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Farewell Wilcannia

Wednesday, 14th April, 2010

* Sister Margaret McGrath and Sr Flo (Florence) Kinsella have both left Wilcannia after more than 31 collective years in the community. * Sister Margaret McGrath and Sr Flo (Florence) Kinsella have both left Wilcannia after more than 31 collective years in the community.

by Gina Wilson Wilcannia will farewell the Catholic school's retiring principal today.

Sr Margaret McGrath will drive over a flowing Darling River, putting behind her more than 16 "wonderful" years. Her departure comes about one week after Sr Florence Kinsella, Sr Flo, left Wilcannia to retire to Parkes. Between them the two Mercy Sisters have clocked up more than 31 years in the community. Sr Margaret began thinking about leaving Wilcannia last year.

"I have been here for 16 and a half years and I feel that it's time. My body is certainly telling me I need a rest," she said. "(It needed) someone new, someone fresh with energy to take the school forward. "I've been blessed that a past principal (Patrick Ellis) and his wife have come back. They were married here and when I saw the interest I thought yes.

"I can see that the school is in exceptional hands." Sr Margaret grew up in Parkes and joined the convent before attending teacher's college in Canberra. After posts in Broken Hill, Bourke, Cobar and Western Australia, Sr Margaret found herself in Wilcannia. "I fell in love with the place and said I'd move here for six years. I stayed for 16 and a half!" Sr Margaret said

"I loved the place so much and I was very, very happy here. "The community, the families and the people. Just being in their life, the friends I made, the people in the church group. "I love the outback and my own love of the river, the bush, camping ... a quarter of my life has been in Wilcannia - it's wonderful." Sr Margaret said there had been many goodbyes.

"I've had lots of celebrations. They really began last year when in Forbes the diocese farewelled me," she said. "(Then) 18 sisters came back (in mid-March). We had a leave-taking ritual (with about 80 people from the community)." The St Therese's School also farewelled her. "Lots of past students came back, (we had) a jumping castle, painting and artwork," Sr Margaret said. "It was a wonderful time to say goodbye."

Sr Margaret said she had mixed emotions about her departure."Well certainly there's great relief," she said."(But there's also) great delight to know that the school's in very capable hands. That's eased the sadness." She said she was also happy to be leaving with the Darling River in flood."It's lovely that the river is so beautiful at the moment," Sr Margaret said."We've had nearly eight years since it's had water.

"That gave me great heart that that's how I'm going to be leaving it too. "Crossing the bridge that'll probably be a final farewell to the river." After 30 years in Indigenous education Sr Margaret is leaving her life as a principal, but she doesn't intend to settle into retirement. "I'm not ready to just retire and do nothing. I'd like to find something for a few years yet - something that's no so taxing and the pressure of being a principal," she said.

But first some time off."Personal renewal, possibly a holistic time - just time for me," Sr Margaret said. "In my mind there are some places in Canada, North America that I'd like to look at. Some Indian healing centres in Canada."At this stage it's just sort of stop. Let go." Sister Flo also made Wilcannia her home for 15 years. "She came out here in her early 70s and had a second life," Sr Margaret said."She grew wings and just flew."

Sr Flo spent most of her years in food ministry in big convents, nursing homes and places where we had lots of boarders. Sr Margaret said Flo loved Wilcannia but as she was in her mid-80s it was just too hard."Flo would have loved to have stayed on but at her age it just wasn't possible," Sr Margaret said."She was very sad to be going."

Sr Flo has retired in Parkes in a village with 10 other Sisters of Mercy.

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