At 105 years young, Sister Eymard McNamara is not only one of Australia’s oldest nuns, she is the oldest member of the Little Company of Mary in the world, The Catholic Weekly reports.
The resident of Ryde’s Calvary Retirement Community has lived through wars, moon landings and nine Popes.
Technology has completely passed her by, she has never had a mobile phone or email address and Google is something babies utter.
During her recent birthday celebrations, she lamented that while so much has changed in her 105 years, her desire to “give her life to God” is as strong as ever.
The Adelaide-born nun left school at the age of 15 to help her mother and at 16 thought about entering the convent.
She was also interested in nursing and after consulting her local priest, joined The Little Company of Mary at 17, an international Marian Congregation of religious women who commit their lives to prayer and to the care for the suffering and dying, founded in 1877 by Mary Potter.
Two years later, her mum passed away, leaving her dad John and brothers Richard and John to look after their property and while the thought of leaving did cross her mind, in the end her love of God and her vocation prevailed.
“I loved nursing, it was a marvellous career and I loved helping people,” she said. “When I first entered the order we worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week, it was hard work but we made the decision to give our lives to God and the Lord was always there to help us.
“I nursed both in Australia and New Zealand for 57 years and never tired of it, it was very satisfying knowing we were helping others.”
At 89, Sr Eymard retired to Calvary Ryde Retirement Community and has been living at the Residential Aged Care Facility for the past 16 years.
Today her memory and zest for life is remarkable. She lives independently and helps keep an eye on fellow residents as she regards her religious and nursing vocation as lifelong.
And while she’s had quite a few to choose from, she doesn’t have any trouble recalling her favourite birthday.
An aircraft enthusiast, she was treated by her great nephew – a Qantas pilot – to a session in a flight simulator when she turned 100.
“In another life I would have loved to have been a pilot … and waiting 100 years to get behind the controls was worth it, it was just marvellous,” she said.
“We flew to Bangkok, and then landed at Heathrow before flying over the Adelaide Hills where I grew up before returning to Sydney.”
Looking back on her life she reflected on what drew her to becoming a Sister with the Little Company of Mary, Sr Eymard said she wanted to become a nurse “to care for the most vulnerable people”.
And when asked about the secret to her longevity she shrugs saying it’s been an equal measure of “luck and good genes thrown in”.
“Living such a long time is about perseverance … it’s about knowing your limitations and getting on and doing the job,” she said.
“It has been a wonderful life and my family have been very proud of what I have achieved.
“I have always lived by the motto ‘May Christ Live in Me’ so I just hope I have always done that.”
This article is an abridged version of a feature article written by Debbie Cramsie for The Catholic Weekly. Read the full story here.