From South Australia to South Africa - A brief insight into the life of Sr Sally Duigan. | Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
09 Oct 2017

The following is an insight into the life of Sr Sally Duigan, written by Sr Sally herself. Sr Sally currently works in the Holy Family Care Centre in South Africa and in the following article Sr Sally provides us with fascinating detail into how she came to join the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

Sr Sally Duigan

I was born in Mount Gambier, South Australia.  A rural city famous for its Blue Lake and valleys.  I was the third born in a family of ten children. Looking back there were three main influences in our lives growing up – politics, horse racing and religion.  It was an interesting mix.  My Grandfather was a member of Parliament for about 35 years and my father was a bookmaker.  We were used to politics and horseracing and we were used to winning and losing.


Sr Sally Duigan caring for a young child at the Holy Family Care Centre

My parents were always involved in St Vincent de Paul and in the Church.  I would say we had quite a well-rounded up bringing.  The Sisters of Mercy played a very formative role in our lives, as did the Marist Brothers and they opened up many opportunities for us.  Sport was central to our lives and singing and drama as well.  I always fancied myself being on the stage and becoming a famous actress.  I loved participating in Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas and often had a lead role, which further enhanced this idea.  I even went through a stage of seriously wanting to join a circus.


My friends and I used to put on lunchtime concerts at school to raise money for the missions.  The Sisters as well as my parents instilled in us a sense of caring for others.  At an early age I was attracted to the idea of being a missionary.  When I was fifteen my older sister Mary-Anne entered the Sisters of Mercy and my parents decided to move the whole family to Adelaide.  This was a big move and I finished my schooling at St Aloysius College in the city of Adelaide.

After working for a couple of years I entered the congregation of the Daughters of Our lady of the Sacred Heart.  I was drawn to this congregation because of its Missionary endeavours.  I’ve been to places I never dreamed of way back when I made my vows in 1972.  My missionary journey has taken me to Alice Springs, Bathurst Island,

Philippines and for a short stint in Vietnam.

I even lived in Randwick from 1984 – 1988 when I was studying.  At that time I was involved in Antioch and went along to the meetings every Sunday night after playing the guitar at Mass.

Since January 1989 I have been in South Africa and this has been the greatest adventure of my life.  I first taught for 11 years in St Brendan’s School – a co-ed secondary school in the bush with over 600 students.  From there Bishop Slattery asked me to head up the HIVAIDS response in the Diocese of Tzaneen.   Now I am the Director of Holy Family Care Centre – doing what I think I was “born to do”.


Sr Sally Duigan working at the Holy Family Care Centre


A place to call home….

Holy Family Care Centre is situated at the foot of the Drakensburg mountains in the far north of the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart founded the Centre in 2001 as a response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Volunteer Clare with baby Believe on admission

The Sisters bring their own talents and gifts to the ministry with the children. They are helped and supported by wonderful volunteers who come from different countries for various lengths of time.  Some volunteers return year after year – spending their annual holidays with the children.  Fr Alan MSC from Ireland heads up a MISSION OUTREACH team of young people that come each year during the winter holidays.  They organize programs for the children and take them on outings and generally have a lot of fun.

Currently Fr Vince Carroll MSC is living at Holy Family. It is great to have him as our Chaplain and he makes a fantastic contribution – he is very creative and works with the older boys on various projects. The small boys are delighted with the go-carts he makes and enjoy the fruits of his garden and his woodwork skills.

I feel that Holy Family is a place where we OLSH and MSC’s can really live our charism of compassionate love.  Here we learn to love these children unconditionally.  They teach us how to do this.  It is something you learn to do every day.

Volunteer Carmel with Mpho who had Stage 1V AIDS. Sadly Mpho passed away a short time after this photograph was taken. She was just 12 years old and suffering unimaginable pain.


The children in our care come for many reasons but always because it is a last resort – when all other avenues of care have been explored.  They are admitted with a court order after their local Social Worker takes their case to the nearest Magistrate.  Members of the community, school principals, health practitioners and sometimes neighbours identify the children and report their cases to the police or local authorities.  The reasons for admission vary but many children have been abandoned, sexually abused, physically abused, orphaned or made vulnerable because of HIV/AIDS.

Some come from horrific backgrounds and arrive here very ill, malnourished, frightened, lacking social skills and generally very bewildered.  It doesn’t take long for them to feel at home and to change once they feel loved and cared for.



I love being at Holy Family.  I love being with these children who are so resilient and so brave. I love living and working alongside our Sisters, the MSC, the local people and with volunteers.  I discover every day how to live the charism of our Founder, Fr Jules Chevalier MSC who encouraged us “to be on earth the Heart of Christ”.

A group of children at the Holy Family Care Centre