Sisters Sr Lynette Pearce rsj and Elaine Kauter (affectionately known as Lynnie and Lanie), born eleven years apart, have been supporting each other through the remarkable and the heartbreaking times in their lives. Though they took very different career paths, their friendship and love are clearly evident.
The Pearce family had a policeman Dad, “a man of integrity and tolerance”. Mum was “wise and ingenious”. They had twelve children, but sadly two, a son and a daughter, died as infants. The family moved often due to Dad’s career. The family was deeply religious, with Mum setting a high benchmark.
Elaine recalls, “Mum did absolutely beautiful sewing.” Making school tunics with their Dad’s old police uniforms was amongst her talents. Lynette says she “could make stuff out of nothing, especially food”. Their Mum would milk the cow herself and churn the butter.
Lynette says, “I can remember when Lanie was born, it was just wonderful to have a baby sister.” She was thrilled, their biological sisterhood had begun. Though a large family, Elaine added, “There was never any jealousy.” Lynette says of her Mum, “She loved us all, we all felt special. We were all tolerant; you can’t fit if you aren’t close.”
When Lynette was in Year 6, she won a bursary and life changed forever. She went to boarding school at St Joseph’s Lochinvar. “We students were only allowed to talk for two hours a day.” Times have changed! She completed her secondary education, spending time at home with the family during holidays. At these special times, “Lanie and I would share a room and a bed.” They became closer.
At the conclusion of school, Lynette immediately entered St Joseph’s Novitiate; Elaine was five years old. During those years, the family was able to visit Lynette, but she could not visit home. Lynette entered on New Year’s Day 1956 and was professed a Josephite sister in August 1959.
Lynette was sent to various places to teach, yet their sisterly relationship remained solid. But then, “After Vatican II happened we nuns had more freedom.” Nuns were able to make more decisions for themselves, visit family and see more of the world.
In 1971 Elaine married Paul Kauter and they were blessed with 10 children. Amazingly, Lynette was present at the birth of the last three, events that would have been inconceivable before Vatican II. This brought the sisters nearer again; they now shared these extraordinary experiences in a woman’s life.
Lynette says, “The thing that happened for us is Lanie’s getting married and having children, my being here at Lochinvar and being open to minding her children.” By this time, Elaine and Paul lived “across the hill” from the convent, making it very convenient for her to help. Lynette became part of the Kauter family, attending all the major events in their lives, baptisms, birthdays and various celebrations.
Tragedy struck when Ramona, Paul and Elaine’s second child, was killed at 16. In their grief, Lynette “came to know them a lot more deeply than I would’ve before her death”. Lynette was there with the family, and from this catastrophe their sisterhood was further strengthened. “From there on, and now, Paul and Elaine share themselves with me. To me, it’s like God’s unconditional love.”
Now Lynette is helping out the next generation. At one stage, while she was preparing lessons, resources and teaching adult faith in the Tenison Woods Education Centre’s Christian Formation Course, she took time out to babysit a grand niece and nephew each week. She says, “This was my day off. It was a huge joy.” Elaine and Paul now have eighteen grandchildren, so nanny duties are regular.
Speaking of their relationship, Elaine says, “It is very important. I know that I can tell her anything, anything at all.” They have total trust and confidence in each other, with Lynette adding, “She never judges me, who I am is okay with her and I like who I am when I’m with her.”
Elaine and Lynette demonstrate that sisterhood is a powerful unbreakable bond, that they are gifts to, and shelter for, each other.