OBITUARY: Remembering mother and Religious Sister Frances Stibi PBVM for her dedicated love
The late beloved Presentation Sister Frances Stibi (née Trestrail) was many things to many people, living what she would regard as “an eventful, meaningful life” up until her passing on 23 May 2020.
The former Perth Archdiocese Archivist, wife, teacher, and mother was 82 years old at the time of her death, caused by deteriorating health issues.
Wongan Hills/Dalwallinu Parish Administrator Father Ian Esmond conducted Sr Frances’ private funeral ceremony, held at the Karrakatta Norfolk Chapel on 2 June, which was livestreamed via Vimeo.
Born in Perth on 17 January 1938 to Molly (née O’Rourke) and Stan Trestrail, Sr Frances was baptised at St Brigid’s Church, Northbridge Parish, on 6 February 1938, where she also received the Sacraments of Penance, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation.
Former Perth Archdiocese Archivist and Presentation Sister Frances Stibi PBVM (second left at the back) passed away on 23 May 2020. Photo: Supplied.
Her family moved to Kalgoorlie where her father worked in the mines until WWII broke out. He joined the 2/11 Battalion AIF and went to war in Egypt, Syria and New Guinea. Sr Frances stayed in Perth with her mother, completing her educational development from the age of 3 with the Sisters of Mercy at St Brigid’s Church.
“Mum was the quintessential life-long learner,” narrated her daughter, Jenneth.
“She worked hard at school to be able to attend Claremont Teachers’ College as she had always wanted to be a teacher. At 18, she graduated and was posted to Roebourne and later to North Innaloo and Kalamunda,” Jenneth added.
Sr Frances (left) is pictured in this 1998 file photo, celebrating the birthday of another fellow Religious Sister. Photo: Supplied.
During this time, Sr Frances met her husband Stjepan Stibi. They married on 7 May 1960 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Scarborough Parish.
They then moved to Lesmurdie and had three children - Jenneth, Mark, and Katherine. On 8 August 1968, Steve went to work as usual and never returned, having died of a heart attack while at work. Life for Frances and the children changed forever.
Now 30 years old with three young children to support, Sr Frances went back to her passion of teaching, serving at schools in Maddington, Gosnells, Kalamunda, Lesmurdie, Bellevue, South Thornlie, and Ashburton until 1989. During which, she gained her Higher Teachers’ Certificate, did studies to become a Teacher Librarian, and completed a Bachelor of Education Degree at Edith Cowan University.
In her free time, Sr Frances enjoyed reading and always had a book or several books on the go. She enjoyed indulging in all types of books especially history, spirituality, Church history, historical novels, biography, Australiana and overseas travel. Over the years, Sr Frances enjoyed square dancing, folk dancing, hockey, tennis, spinning, craft, learning French, Italian and Russian, travelling, family history, and historical research.
A jack of all trades, Sr Frances was very involved with the Girl Guides Association, running the first Lesmurdie Brownie Pack for 13 years. She also gained her camping and training qualifications, and was involved in the training of adult leaders for many years, receiving the award of the Silver Emu for excellent service to the Association after more than 30 years.
She was also a committed member of the Lesmurdie Parish and was a member of the Parish Council and the Liturgy Committee. Just in time for the Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II at Belmont Park on 30 November 1986, she became one of the first women of the Archdiocese of Perth to be prescribed as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.
One of the highlights of these years, once the children were older, was a solo round-the-world adventure for eight months. This journey was followed by other trips to China and India and parts of Asia. But no trip ever excelled that first one.
It was during this time of discernment that she acknowledged the call to religious life. She joined the Presentation Sisters on 8 August 1989, she was professed on 4 January 1992 and then made her Final Profession on 19 January 1996.
Sr Frances was expected to be a teacher - because the Presentation Congregation was a teaching order - but an unexpected death left a vacancy and an invitation for her to become the Archivist for the Archdiocese of Perth, appointed by then-Archbishop Barry James Hickey.
This unexpected direction proved to be full of opportunities to serve in a new way, to develop new interests, to meet new people, and to see new places in Australia. Sr Frances found archive work “very absorbing and fulfilling” for more than 20 years. She had found a new niche in her life.
Sr Frances will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved her, as well as the community of Presentation Sisters she worked alongside, and the Catholic community she served during her earthly life.