28, Mar

Tribute to a Gifted Presentation Sister – Sr. Patricia Dent

Author: admin2


Anyone in touch with her spirituality desires to do her part in spreading the kingdom, the kin-dom of God wherever she is.  Sister Patricia Dent OAM has done, and fervently continues to do just that now in her retirement at Caloundra Rise Retirement Estate.

Patricia epitomises what the spiritual writer, Tom Stella, suggests is meant by being spiritual:

“an indication that one is growing spiritually is not evidenced by the frequency or intensity of religious experiences, but by the capacity of being smitten by the subtle holiness of life in its everyday simplicity”.

Music has given Patricia frequent and intense religious experiences and throughout her life her spirituality has resulted in her being smitten by life in its everyday simplicity.

Patricia has been blessed with the gift of music.  She has developed that talent and become a very successful teacher, a talented performer, a gifted accompanist, and a composer of sacred music.

Baptised as Marie Therese Dent, Patricia was born into a family where music filled the home.  When her mother, Mary Magdalen Dent died, the local newspaper, the Northern Star carried the headline, “The Mother of Music in Lismore has died”.

Early in their lives, each of Mary’s six children was introduced to a musical instrument – Patricia had her first piano lesson on Sr Patricia Denther sixth birthday in 1924.  This lesson was given by a Presentation Sister, Sister Patricia D’Arcy – the blood sister of the foundress of the Lismore Presentation Congregation, Mother Stanislaus D’Arcy.  Patricia is very proud of her connection with the early history of her loved religious congregation.

Patricia the musician became an accomplished performer.  She had been thrust into the accompanist role when, at only 16 years of age, her mother requested that she accompany the Lismore Adult Choir at a city concert.

Later, and often only at the request of others who recognized her great talent, she composed a significant number of works which include Masses, motets, hymns and songs for children.  In her own words, Patricia believes that composing profoundly affected her life.

She wrote mostly sacred music and she says that during composition, words were always in her mind.  She says she is always praying when composing and playing. Her first Mass was composed for Reverend Mother Agnes’ jubilee and was sung in the “new” St Mary’s Convent Chapel in 1953.  Mother Berchmans requested something for Holy Year in 1954 and Patricia’s Marian hymn, “You are all beautiful, Mary” resulted.  Patricia wrote an organ prelude and a four part version of Psalm 150 for the rededication of the St Carthage’s organ in Lismore.

But perhaps her proudest piece resulted some years ago when the then President of the Presentation Society requested  that she write a hymn to the theme of Raphael Consedine’s book “One Pace Beyond”.   In 1996, Patricia was asked to write a “simple, singable Mass” for use in parish churches.  The result was her “Mass in B Flat” which so impressed the local Anglican vicar that he asked her for a copy.

Patricia’s love of music found expression with students over many, many years.  She maintains that the art of being a good teacher was in getting to know and understand her students personally.  She believes that only with knowledge and understanding could teacher and student really communicate.

Her one-to- one teaching gave her the opportunity to experience many different personalities, manage difficult students and enjoy passing on her skill and knowledge of music.  Students appreciated her interest in them and many have kept in contact with her over the years.  In fact one of them recently asked her if she realised that, as a result of her teaching, she had “many music grand-children” – many “spiritual”, musical grand-children.

In a recent interview Patricia mentioned just a few of her students who have been very successful in following their musical careers: one an international conductor; another a Music Professor at Hamburg University in Germany; another became the director of Music in Tamworth and currently there is an ex-student of hers who is the Director of Music at St Lawrence’s College in Brisbane.  The careers of these people illustrate Patricia’s belief that learning and performing music “changed students’ personalities – they became more outgoing”.

Sister Patricia, this accomplished, very extroverted personality claims that she “went quietly” to her retirement unit in Caloundra but within twelve months she was accompanying the Estate’s Choir.  She met the group when they numbered about thirteen but within four years the Choir has grown to about forty members.

