Sr Frances Crowe: A Woman with a Mission

Frances Lorraine Crowe was born on November 24, 1936. She died last Wednesday October 23 just a few weeks short of her 77th birthday. The years between her birth and death were filled to capacity with a life well lived and deeply committed.

Frances entered our religious community of Missionary Franciscan Sisters here at Kedron on February 2, 1955. Frances entered the community to be a missionary and that indeed she was. Her first assignment following first profession was to our school at Burleigh Heads, travelling each day to Burleigh from Coolangatta where the convent was. At the beginning of 1963 Frances set out for Papua New Guinea where she attended the Rabaul teachers college, and then served the people teaching at Fatima, the Raihu in Aitape, and Seleo Island. It was in Papua New Guinea where Frances made the famous statement of hers that she perpetuated in our community. As a result of the good work she and the other sisters were doing “Sisters,’ she said, ‘we are a success”.
A Sister who worked with Frances in P.N.G. noted: ‘I only worked with Frances once and that was at St Clare’s for two years and she certainly brought to St Clare’s a great enthusiasm for the education of the girls. In a situation where the boys greatly outnumbered the girls, and the culture was strongly patrilineal, she was able to develop strong relationships with the girls and develop in them the dignity and confidence that she herself possessed.’
Frances returned to Australia early in 1971 where she then taught in our schools in Bardon and Coorparoo. Frances suffered with health issues for most of her adult life. She had curvature of the spine. In her young days she was in plaster from her neck down because of her back Many years she walked the floor night after night with restless legs and cramps. Despite this Frances could not be tied down and the missionary life away from the familiar trappings of home called her to outback Australia. She ministered in Dajarra, definitely the end of the line one hundred miles south of Mt Isa, Tennant Creek – six hundred miles from Darwin and in the other direction 600 miles from Alice Springs and nothing in between. After five years in Tennant Creek she knew it was time to hand over the reins of the ministry to others. Frances had the capacity to ‘move on’ when the task she set out to do was completed. Mother Teresa’s Sisters had the hard task of following her. She then went to Fitzroy Crossing way over in the Kimberley where she spent many happy years putting up with primitive surroundings and unbearable heat. She was in her element.
Her longest spell in the outback was at Fitzroy Crossing where she and Miriam Donnelly, her faithful companion, worked hard with the aboriginal communities there. Every two weeks as regular as clockwork they would set out on a 1,000 km journey, mostly driving on rough bush tracks, to visit distant aboriginal camps. At one of the camps where they stayed and worked with the people they slept at night in an unlined tin shed. The heat was unbearable and the shed was most uncomfortable.
Most of the aboriginals the Sisters dealt with were not city dwellers. They lived away from the town in the camps. They often spoke words of praise to the sisters similar to ‘You good Nun’. You stay Nun?’ These were great compliments from the people. They were trusted totally.
In 1997 the call came to go to Portadown in Northern Ireland when the ‘troubles’ there were at their height and Portadown was right in the midst of them. She managed the nursing home there for which our Sisters were responsible for eighteen months. And when the call came again in 2002 she packed her bags and set out for Braintree in England where she managed our facility there to allow the Sister in charge to have a break. This ministry consisted of a residential care home, a nursing home and a pre-school. Nothing fazed Frances and she ran the whole show most efficiently.
Frances was a great organiser of people and property. I think this was handed on to her by her mother. Frances had style. She set the bar high in this regard. This did not shine through so vibrantly over the last couple of years as she battled the serious illnesses she had to bear. Nevertheless, it was in her nature to give a helping hand wherever she could and that she did.
Frances, you always tried to ‘hold up the side’. We know you loved us and always showed how proud of our community you were. We totally admired your sense of mission and your fidelity to the Lord and to our community. Thank you for all you did for the mission of the church, thank you for all you did to lift our community spirits with your sense of humour and caring spirit and thank you just for being the person you were. Frances, you were a success. Though you leave us now we will always remember you and may you rest in peace. We send you on your way into the arms of a loving God.
Eulogy given by Sr Margaret Costello mfic.