Aged care residents Mary Carter, 84, Celine Saldanha, 79, and Bridget Moriarty, 93, and Lifestyle Coordinator Rosalie Morrissey, were honoured as Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) International Women’s Day (IWD) Ambassadors at John R Hannah Aged Care in Mulgrave today.
VMCH Board Chairman Julien O’Connell AM presented the ladies with certificates at a vibrant morning tea attended by fellow residents, staff and community members.
All four women have faced obstacles and challenges throughout the years and still manage to look at life in a positive way; encouraging and supporting those around them.
Celine was born in India and had carved an enviable and somewhat trailblazing career as a university maths and chemistry teacher.
“Most of my students were young men as women didn’t study those subjects as much, and obviously being a female maths and chemistry teacher was rare,” she says.
Ill health forced Celine to give up her beloved job, so she undertook further study to become a psychologist. She was practicing pastoral counselling up until the day her husband passed away. Celine decided to move to Australia at 62 to be closer to her three daughters.
“It was challenging at the beginning because the whole system of living is different than in India, but fortunately I knew some old students here in Australia, so they helped me to feel more accepted.”
Celine now works three days a week conducting bible classes at local parishes. For her, being a woman is a “tremendously rewarding thing”.
“Each person has been given specific characteristics and as women, many of us possess gentleness and tenderness. We’re emotionally mature and there’s a certain joy in spreading that around. Women need to have a special day to be able to show them how important they are.”
Likewise, Mary sees being “gentle and caring” as her best female assets. “If you see someone needing extra care if they’re a bit down it’s lovely to go over and chat to them.”
Mary had a rough start to life. “I was born very frail wasn’t expected to live for more than 40 hours.” But she survived and spent much of her adult life to caring for her parents. When they passed away, Mary chose to devote herself to the church and local community, becoming a live-in housekeeper and parish secretary, looking after the clergy.
“It was very busy and demanding work at times, but I enjoyed it, and I made a lot of friends that I have to this day.”
Still a strong leader in her local church and community, Mary is glad to see a lot has changed for women over the past 40 years.
“We used to live quieter lives in the home and not be heard all that much, but now we seem to have a say more and people will listen. It’s a great thing. When you do stop to think about it (IWD), it does mean a lot, it’s a big day really.”
For Bridget, IWD is another chance to connect with her friends at John R Hannah. She lived a fairly lonely life within affordable housing in Richmond before moving to the residence 18 months ago. Now, the Ireland-born yoga enthusiast enjoys happy hour every Friday and is the first one up on the dance floor.
Taking care of her mind and body has been important to Bridget over the years, and it shows.
“Women have the ability to reason and we are strong, we can live life on our own if we have to. Women make the world go around!”
Lifestyle Coordinator Rosalie says it is an “honour” to be among such a high calibre of women chosen as ambassadors.
“We always celebrate International Women’s Day here at John R Hannah, it’s an important day. I like to listen to strong women and they resonate with me. Any advances we (women) can make are fantastic,” she says.
“We’ve fought for a lot and come a long way.”