Last of a Long Line
When we, Sisters, family, friends and colleagues gathered in St Joseph’s Chapel on the morning of 23rd May 2022, we knew that we were witnessing the end of an era. On that very wet morning we were assembling to celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Florence Tobin. With her death, we were seeing the end of the long line of Tobin women who have been part of the life of the Lochinvar congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph since 1885 when Brigid Tobin, Sr Stanislaus entered the Novitiate. For one hundred and thirty-seven years, there has been a member of the Tobin family in our Josephite community.
The theme of the Mass: It is good to give thanks to the Lord; to make music to your name O Most High, and the image on the cover of the Mass booklet - a keyboard, violin, outstretched hands and a Josephite cross within the waters of Baptism - captured beautifully the life and ministry of our much loved sister, Florence Tobin, a woman of great musical talent and of warm, comforting care.
Despite the heavy rain of previous days, the chapel was filled with generations of Tobins who participated wholeheartedly in the liturgy from the strong opening hymn, All People that on Earth Do Dwell to the gentle melody of Sr Clare Tobin’s Peace after Communion.
Florence was one of six daughters and four sons born to Michael and Mary Tobin (née Hickey), who grew up on the rich farmland of Largs. After primary school at the Largs Convent school, Florence, like her sisters boarded at St Joseph’s College Lochinvar, where she excelled in music, learning both the piano and violin.
Florence entered the Novitiate at Lochinvar in 1950 and was given the name of Sr Francis Mary. She was professed with her younger sister, Clare, as a Sister of St Joseph on 2 July, 1952. From then she lived and ministered in many places – Wingham, Kendall, Charlestown and Muswellbrook to name a few, as music teacher, church organist, choir leader, community support person, and in later life as a pastoral care worker to the sick and housebound in Port Macquarie and The Junction.
She was a foundation member of the Tuncurry community in 1959 and returned there in later years. The current parish priest, Fr Peter Street, and Fr Kevin Corrigan, a former parish priest of Tuncurry, were concelebrants with Fr Bill Burston. The presider was Most Rev Brian Mascord, Bishop of Wollongong and long-time friend of the Tobin family.
The Scripture readings - from 1 Chronicles 15: Kinsfolk were appointed as singers and to play on musical instruments; 2 Corinthians 9: Good deeds will never be forgotten and the Gospel from Luke 10: You must love the Lord with all your heart - spoke eloquently of the life and love of Sr Florence.
Sr Lauretta Baker in the Words of Remembrance spoke of Florence’s love of family, congregation, Church and music, and her ability to encourage others to reach their potential.
At the conclusion of the Mass family, friends and Sisters of St Joseph accompanied the body of Sr Florence Tobin to her resting place in the Sisters’ section of the Lochinvar cemetery. There, with eight other Tobin Sisters of St Joseph who have gone before her, she awaits the Resurrection.
Maureen Salmon rsj