01 Jul 2024

Josephite recognised in Kings’ Birthday Honours

Pauline Morgan front.jpg

Josephite Sister Pauline Morgan has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2024 King’s Birthday Honours List for service to the Catholic Church and education.

Currently community leader of Kensington Convent, Sr Pauline began her ministry as a teacher before embarking on a 20-year career in counselling and psychology. She spent much of the past two decades in leadership positions and celebrated her 60th jubilee in January.

Sr Pauline (pictured) said she was “very surprised” to be nominated for an OAM and had to look twice at the email to make sure it wasn’t a scam.

“However, the delight of my fellow Sisters, family and friends, and old scholars has been very moving,” Sr Pauline conceded.

“I feel that we all do the best we can in the circumstances we find ourselves.

“I am inspired every day by the words of Mary MacKillop to ‘relieve suffering and bring hope’.”

Educated by the Josephites at Tranmere and Kensington, Sr Pauline knew from a young age that she wanted to be a Sister of St Joseph.

“I really admired the Sisters who taught me, I just always wanted to do that,” she told The Southern Cross.

After her profession in 1964 her first 20 years of ministry were in education: at Mary MacKillop College, Kensington, as a maths and science teacher and later as student counsellor; at Caritas College, Port Augusta, as principal, and at St Michael’s College, Henley Beach.

“I loved being a teacher – seeing students’ faces light up when they understood what seemed to them to be a difficult concept or successfully working out their own strategies for problem solving.

“I particularly enjoyed encour-aging girls to excel at maths and science – especially in the 1960s and 1970s when this was not a common occurrence.”

But an interest in psychology and a strong desire to help students led Sr Pauline to part-time studies in educational counselling at the University of Adelaide.

“Students would talk to me and I thought ‘I wish I could help them more, I wonder what I can do’…listening was probably enough but I didn’t know that then,” she said.

Completing her graduate diploma over five years while still teaching maths and science, Sr Pauline decided to major in Psychology at Adelaide and liked it so much she did a Master of Clinical Psychology at Flinders University.

After qualifying as a clinical psychologist she worked as a consultant for the Catholic Education Office for a year and at the same time established her own private practice in a community centre where people had easy access to her help.

“There were referrals from schools but the hope was always to assist people who were  disadvantaged, and to do this at low cost or no cost,” she explained.

The work sat well with her beliefs. “You could call it very gospel-oriented: ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full’.

“Many people talked about their faith and spirituality because they knew I was a Sister. People of any Christian tradition – they wanted someone who respected their values.”

In 1995, Sr Pauline was awarded a scholarship to study at Loyola University in Chicago where she gained a PhD in Social Psychology.

On her return to South Australia she was invited to be the inaugural director and part of a team setting up a new diploma and degree course in counselling.

“The course was designed particularly for adults with the life experience and desire to gain professional qualifications to help others,” Sr Pauline said.

“This was one of my greatest joys.”

During these years she was also a contract teacher at the University of Adelaide and continued her work assisting groups and individuals in whatever ways she could.

In 2008 Sr Pauline was called to leadership positions within the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph, firstly in Western Australia and then in Ireland.

Her six years in Western Australia included supporting the Kimberley Mission and visiting Sisters in other remote regions. She said it was rewarding to see the work done by Sisters in isolated areas. Another important part of her role was as chair of the Board for The Sisters’ Place, a women’s shelter at Fremantle. This ministry was set up and managed by the Women’s Religious Congregations in WA working together.

Sr Pauline described it as a “great surprise” to receive a phone call asking her to be the regional leader of the Congregation in Ireland, which included Sisters who had served in Australia and returned home to minister in Ireland.

Based in Kerry, she spent much of her time visiting members of the ageing community in different parts of the country.

“I just got in the car, got the GPS going and visited everyone,” she said.

“Ireland was wonderful, people loved the Australian accent and when I asked if they could understand me they said, ‘of course, Home and Away…is it really that sunny in Australia’.”

With her term as provincial finishing in March 2020, Sr Pauline was planning a two-week break when she heard Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging Australians to come home because of the pandemic.

Fortunately she arrived home before strict quarantining was introduced and she was able to self-isolate in a unit at Kensington.

“All I had to do was stay at home for two weeks. It was a chance to get over jet lag, to adjust and reflect,” she said.

“The Sisters would put treats on my doorstep each morning, the paper, coffee or a donut, as well as doing the shopping for groceries.”

Ready to serve any pressing need, Sr Pauline agreed to take over as community leader of Kensington Convent which includes managing aged care for 15 Sisters.

When news of her OAM broke, signs of congratulations appeared around the Convent.

“I’ve taken some of them down,” the humble Sr Pauline said, adding her family were “quite thrilled” as well.

< back