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Farewell Sr Denise, Master Musician

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to make music to your name O Most High.

How appropriate were those words from Psalm 91 sung during the Mass of Christian Burial for Sr Denise Edmunds.  For that is exactly what Sr Denise did throughout her long life.  She delighted in making music and imparted her skills and love of music to the many students whom she encountered

A large congregation of family, Sisters and friends celebrated the Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church in Mayfield West on 5 June 2024.  They came as Sr Lauretta said to farewell a simple Josephite woman who lived God’s call to her so faithfully, simply, whole heartedly and to farewell a family woman, who had such a fierce love for her parents, her brothers, their wives and families.

Sr Denise had died in Calvary Mater Hospice at Waratah on 24 May 2024, the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians after a short illness following a stroke.  She was in her 92nd year and the 71st year of religious profession.

Father Paul Chackanikunnel presided at the Mass where the Scripture texts and hymns had been carefully chosen to reflect Sr Denise’s spirit and ministry.  The first reading was from the First Book of Chronicles: David told the leaders … to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.  The second reading from Paul to the Romans said for none of us lives for ourselves alonewhether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  The gospel from Matthew we heard Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

Representing the Sisters of St Joseph Sr Lauretta delivered the Words of Remembrance while Mick Edmunds, Sr Denise’s nephew spoke for the family.  Her niece, Catherine read from a prayer Sr Denise often prayed: Do not fear what might happen tomorrow, the same understanding Father who cares for you today will care for you then and every day.

Denise was born in Maitland, the eldest child and only daughter of Thomas Edmunds and Mary Jane Graham.  She was big sister to Ian, Graham and Mark.  From her father, Tom she inherited her wonderful music talent and from her mother her out-going and happy disposition.

After her primary school education with the Dominican Sisters in Maitland, Denise went on to St Joseph’s College at Lochinvar in 1945. There Denise met some girls who were to remain her close friends throughout life. They went through school together, entered the novitiate together and journeyed through their Religious Life together.

Denise entered the Novitiate on 6 June 1950, the feast of the Sacred Heart and was given the name, Sr Mary Bernadine.  She was professed as a Sister of St Joseph on 6 January 1953.

Her life of service began at the Primary School the Sisters operated at the Migrant Camp in Greta that housed post World War 11 immigrants and refugees from Europe.  There Sr Denise’s musical talents came to the fore when through music, song and dance she helped the children to adjust to their new life.  They learned some of the English language along the way.

During the following years, Sr Denise taught in primary schools across the diocese before finding her element in teaching music in secondary schools, firstly in Part Macquarie and later at St Joseph’s Merewether and St Joseph’s Aberdeen.  During these years, Sr Denise went to the University of New England, Armidale to take a degree in Musicology and to achieve her Licentiate in Music. 

In 1998, Sr Denise moved to Sydney to Summer Hill, to a quieter, more relaxed way of living. As the years passed, her eyesight began to trouble her and so with failing health she returned to the Hunter in 2021 and lived with the Sisters in Mayfield.

She has happy there, enjoying her classical music and her rose garden until she was admitted to hospital following a few falls.  During that time, the presence of her loving nieces and nephews and members of her Josephite family gave her great comfort.  She died peacefully a few weeks.

Following the Mass, the cortege moved to Lochinvar where Sr Denise Edmunds was laid to rest in the Sisters’ section of the parish cemetery.  There she joined the Sisters who had gone before into eternal life.