On 1 August 2020, Sr Giovanna Gauci, of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, aged 74, departed from this world to meet the Risen Lord. Her funeral was held at St George’s Basilica the following Tuesday.

This is what Bernadette Cooper, Principal at St Patrick’s School, Port Kembla, in Australia, between 1995 and 2013, where Sr Giovanna served for so many years, had to say about her close friend, in a letter of condolences sent to Sr Vitaliana Zammit, Superior General of the Congregation.


Dear Mother Vitaliana, Superior General,

I am writing with a heart saddened by the news of Sr Giovanna’s recent passing – may she know eternal rest in Heaven.

Like those here in Australia who knew and worked with Giovanna, I wish to pay tribute to the life of dedicated service she brought to our communities, and to offer heartfelt thanks for the inspiration she provided in the lives of those she encountered during her ministry in the Illawarra.

I have no doubt, that senior members of the Catholic Education Office in Wollongong will offer a formal note of thanksgiving for the significant contribution Giovanna made to the delivery of quality educational services in our Diocese – and, in particular, during her Principalship at St Francis of Assisi School in Warrawong. In this correspondence, I primarily seek to express personal appreciation for the professional inspiration and support Sr Giovanna extended so quietly and gracefully – aware, of course, that I am just one of the many she generously extended her support to.


Imbued with a dedication to her religious vocation, Giovanna helped to illuminate the Franciscan charism within the community she was chosen to serve. During her time at St Francis of Assisi Parish, she established strong relationships within and beyond the Convent. She was respected and much loved by all of those who worked and worshipped alongside her. Her teachers wholeheartedly supported her leadership and helped to create a learning community which encouraged excellence, welcomed diversity and created an educational climate of inclusion. Parishioners from multi-cultural backgrounds were, during Giovanna’s leadership, supported in their spiritual development and encouraged in the maintenance of traditional forms of worship.

Giovanna exemplified a true Franciscan dedication to living the Gospel values. Hers was truly a life devoted to service and prayer. She always led by example and performed all assigned duties with great efficiency. Her duties were performed diligently and delivered humbly from a heart seeking to enhance the lives of others. Those who interacted with Sr Giovanna’s during her tenure in Warrawong were blessed by her presence. In the performance of her duties, Giovanna certainly modelled the very essence of the Franciscan charism upon which her Religious Order is based. Her example touched the hearts of many and provided a powerful model for all to emulate. In the service she tendered so graciously, and in the reverent way she exemplified Franciscan humility and simplicity, Sr Giovanna enhanced the lives of many.

I, like, those who worked with her shall always remember her with great fondness.

From afar, I join with members of Sister Giovanna’s family and her Sisters in Christ in offering prayers of thanksgiving for a life well-lived…

Bernadette Cooper
Principal of St Patrick’s School, Port Kembla 1995 – 2013