifts of humility and patience, she lived those vows in a very admiral way,” he said.

“She loved her music, choirs and the ceremony of the church, but when the Vatican changed the structure of a long-established Catholic life, she found it all so very trying.

“She also found the changes at St Michael’s and Our Lady of Mercy Convent in Goulburn hard but she accepted them and those to religious life with good will, helped by her vow of obedience,” said Father Lynch.

“I met Sister Bernadette’s family while administering Holy Communion during my earliest days in Goulburn and have had a bond with members ever since.

He told the story of Sister Bernadette’s horsemanship and how, during training at St Michael’s, apostulants were able to return home for a few hours from time to time.

“Tradition has it that she was seen galloping and taking jumps on the Poidevin property, her apostulant veil flying in the breeze.”

Father Lynch said Sister Bernadette had an internationally known Rugby playing nephew, Simon Poidevin.

“She used to wonder why he was so good because the Poidevin family were poor footballers. But then she reasoned it must have been his mother, Ann’s genes shining through for she was a Hannan and they were good at sport.

“With Simon’s achievements on the field, it did not take long for Bernadette to learn all she could about Rugby.”

Father Lynch was adamant the lives of each person was a big influence on others.

“Bernadette taught music in the same way she approached life - by example, kindness, gentleness and patience and was an inspiration to us all,” he said.

And these words were echoed by dozens of the 600 strong congregation and several members of the choir who recalled receiving their earliest music lessons from Sister Bernadette.

Present in the congregation for the service led by the Archbishop, Francis Carroll, were members of civic and regional pastoral life representing many denominations. Male family members were pall bearers including Bernadette’s nephew, Simon Poidevin.

As a final touch, one of Sister Bernadette’s wishes was that long time Goulburn musical friend, Dr Paul Paviour play Chopin’s Funeral March at the conclusion of the Mass. Another moving touch was the violin obbligato work performed by Goulburn concert violinist, Melvin Cann throughout the service’s musical interludes.

Sister Bernadette (89) died from injuries sustained after she was hit by a car outside her retirement home in Young on December 23.

Sister Bernadette is survived by her brother, Paul of Goulburn and Sister Camille of the Sisters of St John of God, Derby, Western Australia.

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