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Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
CONCERNED ABOUT ALCOHOL, DRUGS, GAMBLING OR PARENTING ISSUES?
THE THREE THINGS that really count
in life are mercy, justice and love,
according to 92 year old Sister Heather
"Helping others is good too," she adds as
we chat in the lounge room of the Mercy
Spirituality Retreat Centre, Toronto.
She says her grandmother is the person
who instilled in her these values.
"My Nan always said, 'Spend your life helping
others.' She was from New Zealand and
loved the Maori culture.
"Her family had been so good to a particular
tribe that when danger came the word
was spread that no one was to touch the
McKains. They spoke of Nan with such
conviction. Because of her I wanted to
This aspiration is at the heart of her
achievements, including 70 years as a
Sister of Mercy, teaching, ministering and
working in the academic world.
Heather pursued her strong interest in the
interrelation of spirituality and psychology
through a Bachelor of Social Science and
a Master of Social Science (Hons) degree
between 1974 and 1980.
Seeking more knowledge she applied for,
and won, a Research Scholarship to Japan
from the University of New England. Her
study of mysticism and the divergences
between eastern and western spirituality
lent itself to her subsequent Toronto
"My focus was always to help people who are
struggling to know who they are, what their
values are, where God is in their lives, what
their truth is."
"I knew that whatever help I was going to
offer needed to be both psychological
This philosophy was manifested in a series
of programs Sr Heather led for more than
thirty years at the Mercy Spirituality Retreat
Centre. Her adult religious formation
programs were tailored to participants;
diocesan priests seeking self-renewal,
ecumenical women interested in prayer and
personal growth and retreatants desiring
private spiritual direction.
"Lechaim", as one of the programs was
called, operated from 1991 to 1997 and
drew visitors from all over Australia and
from overseas to pass three months in
prayer, study and self-reflection.
"We looked at John of the Cross, the Eastern
way of praying and the traditional Catholic
approaches to spirituality.
Messages of congratulation flowed in
when Sr Heather was awarded the Medal
of the Order of Australia for "service to
the community through the Institute of the
Sisters of Mercy of Australia".
The Catholic Board of Education has
also acknowledged her "Outstanding
Contribution to Catholic Education," as a
teacher, principal and Supervisor of the
Mercy primary schools of the diocese.
"It's all God's work," she reflects. "Paul
plants, Apollo waters but God gives the
increase." (1 Corinthians 3:6)
By SIOBHAN MCALARY
Nonagenarian Sr Heather McClymont
was awarded the Medal of the Order
of Australia (OAM) in the recent
Queen's Birthday honours.
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