“Right from the time she could think for herself, she wanted to be a nun,” says Evelyn McNally, Sister Mary Rosina’s sister.
Constance Gladman was born in Koroit, Victoria, a small rural town in southwestern Australia. The date was December 23, 1922, and Constance would be the first of seven children born to her parents, Victor and Grace Gladman. Connie (as she was called) soon felt a calling to religious life.
Connie attended school in Warrnambool in Victoria Province and from there went on to Teacher’s College in Melbourne. She wanted to go into the convent but her dad would not let her. He felt that his oldest daughter needed to be exposed to the world as it was before making such a decision. Heeding her dad’s wishes, upon graduating, Connie taught in regular schools, but her desire to teach the poor and impoverished never left her.
When she was in her mid-20s, her father, seeing how his daughter had never lost her desire to become a teaching nun, relented and gave her his blessing. Connie then joined the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Founded in 1874 by Servant of God, Jules Chevalier, the order’s primary focus is on missionary work.
Connie took the religious name of Sister Mary Rosina, and, from that point on, she dedicated her life to the missions. She was sent to Papua New Guinea to teach.
Sister Mary Rosina was initially stationed at the order’s convent in Rabaul. The sisters there remembered how she could not wait to get to the outposts and begin working with the children. Soon she was sent to the Vunapope Mission near Rabaul, and then she was sent to Turuk.
Sister Mary became highly respected and was elevated to the post of Teacher’s Supervisor. The government held her in high regard and, needing qualified people to help train local teachers, she agreed to assist them. Training others to teach was something she came to truly love.
On November 30, 1964, after working for 15 years as a missionary teacher in New Britain (part of New Guinea), Sister Mary Rosina was working with a novice teacher showing her how to grade papers. The children in the class were working on an assignment. A mentally ill man quietly moved up behind Sister wielding a machete, and slammed it into the back of her neck. Two quick blows severed her spinal cord and she slumped over dead. The murderer ran away.
The children ran screaming from the room. Sister Mary’s still body lay there, her pencil still in her hand. She was 41 years old.
She has been declared a Servant of God, and her cause is now before the Congregation for the Causes for Saints.
We ask the Servant of God, Sister Mary Rosina, to pray for us.
Mary MacKillop, the Mercy Saint of the Outback