Nun, nurse and Jill-of-all-trades

Faith, Normal

AUSTRALIAN Catholic nun Sister Clare, a Papua New Guinea Highlands missionary, has died in Sydney, aged 86.
Sr Clare Gilchrist (1923-2009) arrived in PNG in 1965 to set up a bush hospital at Pumakos near Mt Hagen.
She was one of the 178 Sisters of Mercy who served in PNG for the 50 years between 1956 and 2006, mainly in education and health.
Sr Clare entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy in North Sydney in 1940 and completed general nursing training at the Mater Hospital at Crows Nest, later undertaking midwifery and Tresillian courses.
She remained at Mater, assisting at births and helping mothers to care for their babies, before being sent to Pumakos.
She arrived at the mission, where a one-ward pitpit and kunai building had been prepared, and got to work.
The Mater had sent the necessary supplies and medical equipment, but there was no humidicrib.
So Sr Clare set up a kerosene-powered primus to boil kettles of water for steam, which was fed into the baby’s plastic-covered cot to relieve respiratory problems.
As time went on, Sr Clare became adept at fixing broken machinery, washing machines, watches, even cars.
More people heard of the medical service, demand increased and a bigger and a more permanent hospital was built by volunteers from Sydney.
Sr Clare served for many years as health secretary for the Wabag diocese and was a member of the diocesan pastoral planning committee.
She returned to Australia in 1997 and worked at the Mater as a pastoral care worker, retiring in 2005.
She is survived by her sister, Kathleen, also a Sister of Mercy.