Vale Sister June Cleary rsj 1918-2014

Gifted educator, wise leader, and woman of deep faith and compassion, Sister June Cleary (formerly Sister M Xavier) was born in Parkes on 15th August, 1918. After her secondary education as a boarder at Perthville, June entered the Congregation of Sisters of St Joseph in 1934.

June taught in secondary schools at Perthville, Oberon, Molong, Portland and Canowindra. She was a dedicated and gifted teacher who took a personal and enduring interest in her students, many of whom kept in touch with her throughout the years.

Though teaching was her first love, June was also a skilled leader and was elected to the Council of the Sisters of St Joseph Perthville in 1959, and to the position of Congregational Leader (or Mother General, as it was then called) in 1965. During the next ten years, June guided the Congregation with great courage, wisdom and foresight through the challenging times of momentous change following the Second Vatican Council.

Early in her administration, June worked closely with the leaders of the Diocesan Congregations originally founded from Perthville (Whanganui NZ, Goulburn, Lochinvar, Tasmania) to form the Australian-New Zealand Federation of Sisters of St Joseph in 1967, and was elected its first Vice President. She facilitated activities that ensured the development of bonds between the Sisters at all levels.

June responded with enthusiasm to a request from PNG to set up a mission there in 1967. Thus began a long association of the Perthville Sisters with various missions among the people of PNG, an involvement which June always supported and encouraged.

During June’s term as Leader, lay teachers were introduced into Josephite schools in the Bathurst Diocese. With the support of Bishop Thomas and Fr Delaney, June was instrumental in ensuring that a committee was set up to oversee the centralisation of salaries, thus enabling Josephite schools in smaller centres to survive and flourish.

With the introduction of the Wyndham Scheme, June took difficult decisions regarding the closure of several small secondary Josephite schools in the Diocese, and oversaw the closure of the secondary school at Perthville and its move to the Diocesan Catholic Girls High School (MacKillop College) in Bathurst.

In later years, after her term as leader, June was involved in a number of parish-based activities in Sydney, before retiring to Perthville where she kept up her contacts with her much-loved family and friends. She died peacefully at Macquarie Care on 9th June.

Always an insightful and understanding woman with a quick sense of humour, June lived life to the full, and greatly enriched the lives of those who knew and loved her.

Margaret Tomlinson rsj

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