Turning the Lord's Prayer into a hit record was just part of Sister Janet Mead's extraordinary life

Sister Janet Mead (1938-2022)

She was the first Australian artist to have a gold record in the US, but making the Lord’s Prayer into an international hit was only a small part of Sister Janet Mead’s crowded life. She was described to Eternity as a “powerhouse of social justice). Mead, a Mercy sister, died in Adelaide on January 26 aged 84.

Sister Janet was teaching at St Aloysius College in Adelaide, a Catholic girls school, where she sought to engage her students with the gospel, through music, which led to her pioneering “rock masses” in St Francis Xavier Cathedral just down the road from the school.

The masses needed music and in 1974 her version of the Lord’s Prayer was born. It achieved a local gold record as well as the US one, but she turned down the offer to tour the States, filming what later would be called a music video in the school.

The Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide Patrick O’Regan expressed his sadness and paid tribute to the “immense contribution” she made through her commitment to social justice and her work with the homeless, refugees and First Nations people, Southern Cross reports.

The leader of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia Sr Eveline Crotty told the local Adelaide catholic paper Sr Janet was a “well-loved Sister of Mercy who touched the lives of many and who was known far and wide for her musical abilities, particularly her rendition of the Our Father”.

“Janet was an educator known and loved by the many pupils taught by her,” she said.

“With the Romero Community, with whom she lived and worked, Janet was also a great advocate for those unable to be heard on many fronts.

“Janet was a fine woman of Mercy and a true daughter of Catherine McAuley (founder of the Mercy Sisters).”

In 1985, the Adelaide Day Centre for Homeless Persons was started in Moore Street, in central Adelaide. Sr Janet, together with other members of the Romero community, was the driving force behind this initiative, a project that eventually possessed an outreach far beyond Moore Street itself. The Adelaide Day Centre assists with emergency housing, runs a mobile soup van and provides an activity program, which includes woodwork, gardening, crafts and living skills.

The Romero community is named after Oscar Romero the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated serving mass on the orders of a conservative politician. Romero was both an outspoken advocate for the poor and a traditional Catholic and made a saint by Pope Francis in 2018.

Like her hero, Mead was prepared to speak out for those she considered lacked a voice. She raised money for the striking stevedores during the Patricks dispute in the late 1990s.

Janet Mead died of cancer 17 years to the day after being named South Australian of the year.

(Credit: information from Southern Cross Adelaide).