A legend in the Kimberley has passed away
Sr Veronica Ryan 1936-2008
By Anthony Barich
Sr Veronica Ryan, a Sister of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, something of a legend in the Kimberley since she first went there in 1974, died suddenly on December 2.
The Josephites’ website said that Sr Veronica 72, had packed up and was set to leave from Kununurra for the last time on December 3 to return to Perth and Sydney, and had planned to enjoy some time with her brother, Monsignor Frank Ryan, in Tamworth NSW.
She was in her car in Wyndham travelling home after visiting people to say goodbye when it is thought she had a heart attack. No other car was involved.
Her sudden death has been a great shock to her many friends in the Kimberley where she had been a school principal, adult educator, Aboriginal education innovator, Regional Director of the Broome Diocese, Religious Educator in the Catholic Education Office. Veronica lived in many communities including Warmun, Lockridge, Broome, Kununurra, Beagle Bay and Wyndham. She was also an author, and in 2001 was responsible for the compilation of Stories of Kija women in the book, From digging sticks to writing sticks.
Before her time in WA she had taught in many schools in NSW including Gosford, Port Kembla, Annandale, Revesby, Hunters Hill, Walgett and The Entrance.
Josephite Provincial, Sr Pauline Morgan, said Sr Veronica was a “woman of deep faith, who loved life and people”. She described her departed Josephite as an excellent, dedicated and very pastoral educator. “Her students loved her,” Sr Pauline said, adding that Sr Veronica was a very generous and wise friend to many, and “a sister to all of us”.
Sr Pauline said that Sr Veronica had a “great sense of humour, and despite working in often difficult circumstances in remote areas, had practical common sense that made the best of a situation”, adding that Sr Veronica had “a ready laugh and a twinkle in the eye. The best story teller ever”.
Sr Alma Cabassi, based at Warmun, just south of Kununurra, said that Sr Veronica took things calmly in her stride, and always maintained a calm exterior. “She never showed her worries. She managed anything and everything. She had many difficult times,” Sr Alma said, “especially in the early days when conditions were fairly basic. Yet she always made the most of whatever the situation was and was always positive.”
Sr Alma added that with her great love for storytelling, Sr Veronica often said, ‘I have to check the audience out to see if they’ve heard the story before’, as it affected how she’d embellish it the next time.
Funeral details are yet to be announced but the funeral will take place from Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel at a later date.
There will also be a Mass at St Michael of the Archangel Chapel, Catholic Education Centre, 50 Ruislip Street, Leederville, time and date to be advised.
A Memorial Service and Mass for Sr Veronica will be held at Queen of Apostles Church in Wyndham on December 10. She will be buried following the Requiem Mass in the Chapel of Mary MacKillop, North Sydney, at a date to be advised.
The date and time of the Mass and burial will be advised on sosj.org.au, or call 08 9334 0999. There will be a Memorial Service and Mass in Our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral, Broome, on the same day and at the same time as her funeral in Sydney.