They give six concerts a year and Patricia, now with failing eyesight, says that she has to “practise” to be ready to accompany.  Recently after a concert dedicated to sacred music, a lady came up to her at the piano and said, “God was in this place today”.  Patricia was smitten by the statement.  Tom Stella’s statement that one is growing in spirituality when one is smitten by the subtle holiness of life in its everyday simplicity is evident in Patricia’s interaction with residents and all people she meets.

Patricia Dent fulfils her life’s spiritual desire.  She says, “When I play (the piano), I pray”.  At the wonderful age of 95 her creative use of her gift of music is so obviously manifesting the divine presence in her everyday life and ministry in Caloundra, Queensland where she is cared for by her friend of many years, Jan.


Jill Kennedy

12 Responses to “Tribute to a Gifted Presentation Sister – Sr. Patricia Dent”

  1. Patricia Schneider says:

    Sister Patricia Dent is my much loved aunt…..the last surviving member of my mother, Dorothy’s ( who was also an accomplished musician) large family. I am very proud of my “Auntie Marie” and even prouder of the care she receives from our much loved Jan. As a family, we have a lot to thank Jan for.
    Music has always been a very important part of my families life, and at the centre of this importance has firstly been my wonderful grandmother, Mary Magdalene Dent, and then her children, especially the girls, Ruth, Marie ( Sister Patricia) and Dorothy, ( my Mum).
    The musical tradition continues, now with a new generation of grandchildren engaged in musical pursuits.
    I was particularly impressed by my aunt’s comment that she plays ( the piano) she prays. There has never been a more tangible demonstration of spirituality than this. The ongoing ministry Sister Patricia shares with her Caloundra Rise Community, and her long term friend Jan is tangible and intense. There is great compassion in her music, but above all, there is love. This love encompasses all and is founded in Sister Patricia’s devotion to Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother, Mary.
    May God bless and keep her for many years to come.
    Patricia Schneider ( Sister Patricia’s niece)

  2. Trish Hopkins says:

    Sister Patricia Dent is my beloved Aunt. She has also been my VERY special music teacher. She is, without a doubt, a very special and very talented musical paragon. I am so proud of the tribute made to her. She is very deserving of this tribute. Thank you for recognising her very special talents which she shares with so many.

  3. Liz Wilkes says:

    What a beautiful piece Auntie Marie…with much love. Liz xx

  4. Patricia Schneider says:

    I would just like to add a postscript. I would like to sincerely thank Sister Jill Kennedy, for her talented rendition of this very worthy piece about my beloved Auntie Marie. I really appreciate the effort you have put into this Jill.
    Patricia Schneider.

  5. Kathryn Sternes says:

    This very special lady is a very dear friend of mine and I was fortunate to be be a part of her CD as the singer on the Album “Songs of Gods Love” to which Sr Patricia wrote the music for the album and I sang the songs on the album at her request. She made this album when she was 80 years old! She is quite an amazing woman and I love her very much.
    This is a fabulous article and she has gone on to do so much more since then. Her friend Jan who has cared for Sr Patricia for many years is also a very special lady. They are both amazing women. I thank God every day that they have been part of my life. Congratulations Sr Patricia.

  6. Jim Butler says:

    My name is James (Jim) Butler, who was extremely fortunate to have met Sr. Patricia in 1952 during a visit to St. Mary’s College in Lismore. My then-fiance, Elaine, had been a past pupil of Sr. Patricia at the College. That meeting developed into a deep and abiding friendship. Not only did I gain a wonderful wife, but two truly and deeply loved friends, Patricia and Jan.

    Patricia’s love of music, life, sense of humour and deep spirituality enthused and inspired my wife and I profoundly. Patricia’s enlightened learning, time, compassion and expertise were readily available and given freely with loving concern. Heaven was, and is, in Patricia and I think it was expressed by her devotion to music and her pupils. As Joseph Addison phrased it in the song for St. Cecilia’s Day: “Music, the greatest good that mortals know, And all of heaven we have below.”

