Vale Morna Sturrock - the 'pioneering perfectionist'

November 5 2018
Dr Sturrock in St Paul's Cathedral

A Requiem Eucharist for Dr Morna Sturrock AM – journalist, historian, author, public speaker, embroiderer and respected diocesan personality – was held at the Anglican Church of St Stephen and St Mary, Mt Waverley, on 10 October.

In her eulogy, psychologist Meredith Fuller, who worked for a decade with Dr Sturrock at Rusden College, which became part of Deakin University, paid tribute to her colleague and friend.

“With myriad concurrent careers, Morna in her 65-year career was a pioneering perfectionist in all she did. She was clever, and quickly saw patterns immediately. She was a woman so prolific and ahead of her time that she exhausted many. She was an inspiring mentor to people of all ages, and offered wise counsel to leaders in diverse areas. Morna generously shared her practitioner wisdom in all of her fields – public speaking, writing, history and research and academic prowess, spearheading embroidery, and political service… the list is too long. Cathy Condell, her niece, organised behind the scenes work for her Order of Australia for her contribution to embroidery – if Morna had received an AM for every outstanding contribution, she would have required 100.

“Morna authored many books, including the history of the Brigidines. Her great love for her parents, husband, four children and grandchildren was paralleled by her love for causes she believed in, her community, society and humanity.

“....Morna started the same day as Rupert Murdoch at the Melbourne Herald; they sat beside each other, and she found him warm, friendly, and a tad bumptious. He was good-naturedly frustrated when the first story she wrote got in, and his didn’t!”

She said: “Many people were intimidated by Morna’s exceptional ability, her ability to inspire, and capacity to change the world. She remained modest, humble, and kind. We had many cups of tea and cream cakes, where she was perplexed that people saw her as a high achiever....

“Elegant, curious, and persistent, Morna’s legacy lives on in thousands of people. She’s held in my heart every day.”

In her homily, the Revd Dr Colleen O’Reilly said: “In losing Morna we have lost someone whose presence has been huge. Not just for her family and the wider community but for us in the Body of Christ, she has been a powerful influence in shaping our life together in this diocese. Her persistence in working for the ordination of women is legendary, and God’s people, especially we women, are grateful. And the beauty of her creativity, a reflection of God’s own, and her skilful embroidery of a vast array of stoles and other vestments for clergy is a worthy legacy than will endure as testimony to her faith.

“Strangely, Morna’s absence will feel like her powerful presence, especially for those closest to her when they gather and remember. At family events and in parish meetings, Morna’s felt presence will reveal that great truth of the Christian faith, that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

“So, even as we rightly grieve today, we do more. We come before God, here in God’s house, bearing Morna’s mortal body in our midst, and we offer her to God. We give to God one who is already God’s and always was, not just since her baptism but since God first imagined her before the foundation of the world.”

Rabbi John Levi, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth Israel in St Kilda, spoke of Dr Sturrock’s valuable role as a member of the Council of Christians and Jews Victoria, and of the lasting contribution of her embroidery work to Temple Beth Israel.

"Her Ark curtains are the result of a splendid partnership and enduring friendship with Ruth Marks through the Embroiders’ Guild. Those curtains are huge. They depict a tree of life with doves of peace and include fragments of stone and glass that Ruth had quietly collected from the hills and pathways of the Land of Israel together with Hebrew letters that spell out the name of the Australian congregation. 

“Those curtains really belong in a textile museum but they stand at the heart of a house of worship and are used to cover the sacred place in which the Torah scrolls are kept. Morna would have approved of that. Morna had a sense of the sacred because she was caring, detailed, respectful, loving and proud.”

He said: “We honour an amazing woman. She was devout. She was realistic. She was articulate. She was a fine historian.”

Dr Sturrock also made a valued contribution to Anglican Media. Director Roland Ashby said, “I’m profoundly grateful to Morna for her contributions to TMA and Anglican Media, both as a journalist and as a member of the advisory committee over many years.”