Several hundred members of an exclusive Sydney school community have gathered at a church in the city’s east to hold a special mass for a much-loved teacher killed in the MH17 attack.
Sydney nun Sister Philomene Tiernan was on board the Malaysia Airlines flight when a suspected surface-to-air missile struck it, killing the 298 passengers and crew on board.
Twenty seven other Australians were on the plane with Sister Philomene, who was returning from a sabbatical in France.
Sister Philomene worked for more than 30 years as a teacher and director of boarding at Catholic school Kincoppal-Rose Bay and was remembered fondly by students on Friday.
“The impact of this is just unbelievable in the whole community,” a year 12 student who did not want to be named said.
On a cold Saturday morning several nuns, students and their parents and associates of the school arrived at Saint Mary Magdalene church in Rose Bay for a special mass.
Parish Priest Monsignor Tony Doherty said the special prayer service, which began at 9am, would “focus our grief and loss of such an extraordinary woman.” Before the service began, an elderly nun pleaded with waiting media to respect the privacy of the ceremony and not enter.
Kincoppal-Rose Bay principal Hilary Johnston-Croke on Friday described Sister Philomene as a friend and mentor who had brought love to the school community.
“We are devastated by the loss of such a wonderfully kind, wise and compassionate woman who was greatly loved by us all,” she said in a letter to parents.
“She contributed greatly to our community and she touched the lives of all at KRB in such a positive and meaningful way.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove are also expected to attended memorials during the weekend.