City loses a pioneer
Tuesday, 30th January, 2018
Broken Hill lost a cherished daughter and educational pioneer earlier this month.
Sister Patricia Phillips (known in Broken Hill by her religious name of Sister Mary Stephanie) died peacefully at home in Adelaide on January 13 with a smile on her face.
Her departure beautifully reflected her life.
As a Sister of Mercy, she became a teacher at St Joseph’s High School from 1952 to 1958.
She then spent the next four years studying to achieve History Honours for her Bachelor of Arts Degree, and a Diploma of Education.
She won the University of Sydney Medal through these studies, and then began research for her Master of Arts.
An article written by Sister Pat, based on her thesis, was printed in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
Sister Pat returned to Broken Hill as Principal of St Joseph’s High School - and then later became the first Principal of the co-educational school that was formed through amalgamation with the Marist Brothers’ College.
She showed great leadership during this period of change, as she had in the 1960s when Matriculation matured to be completed in Sixth Form.
Her approach meant that changes were accomplished smoothly, without the disruption experienced by other schools at such times, with a constant focus on the education and well-being of the students in her care.
Sister Pat was presented with the Key to the City by Mayor Noel Hicks in 1974, in recognition of her significant contribution to Broken Hill through education.
Since her death, tributes have flowed from her former students, many from Broken Hill, and their families, recognising her excellence in teaching and her love of the English language and literature.
She made Shakespeare and the poets come alive for her students. She was also the choreographer of the many school musicals over the years.
But it is Sister Pat’s personal qualities that are best remembered - such as her genuine care, non-judgemental stance, and unconditional acceptance of everyone.
She is also remembered for her sense of humour, fun and cheekiness. Sister Pat obviously enjoyed life. Her endearing qualities brought others into a warm and loving experience of God.
At the end of her appointment as Principal in Broken Hill, Sister Pat was granted sabbatical leave to study spiritual direction and counselling in Berkeley, California.
She always regarded this as a very significant experience in her life.
She went on to counsel many students, staff, parents and others - while also teaching at Red Bend Catholic College in Forbes.
When she was 72, Sister Pat retired from school life and moved to Adelaide.
Last year, she celebrated her 90th birthday there, and continued to counsel and help others until her final months.
Her Funeral Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Philip Wilson and nine other priests, with a large congregation, marked the esteem in which she is held.