We Remember Sr Veronica Gatt rsm23 February, 2023
Sr Veronica Gatt
13 February 1925-21 December 2022
Sisters of Mercy and many family members gathered with Bishop Michael McCarthy at Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel, The Range, on 10 January 2023 to honour the long and faith-filled life of Catherine Gatt, lovingly known as ‘Kate’ to her family and known to the Sisters by her religious name, ‘Veronica’, a name which translates as ‘true image’.
Catherine Gatt, born on 13 February 1925 in Dorchester, New Brunswick, Canada, was the second child of Maltese parents, Salvatore (a medical doctor) and Mary Gatt. From an early age, Veronica’s interesting life spanned different countries and different cultures. Because of the freezing Canadian weather conditions, the family moved back to Malta where siblings Dorothy, Joe, Bess and Connie were born. In November 1936, Dr Gatt accepted a position at the then Mackay District Hospital so the family migrated to Australia and settled in Mackay where Catherine was educated at St Patrick’s School. Two more boys, Ben and George, were born in Mackay before the family relocated to Bundaberg four years later. Veronica once wrote, ‘My mother said we were the League of Nations – two Canadians, four Maltese, and two Australians’.
On 2 February 1943, Catherine Gatt entered the Rockhampton Sisters of Mercy, receiving the religious name ‘Veronica’ at her Reception on 15 August 1943. Her first profession on 8 September 1945, marked the beginning of a life of unswerving fidelity, loyalty and commitment. The Eucharist was truly the summit and source of her personal and communal prayer. It was the wellspring from which Veronica drew energy for mission and for all that she did as a Sister of Mercy. For more than forty years, Sr M Veronica taught in both primary and secondary schools, including North Rockhampton, Walkerston, Farleigh, West Mackay, St Patrick’s Primary and High School (Mackay), Our Lady of Mercy College (Mackay), Range College (R’ton) and Chanel College (Gladstone).
Veronica took her teaching responsibilities seriously; she knew about large classes in cramped spaces, scarcity of resources and text-books but she always found a simple way to improvise. If Veronica was an exacting teacher it was because she wanted her pupils to do their best. She usually had charge of the parish church or convent chapel, where she took pride in her efforts to make the sanctuary a fitting place for the celebration of the sacraments. Her handwork and sewing skills were exceptional. The Pall that draped her coffin was crafted by Veronica herself.
In her post-teaching days, Veronica managed the Religious Resource Centre at the Catholic Education Office with great care and efficiency (1987-1992). After completing a Lifeline Telephone Counselling Course, Veronica volunteered her services on Sunday afternoons and public holidays; her selfless spirit was to be admired. She delivered Meals on Wheels each week in all kinds of weather and was on stand-by if a driver wasn’t available. She coordinated the Mercy Missions’ fund-raising efforts. Any task Veronica undertook, she did it faithfully, regardless of how mundane or hum-drum it may seem.
When in need of more personal care, Veronica moved, firstly to McAuley Place (2011) and to Bethany Home in October 2015. Veronica once wrote with faith and certitude: ‘With God’s help, I am what I am. I thank God for bringing me thus far and I hope and pray that God will see me through to the end.’ God was with her to the end. We trust Veronica is now in that perfect place of eternal love and peace, gazing on the ‘true image’, the ‘perfect face’ of the God for whom she longed. Let us take heart from her example and may we be grateful for the life that Veronica shared so faithfully and so generously with each one of us.