St Catherine's School in Empangeni held a memorial service this week to celebrate the life of past pupil Sister Ann Thole, who died in a valiant effort to save patients from the Maria Ratschitz Hospice, near Dundee, during a fire at the northern KwaZulu-Natal mission.

Sister Ann was the first St Catherine's Old Girl to become a nun. After matriculating in 1989, she enrolled at Edgewood Teachers Training College in Pinetown to study for a diploma in senior primary education.

In December 1992, during her second year of study, she joined the Franciscan Order of Nardini Sisters and made it her first profession on September 14 1996, taking her final vows in July 2001 at the Diocese of Eshowe's Inkamana Abbey.

The hospice worker, who had been tending to Aids patients, died tragically and bravely during an inferno in the mission's thatched-roof hospice.

Five patients had been evacuated but three died in the flames together with Sr Ann, who had gone into the building again to try to rescue the remaining bedridden patients.

Monday's memorial service was held in the St Patrick's Church at St Catherine's, and was attended by staff and pupils, as well as the Oakford Dominican Sisters of the school convent.