Sister Marina Lawrence, the founding member of the Maryland Literacy Programme in Hanover Park, died on Monday December 28, at the age of 84.
Sister Marina, as she was affectionately known, dedicated 53 years of her life in service as a nun, and was known as the Mother Teresa of the Cape Flats.
Under her guidance, while in the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary Order, she teamed up with people like her friend, Lionel Williams, to build schools in Crossroads, Mfuleni, Khayelitsha, Philippi, Brown’s Farm, Constantia and Sea Point, among others.
Mr Williams said Sister Marina would be wherever there was a need for literacy classes in the Western Cape.
He said Sister Marina was committed to her vocation vows, her beliefs, her leaders and the people whom she served, “with her heart and soul”.
He added: “Sister Marina was caring and had a great concern for the welfare and needs of the oppressed, downtrodden and those who were illiterate. She would go around requesting food and clothing and received a lot of support from her friends in Germany. She was an activist like Christ, never afraid to stand up to injustice and fight for the human rights and dignity of people. Sister Marina attended political rallies and through her I met Reverend Allan Boesak, Dr Ivan Tom, Father Michael Lapsley, Trevor Manuel, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Father Peter John Pearse, Father Albert Nolan and many others.”
Another friend, Cheryl Wareley, said her spiritual growth is thanks to her time with Sister Marina, whom she met at a church service in Hanover Park in 2013.
Said Ms Wareley: “I witnessed first-hand Sister Marina’s compassion – from feeding the poor, going out to pray with someone residing in a gang-infested area, hosting a Christmas party for the inmates of Valkenberg Hospital’s Maximum C Section. Sister Marina was fearless.
“From close and longstanding associates of Sister Marina, I learnt of the many prestigious awards bestowed on her in recognition of her work in The Maryland Literacy Project.
“Someone in conversation one day honoured her with the accolade of ‘the Mother Teresa of the Cape Flats’. This accolade encapsulates Sr Marina’s love for humanity. Sister Marina would shy away from discussing these accolades demonstrating her humility. True to her vocation, Sister Marina always proclaimed the good news of God, providing spiritual upliftment to those deep in despair. Sister Marina prayed unceasingly.
“She loved music. She loved singing too. Today she sings in the presence of the angels.
“Her light on earth has gone out but it surely will shine eternally ever bright from heaven.”
Klaus Müller-Siegel, another of her friends, said he felt honoured to meet Sister Marina in 1987 when visiting South Africa as a German student.
“I had to stay a few days at Maryland, and I extended my stay for three months getting to know all her family and friends becoming her driver when we went to Crossroads and Khayelitsha with bread for the people in need. There were many people suffering under the injustice of the apartheid system. Since then we met every few years and kept contact by phoning or writing long letters. I am always very thankful for the friendship that we shared. Sister Marina was like a spiritual mentor, questioning me. When in trouble she was always there to talk about the things that have been of importance. No matter what the subject was. She helped me to grow, and she supported me. She was an independent person that made her decisions based on her love towards God and her love for us people. Equal rights, freedom and humanity had been her guidelines. Based on God’s eternal love. Based on her belief that God is loving everyone without any exception,” he said.
Her sister Prem Maslamoney said her family is grateful to the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary for giving her the opportunity to fulfil her mission.
Ms Maslamoney said the one way in which Sister Marina’s memory can be honoured, is for people to carry on her legacy of caring for others.
“If that can continue, it will all be worth it,” Ms Maslamoney said.
Ten years ago, Sister Marina had a triple bypass operation, but even with her physical challenges, she did not allow it to slow her down, Ms Maslamoney added.