by Sr MARGARET O’NEILL, RSJ
If you happen to look out a window in Mary MacKillop Centre in Mission Bay, Auckland, in the late afternoon, you would be surprised to see a brown-clad figure, complete with helmet and an orange jacket, competently driving a large mobility scooter at the correct speed around the grounds and out onto Selwyn Avenue.
It would surprise many to know that the hidden figure is no other than a brisk, sharp-eyed, alert centenarian — Sr Eileen Mary Atkins, RSJ — who celebrated her 100th birthday on March 22, 2019.
A hundred years ago, Eileen Mary was born in Te Kuiti of an Irish father and an English mother. It was here, too, that Eileen Mary came in contact with the Sisters of St Joseph.
She became more familiar with them at St Benedict’s in Auckland, where she did her secondary education.
In 1939, she followed her older sister and entered the Sisters of St Joseph. Like her older sister, she spent 40 years teaching music in both the North and South Islands, having gained her ATCL and LTCL in the early 1940s. But music teaching was only one of Sr Eileen Mary’s many accomplishments.
Many, many people have been the recipients of her fine, exquisite fancy work and card-making, her crocheting and tatting, her painting, her cooking and her superb cake-decorating. The list could go on of her many acquired skills over a long life, many of which she still practises today.
In her retirement at Mission Bay, Sr Eileen Mary continues to use her gifts as well as spending many hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and participating to the full in all community activities and meetings. In fact, Sr Eileen Mary continues to live life to the full, conscious of “being on mission to her last breath”.
Her 100th birthday was a three-day celebration with sisters, family and friends — a time of great joy for all.