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A powerhouse of prayer

15 September, 2022
Merle with her husband Norman Donovan

One of the joys of the Communion ministry to the sick and house-bound is experiencing the faith of the people to whom we minister.  They have lived rich and full lives, and for many, their belief in God and his care has sustained them in the good and bad times of their lives.  They are an integral part of our Church – how deeply so struck me recently when we were able to resume Communion to Mrs Merle Donovan at the Adventist Village in Yeppoon.  Merle is 104 years old, and while confined to her room, is still alert and interested.  She is most grateful to receive the Parish Bulletin and the Diocesan news.  Lately, she has begun to share some of the prayers that she says, which are kept carefully in little folders along side her chair.  When she showed me the Diocesan Prayer for Vocations and the Prayer to St Joseph, I realised what a powerhouse of prayer we have in Merle.

Merle was born in Springsure in 1917, one of ten children.  Her childhood was like that of many of her generation.  Long working hours, money in short supply, but many siblings to help care for and be cared for by them.  Merle was educated at the Springsure State School, leaving at the age of 14 years.  For a few years she did housekeeping and domestic duties but when her mother fell ill needing treatment in Brisbane for some years, she assisted her father in caring for her younger siblings.

In 1936, she married Norman Donovan, in a service conducted by the Parish Priest in the family home.  Merle had become a Catholic shortly beforehand.  Norm worked in a variety of occupations: stockman, general hand, a roo shooter, sawmiller, even pig-keeping, well-boring but his most consistent work was that of Station Manager in various places across the state, and even interstate at Grafton, NSW.  And Merle went with him wherever he worked and did the work that would be expected of the manager’s wife. One story she told recently of those times was of encountering a snake in the nesting box of the chook shed when the men were working away.  She left it that day but when she came back the next day and found it still there, she knew she had to deal with it.  What a shock when she pulled it out – to discover there were two snakes, one eating the snake she had encountered the day before!

Their two sons were welcomed:  Vernon, in 1937, and John, in 1940.  Family is at the heart of who Merle is. She is proudly a Five Generationer.  Merle is largely confined to her room and when you go to visit her, you need to take care not to sit on her iPad, which is kept in a colourful cover which looks like a cushion.  She mastered this technology and uses it to look at family photos and watch videos of her granddaughter who was a prima ballerina at Sadler’s Wells.   She also recently proof read the book her son Vernon wrote on his life experiences.

Merle was a very devoted Christian for as long as her sons can remember.  Family and friends were constantly in her prayers and she prays the Rosary every day, putting her total faith in Jesus.

Merle is a powerhouse of prayer and she is not the only one.  Anyone who does this ministry of service could tell of others who inspire their faith.  As the People of God, it does us good to know that people like Merle are remembering us in their prayers and holding us up to God.  We can be affirmed in our faith.

Written by Sr Kym Harris using the history written by Vern Donovan.