Pat Brain MSS, a heart full of gratitude

Portrait of Pat Brain MSS

Pat Brain was born in Hobart and grew up in Strahan on Tasmania’s west coast. She first encountered the Missionary Sisters of Service, then known as the Home Missionary Sisters of Our Lady, as a child. Sisters Vianney and Joseph were visiting Strahan, and instructing the children in Religious Education, of which Pat was part.

In 1948, she received her First Holy Communion and made her First Reconciliation. Along with her sister, Jen and brother, Ray, she began the correspondence lessons with the sisters. She enjoyed receiving, completing and sending off the lessons, regularly. She can recall those occasions when the sisters would visit her family, and other families in the parish. And so started the long, and lasting connection with the MSS.

Pat attended Sacred Heart College in Hobart for secondary school, and then went to Teacher’s College in Launceston. She later taught in Dover and Sorell, Tasmania. Throughout this time, Pat kept in touch with the sisters.

They were regular visitors to her family’s home ‘whenever in the area’. In fact, Pat announced her intention to become a Home Missionary Sister of Our Lady, in the presence of her mother, brother and two of the MSS Sisters who were visiting the family home at the time—Sr Joseph and Sr Winifred. With her parents’ blessing, Pat joined the MSS in 1962, aged 21 years old.

Pat Brain teaching children around a tablePat says, ‘I joined because I wanted to help the young children who weren’t able to get to Catholic schools and receive a Catholic education. I knew that the Sisters did this work. They visited families wherever they went, and they helped the children. So, I just knew I was drawn to that.’

With her teaching background, Pat used her skills to assist many children and families to learn more about the Catholic faith throughout her mission years. She has done extensive training of catechists, providing prayer days to women in country areas, as well as visiting families. As an MSS, she has lived and worked in Tasmania, western New South Wales, and briefly in Queensland and South Australia.

Pat has always had a heart for volunteering. In her later years, she taught English to migrants on a voluntary basis in Melbourne for 13 years, she was a volunteer helping elderly residents living in nursing homes for a couple of years and was a guide at the Melbourne Zoo for 13 years. She loved this volunteering work given her love and passion for the environment and care for creation.

Pat also volunteered at a house for women with Aids for three years, at the Kildare Centre with the Brigidine Sisters for several years, and faithfully wrote the thank you letters to all who donated money to the MSS’s mission entity—first, known as The John Wallis Foundation, and later, as Highways and Byways: Healing the Land, Healing Ourselves, Together. ‘People do appreciate getting personally handwritten notes thanking them,’ she says.

Pat currently lives in Melbourne and is a valuable member of her local community. She is well-known for her gentle presence and warm hospitality. When reflecting on what she’s grateful for, Pat says,
‘I think I’m most grateful for my parents, and all my family—my brothers and sisters, all my nieces and nephews, my great-nieces and nephews. I’m grateful to our sisters, and Fr John especially for beginning the order, and those who instructed me in the early days.

‘I’m grateful for the work I’ve been able to do and the encouragement I’ve received from people wherever I’ve worked. Fr John always said, “In all things, gratitude. Be grateful. When you’ve got nothing else, be grateful”.’ Words that Pat has taken to heart!

The photo above shows Pat Brain MSS instructing children in religious education. Photo: MSS Archives