Sister Denise Laverty grew up in the Nambucca Valley, but her ancestors originally came out from Ireland.
In the 1800’s the Laverty clan from Northern Ireland settled as dairy farmers in the picturesque and undulating hills of the Nambucca Valley. The Laverty family life was punctuated by a great deal of Irish music sing-a-longs.
“Years later as I touched down on Irish soil in Dublin, I sensed a coming home experience and later was delighted to meet Laverty’s in the area.
“My father was the first to introduce me to God as the giver of life.
“He used our life experience, the plants and animals to open up for us the meaning of life, birth, growth, death and re-birth…
“As a child we had a very simple and carefree childhood.
“We were free spirits, connected to the land and people.
“My parents were faith filled and compassionate people,” said Sister Denise.
Sister Denise was quiet and unassuming and very much at one with the land.
“I have 10 brothers and sisters and I was child number four,” she said.
“At an early age, I became aware of the place of gentleness, patience and hope in dealing with life around us and within ourselves.
“An awareness of my oneness with others developed from the example given by my parents who were generous in sharing the fruits of their labour with others and who were sensitive to the needs of those less fortunate than themselves,” she said.
Around this time the seeds of her vocation to become a Sister of Mercy were being nourished and nurtured. At 21 years of age Denise Laverty dedicated her life to God and the Mission of Mercy.
As a member of The Institute of The Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea, Sister Denise is committed to extravagant hospitality, compassion and justice.
Her formative years in preparation for Mission in Ministry as a Sister of Mercy, included studies in:
Spirituality, theology, scripture, education, counselling, facilitation, leadership for executive members of schools, adult and community education.
As diversity in ministry was common from the inception of the House of Mercy in Ireland, school administration, teaching, child care, indigenous tutoring, prison ministry, pastoral care, hospitality and welcome to asylum seekers and refugees have each been windows of opportunity for me,” she said.
As Sister Denise studied, she had the good fortune to meet other young sisters from other institutes who were learning too and being exposed to expert theologians and scholars speak about Vatican 11 and its thinking had a profound impact upon her.
“It has been a privilege for me to accompany/tutor aboriginal students as they further their education in obtaining a Diploma in Education at the Catholic University in Sydney.
“I saw my role as a facilitator, who encouraged and enabled the students to develop a keen, positive attitude and within time, responsibility for their own learning,” she said.
Sister Denise has also been responsible for the Liturgy, bereavement and catechist groups preparing our children in State schools for their sacraments. She has also worked with and supported ex-prisoners and their families. Ministering in education and pastoral care, childcare at St Joseph’s Cowper Homes, Grafton Correctional Centre and tutoring our indigenous residents presented windows of opportunity.
Sharing the struggles of the most vulnerable in our community provided opportunities for healing and reconciliation.
The Reverend Lenore Parker, the first woman aboriginal deacon in the local Anglican diocese is a good friend to Sister Denise and they have encouraged each other’s career paths.
“I believe that one of the challenges for us today is to open our hearts and minds to love and care for the vulnerable being shattered by displacement,” she said.
“In May 2018, I celebrated 50 years as a Sister of Mercy.
“Gracious hospitality, gentleness, loving kindness and joy are gifts I continue to share to keep hope alive.”
Sister Denise Laverty is indeed a remarkable woman who has no intention of slowing down. She is still active within her community and is a force to be reckoned with as she compassionately cares for all human life. A beautiful lady with a beautiful spirit.
Catherine McAuley, the Irish foundress of The Sisters of Mercy in 1824 used her inheritance from an Irish couple she had served for twenty years to build a large House of Mercy on Baggot Street, Dublin, in response to the needs of the poor of Dublin.
Today that house is known as The Mercy International Centre and is home to the Mercy family all over the world. The Sisters of Mercy (around 6,500 sisters in 42 countries) have a long history of involvement in the careful education of people.