    After over 60 years of knowing Patricia I still grow in respect, love and appreciation for that friendship and earnestly pray that it may be so eternally.

    Jim Butler

  7. I am one of Sister Patricia’s ‘spiritual’ musical grandchildren and will turn 50 in July. Sr P (as we called her affectionately) taught me piano for many years. She had an eagle hawk eye for mistakes and wrong notes in the most advanced pieces we played. Sr P was most ‘instrumental’ (excuse the pun) in assisting me to achieve my Associate Teaching Diploma through the Trinity College of London in 1989, (ATCL). I’d already completed a Bachelor of Business degree in Lismore, served as an officer in the Army Reserve, and I now teach piano at a private school 25 years later! I think Sr P is my biggest fan at the school at told me she was proud of me. My son and she, have the same birthday this month. Happy Birthday Sister Patricia Dent OAM! Prayer, Praise, Intercession and Worship are high callings. The musical influence Sister Patricia Dent OAM has had in Australia, is like the multiplying factor of the hyacinth flower. Your ‘descendants’ include, teachers, accompanists, conductors etc etc in the Australian music profession and overseas. Thank you sincerely for your contribution to future generations of Australian musicians.

  8. Cecily Dent Odgers says:

    Congratulations Jill for your wonderful tribute to this special lady. It has been my family’s delight to reconnect with our cousin after she received the OAM. My father and Marie are first cousins and the same age. She has welcomed us with open arms and it is a delight to spend time with Jan and Cousin Marie. It is no doubt that music is the international language of love.

  9. Susan(Shay)Kean says:

    I feel very Blest and Honoured to be a Friend and past Pupil of Siter Patricia Dent OAM. Music and Singing at Saint Marys both Sacred and secular, played a hugely exciting and skiful part of College days!!
    To end the weekend with Sacred Choir on Sunday night was glorious! not to mention those wonderful Sing-along-nights, including Waltxing matilda and the “Ghostly Verse”, played with tremellos!!
    I thank you from the bottom Sister for your love,dedication and enthusiam for us and the wonderful works you taught us!! We learnt so much because we had so muyou made it so much fun!! May the Holy Family and Saint Patrick Bless you. ..Congratulations to you and thankyou to your very dear friend Jan and to Sister Jill Kenedy for honouring you with this very Special Tribute!
    Your loving expupil Susan Marie ThereseShayKean

  10. Lyn Lambert says:

    I met Sister Patricia after moving into Caloundra Rise Retirement Village, 3 years ago. I have come to know the deep spirituality of this wonderful woman, and it has had a most profound effect on my life. Her music is a source of enjoyment to many of us in this village. Many residents, including myself, marvel at her stamina, her enjoyment of life, but most of all the beautiful music she shares with us all. God is in her playing. I am very pleased she has been honored with this tribute. I thank her wonderful friend and companion, Jan for the care she so selflessly gives to Trish, and to Jill for taking the time to research and develop this great tribute to
    Sister Patricia.

  11. Lynda McKelvie says:

    Happy Birthday dear Sr. Patricia. My daughters Kerry and Robyn were taught by you at Lismore over 30 years ago. Your example of encouragement and love right through to 8th grade piano has served them well right through life. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to have known you and to keep in touch with you over the years. We wish you many more happy years in your retirement at Caloundra. Thank you Jan for looking after Sr. Patricia so well.

  12. Patricia Schneider says:

    Thank you all who have paid such amazing tribute to my Auntie Marie ( aka Sr Patricia) and her devoted friend Jan, who takes such loving care of her. I have no idea where our family would be without you Jan. Thankyou.
    I am now a ” recently bereaved woman”and my Auntie Marie has been my rock during this time of transition. Thanks also to Jill Kennedy for mapping out this wonderful tribute.
    Much love to you both. Trishxx

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