KATHLEEN Mugavin’s life was unique by any standard.
She was four months short of her 100th birthday when she died peacefully on Monday after 78 years as a Catholic nun.
Three of her four sisters were also nuns and together they influenced the lives of thousands during their work in teaching and nursing around Australia.
She was the last survivor of her Irish-heritage family, born and raised on a small farm in Crossley.
Kathleen, who took on the name of Sister Geraldine in her vocation with the Good Samaritan order of nuns, also had the distinction of being the first female baptised in the now-decommissioned St Brigid’s Church, which will turn 100 in June.
Her nephew Kevin Butler, of Warrnambool, who will speak at her funeral Mass in Northcote on Monday with his brother Michael, described Sister Geraldine as “a lovely, smiling and engaging personality”.
“We are very proud of her and her sisters, who contributed so much to others,” he said.
“The four nuns were a big part of our lives as we grew up and then with our children, who loved having them visit.
“I spoke with her by phone on Thursday last week and she had a very good memory right up to the last. We would have loved to see her reach 100, but she was wearing out and went peacefully.”
Sister Geraldine’s second cousin, Father Paddy Mugavin of Hamilton, who will officiate at her funeral, recalled her engaging personality.
“Right up to the end she maintained a fabulous sense of humour,” he said.
Sister Geraldine began her studies to become a nun after finishing secondary school at Koroit and Sydney.
She worked as a teacher in Catholic primary schools in New South Wales and Victoria including Coragulac, where she was principal, and Northcote, retiring in her 60s.
After her teaching she became a popular figure in the Koroit community for many years, working in pastoral care before moving into retirement homes at Northcote and South Morang, including several years with her siblings.
She continued her ministry by mingling with residents and visitors and in recent years tried her hand at art.
Sister Geraldine was the fourth child of Michael and Mary (Russell) Mugavin, of Crossley. Their other children were Michael (died in infancy), Mary (Kevin’s mother), Ellen, Gertrude and Margaret Mary.
Mr Butler said although it was rare to have four girls from one family become nuns, it was not unusual for Catholic families in the Koroit and Crossley districts to have more than one child follow a vocation as a priest, nun or brother.