Sr. Patricia (Damian) McNeil
Sr. Patricia (Damian) McNeil
Founding member of our Mission in Papua New Guinea 1966
Monica Shelverton and I were with Patricia as she died very quietly and peacefully in the early hours on Wednesday 15th April. We felt we were there on behalf of our expatriate Sisters who had worked and lived with Patricia, also our Sisters currently in PNG and the people in the Ningil and Malol parishes. We managed to sing a few Pidgin hymns during our long vigil in the hope that Patricia may hear us.
I had the privilege of living and working with Patricia in Malol. There were four of us in the community- Alice, Veronica, Patricia and myself. In March 1984 in the space of a week, the parish priest Fr. Mike Doyle left for Rome for his Congregation’s elections (and was elected as their General and didn’t return), Alice returned to Lismore for medical reasons and Veronica died. That left Patricia and me! Together we ran the Parish for over a year until a new parish priest was appointed. I was still feeling very new and it was thanks to Patricia that I learnt what was involved in parish work and how to speak Pidgin. I remember saying to her at one time, “How do I say in pidgin, – a hen laid an egg?!”
If anyone was tailor-made for PNG it was Patricia. Time was not on her agenda. She lived in the present. Patricia had a great understanding of the people and their ways and was faithful in visiting the homes and knew all the families in the Parishes of Ningil and Malol. Everyone loved and respected her. She was especially attentive to the poor and will always be remembered for her care of a young woman Scholly, who came each day to our house in Ningil and was attended to with medication, food and clothing.
Patricia was well known for her cooking skills and excelled in the baking of bread rolls (better than Baker’s Delight), carpentering skills, architecture (designed the new house in Ningil in 1969), the invention of the ironing table for church linen, and sewing skills which she took out to the far lying villages in Ningil where she taught the women to make skirts and shorts for their children and themselves. Poultry raising was one of her hobbies. It didn’t seem strange for us to see an egg sitting on the top of our kerosene refrigerator for some days as the hatching process took place!
Patricia was faithful to her prayer life as she was to the writing up of her daily diary during her 43 years in PNG. Much history and many precious memories are recorded there.
The last thing Patricia wanted was to leave PNG. It was her wish to die there, the Ningil people having showed her the place where she would be ‘planted’!. In 2009 Patricia returned to Hobart due to ill health. Hobart seemed to be the ideal place for her to be buried as it is surrounded by hills as is Ningil, and during her funeral Mass I was very much aware of this.
Tenkyu tru Patricia long laip na wok bilong yu long Papua Niugini.
Thank you Patricia for your life and work as a Presentation Missionary.
Fran Hargreaves, 26 April 2015