The death of Sister Pat Linnane this year was felt in many aspects of Bathurst society. Bathurst Community Climate Action Network president Tracy Sorensen described Sister Pat as a “stalwart who showed up on the front lines”. Here, the Bathurst Refugee Support Group provides its own tribute.
In November, Bathurst said a last goodbye to Sister Pat Linnane of the Sisters of Mercy in Bathurst.
Sister Pat was well known among all who worked for social justice in our area and in many other areas.
Sister Pat was born in Bathurst and knew while still at school that she would become a nun, joining the Sisters of Mercy as a young woman.
In particular, she was influenced by her father’s care for others, which included joining with others in the community to care for orphans after the Second World War.
During her work as a teacher, youth worker and parole officer in Sydney, Perth and the Central West, Sister Pat worked in youth centres, a family intervention centre, a soup kitchen and in the children’s court.
Through her work, she became aware of the needs of underprivileged young people and began to meet refugees and Aboriginal people.
On her return to Bathurst, she began to introduce people in need to the Mercy and Justice Centre at St Joseph’s Mount.
Sister Pat was inspired by Sister Bernadine, who had worked with refugees overseas, to become involved in support for refugees.
At a time when refugee needs were growing, the 17 Sisters of Mercy groups began to link up to provide advocacy for people with no voice.
At this point, Sister Pat met the Reverend John Clarkson of the Anglican Church, who was then supporting a group of refugees in Blayney.
They initiated the Bathurst Refugee Support Group and engaged with the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS).
They began the Reverse Christmas Tree, where Bathurst community members and organisations brought gifts to the tree.
Vanloads of gifts brightened Christmas for refugees and asylum seekers in Villawood and other detention centres.
When groups of Karen refugees from Myanmar began to visit the Mercy and Justice Centre, Sister Pat approached the Sisters for permission to use an old cottage in the site.
The cottage, since renovated and enlarged, became the Kath Knowles House of Welcome, in acknowledgement of Kath Knowles’ contribution, as mayor, in having Bathurst declared a Refugee Welcome Zone.
Sister Pat also spoke of her respect for mayor Gary Rush, who provided official welcomes for refugee advocates Julian Burnside, Gillian Triggs and Phil Glendenning when they visited Bathurst to speak at Charles Sturt University.
As she became increasingly unwell, Sister Pat gradually let go of her responsibilities, but said that her role in the Refugee Support Group was the last baton she relinquished, because it was so close to her heart.
Sister Pat spoke of her immense gratitude to the Sisters of Mercy, who gave her the opportunity to achieve so much.
Referring to their document “Love in Action”, she said: “We can do it! I can sign a petition, knock at the door or ask the questions when I think justice hasn’t been addressed.”
All who knew her will be aware that she never hesitated to act when needed, her gift of love for our community’s underprivileged.