Sister Mary Winefride Blake RSM,QSM,ONZM


 Sister Mary Winefride was born in Wellington, New Zealand on 14 March 1914. She was educated at St Mary's College, Thorndon, Wellington, and professed as a Religious Sister of Mercy on 27 January 1936. She celebrated her 70 years of Profession in 2006.

Sister Winefride's principal ministry was to teach singing at St Mary's College in Thorndon, Wellington. She also taught singing to individual singers and continues to do this today. While teaching at St Mary's College she founded and conducted St Mary's Schola which became a major source of entry for young singers into church choirs and other regional choirs. She also trained individual singers who became performers of some note both in New Zealand and Internationally.

Sister M. Winefride herself has a singing voice of high quality and was trained as a singer before she entered the Sisters of Mercy She is well versed in the bel canto method of voice production and teaches mostly by example, and where theatrical attributes are required as a companion to the singing voice she is also gifted.

Sister M. Winefride's contribution to the Arts and Religious Culture was recognised with the awarding of the Queen's Service Medal in 1981. She was recognised for her contribution to the culture of Wellington: especially her production of public concerts and her contribution to Radio New Zealand and Television New Zealand Programmes.

In 2007, Sister Winefride received a papal medal - PRO ECCLESIA ET PONTIFICE from POPE BENEDICT XVI. A very rare and prestigious recognition from the supreme pontiff for Sister M. Winefride's services to music and religious culture.  This was followed by recognition from New Zealand's highest awards - Sister was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit - ONZM.

Sister M. Winefride's gifted tuition and her warmth of personality receives much loyalty and respect from her students and this in turn leads to long-lasting friendships.



I began my singing studies with Sister Winefride when I first started at Saint Mary's College. Initially, because Sister considered me too young to study singing privately, I had group lessons with a few other girls - singing latin hymns, lieder and art song. I was then allowed to audition for the Schola which had an almost mythical appeal to me - my mother often talked about the Schola, and when she was at school at St Mary's, music was an integral part of school life and Sister Winefride would direct the entire school in song. The Schola was a select group of Sister's singing students, who were auditioned every year for this very prestigious choir. The St Mary's Schola was known throughout New Zealand and its concerts at the Wellington Town Hall were packed out. Numerous records exist of the Schola - with Sister Winefride singing solo alongside her students! I was lucky to be selected for the Schola during my years at St Mary's College, especially since only a few years after that, Sister Winefride decided to retire from her public teaching at St Mary's and continue teaching privately with her many pupils. It is hard to put into words what Sister Winefride means to me. She is my mentor, my teacher, my support, my best friend and my second mum! I still continue with my lessons whenever I am back in New Zealand and I know that she will quickly sort my voice out if I ever get off the track! I try to ring Sister regularly whereever I am in the world. She is such a support - always encouraging, always believing. If, in 60 years time, I can have only an ounce of the voice that Sister has now - I will be a very lucky and happy woman! I hope I have made her proud - she is my inspiration.