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Vale: Kathleen McDonald

4 June 2018

Many people around Catholic Melbourne and Sydney will remember the intriguing figure of Kathleen McDonald. She was stooped, often held a rosary or scapular, was enswathed in many layers of cloth and wore a cord and sandals. It was not surprising that many mistook her for a religious sister. What was perhaps a little more incongruous was the old-fashioned camera and the sketch pads she often carried. 

Kathleen was raised an Anglican but became a Catholic as a grown woman. She struggled for most of her life with mental illness but on good days she was full of enthusiasm and cheer. She was informed about and would recommend books for the Library especially if these were about Marian devotion, Saint Mother Mary MacKillop or about Pope Saint John Paul II.

Kathleen was a regular visitor at the Library to have a cup of tea, and she shared many details of her life and devotions. Sometimes she would sketch the volunteers and Library users. She had a great love of Our Lady and would often pick up spare bibles and spiritual reading to hand to strangers in the street. She was a most unusual evangeliser who perhaps most effectively engaged people with her paintings and sketches.

One of Kathleen’s quirky hobbies was taking on a variety of noms de plume.  In her final years she signed her work: “O’Grady". A photo of her Sunflowers is at the top of this article.

The Missionary Sisters of Charity and Shirley Smart (Library Member) kept track of Kathleen as her health declined. Since Kathleen’s death, Shirley has generously tracked down some of Kathleen’s artwork which a neighbour has donated to her for the Library. We will dedicate a space for display near her afternoon tea spot in the Library.