Farewell to Sr Joyce Fenton mfic

20 July 2017 | General Interest

Sister Joyce Fenton.

[8th May 1926 - 20th July, 2017]

Last year we farewelled Srs Noela Leamy and Ursula Wilson whose contribution to Papua New Guinea was vast. Recently we mourned the loss of Canadian Sr Anna Gallant who was on mission with our Sisters in PNG. Today we farewell another wonderful missionary Sr Joyce Fenton. Some may see these losses as just diminishment – but we must see as a fulfillment of a call, a response, a life lived in the legacy of Elizabeth Hayes, our founder. It was the life purpose of these Sisters to embody this heritage, and the Good News. Now their life’s purpose has reached fulfillment. Their mission is complete.

Sr Joyce came to join us in 1950, and after profession of vows was missioned to Papua New Guinea in 1953 where she remained for 46 years. Joyce did her teacher training and nursing certification in PNG and served as a teacher and principal until 1974 when expatriates stood aside for local staff. Joyce also ran health clinics, did extensive pastoral visitation, ferried local people to and from the hospital in the mission jeep, trained catechists, oversaw the smooth running of the mission station ( the boiling off sheets in large coppers, the baking of bread, making sweet potato soup and so on).  Joyce held leaderships positions in the Institute assisted the formation program, and travelled the muddy roads by scooter or jeep – doing what Joyce did so well – serving others with total commitment and endless energy.

Joyce was a doer. Whatever problem or need was faced – Joyce was the woman summoned to move forward. When the Tsunami hit the coast of the West Sepik in 1998 Joyce was called in to organise the operation, and with the Sisters in Aitape provided accommodation, nursing, and pastoral care of the traumatised survivors, many of whom Joyce knew well from her years in Sissano on the coast.

On her return to Australia Joyce soon found parishioners to visit, Delamore residents to get to know, Sisters in nursing homes to visit, and she expanded out to the asylum seekers’ centre for a weekly day of service. In her spare time Joyce helped out at St Anthony’s where she assisted children with their reading. She attended the liturgies at Mt Alvernia whenever possible. In just the last three years Joyce’s health deteriorated rapidly. A small ulcer on her leg would not heal and caused her great pain and frustration.

When finally the decision to transfer to Holy Spirit Home was made, and she found ministry there among the residents, often speaking and praying in pigdin to Sr Ursula with dedication and compassion. The two had lived in PNG together for a number of years.

The readings today reflect her life so well. I remember that she loved the Galilee Song – “So I leave my boats behind, leave them on some distant shore….follow you again my Lord.” The beautiful first reading proclaiming – how lovely on the mountains are the feet of the one who brings Good News. That was Joyce – a missionary Sister leaving home and giving all to embody and teach the Good News. Rest in peace Joyce, your mission is complete. Catherine White mfic.