Woman of the Church – Sister Pauline Smith rsm

By Catherine Ryan rsm, 19 November 2020
Sr Pauline Smith rsm. Image: Supplied


Sister Pauline Smith RSM, past leader of the Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta, died peacefully on 7 November, 2020.

Throughout her religious life, Pauline had placed her great talents at the service of Religious, the Diocese of Parramatta and the wider church through her roles of leadership, education and the advancement of the rightful place of women in the Church. As a mentor and canonical consultant, Pauline was greatly appreciated for her generosity, balance, wisdom and insight.

A talented musician and linguist, and a renowned multi-tasker, Pauline, (Sister M. Ligouri), spent some years teaching at Our Lady of Mercy College (OLMC) Parramatta and OLMC Burraneer before pursuing what was to be her life commitment to furthering the role of women and laity in the Church.

In 1979, Pauline gained a Master’s degree in Church Administration from the Canon Law Department of the Catholic University of America, Washington DC, where her major research paper was titled The Implications of the Right of Women to Respect as a Human Person in the Life of the Church. Later, Pauline returned to Washington to gain a Licentiate in Canon Law (JCL), awarded in 1993.

In the 1980s, Pauline played a significant part in the journey towards unification of the 17 groups of Sisters of Mercy in Australia. As Executive Director of the Conference of Sisters of Mercy of Australia, she was a member of the Planning Committee for the First National Chapter. Subsequently, she was elected for six years to the National Executive Council of the newly formed Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia (ISMA) alongside Dorothy Campion RSM, President, and Margaret McGovern RSM.

From 1986 to 1992, Pauline served as Leader of her Congregation of Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta.

In 1984, the Conference of Major Superiors of Australia, forerunner of the present Catholic Religious Australia (CRA), established a National Council for Women in the Australian Church (WATAC), with the aim of raising awareness of the role of women in the Catholic Church. Pauline Smith was appointed Convenor of the WATAC National Council and served on its national and state committees. In 1985, she was nominated to be part of the official delegation of 20 Australian women to Forum 85, an international conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, to mark the end of the UN Decade for Women.

Pauline was appointed to the role of Associate Vicar for Religious in the Diocese of Parramatta in 1994, a role she held until 2006. Her devotion to Mary, Mother of God, combined with her fine theological mind, found expression in texts to Marian hymns including Our Lady of the Southern Cross, for World Youth Day 2008, to music composed by Fr Geoffrey Abdallah.

Pauline is survived by her sister, Margaret RSJ and her brothers, Tom and Patrick and their families. She was predeceased by her siblings Therese RSM, John Venard FMS, Mary RSJ, Leonie, Rita and Gerard.

A Requiem Mass for Pauline Smith RSM will be held in the chapel of the Convent of Mercy Parramatta on 26 November. If you are wishing to attend please contact the Congregation Centre on 96832555 to register. It will be live-streamed at https://www.FuneralVideo.com.au/SrPaulineSmith

Catherine Ryan rsm was the former Chancellor – Ministries for the Diocese of Parramatta.


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