On New Year’s Eve 1838, five Sisters of Charity from Ireland sailed into Sydney Cove on a mission to care for one of the most deprived groups in the Colony of NSW—female convicts, reports The Catholic Weekly.
Now, 180 years later, a Heritage Centre dedicated to the legacy and charism of the Sisters of Charity—Australia’s first order of religious women—has been opened at Potts Point.
“Mother Mary John Cahill, Sisters Mary Francis de Sales O’Brien, Mary Baptist De Lacy and Mary Lawrence Cater, and the novice Sr Mary Xavier Williams must have had a lot of what used to be called ‘pluck’ – courage, a sense of adventure, inspiration and determination – to volunteer to cross the world and establish the first convent of religious women in Australia,” Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said, as he officially opened the Heritage Centre on June 6.
The Sisters had made the arduous journey by boat to Australia in response to a call from Sydney’s Archbishop Bede Polding, for assistance in ministering to female convicts.
Through exhibition space and archives, the new Heritage Centre will allow future generations to appreciate the history of the Sisters of Charity and the work they did in caring for others, Sr Clare Nolan, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Charity in Australia, said.
“The Heritage Centre is designed to tell the story of the Sisters and the work they have done since arriving in Australia 180 years ago,” she said.
“It celebrates the Sisters of Charity’s story and that of religious women.”
When they first arrived in Sydney, the Sisters began their ministry in the Parramatta area, serving the convict women of the Female Factory.
Over the years they founded numerous schools and hospitals around Australia.
Today, under the stewardship of Mary Aikenhead Ministries, the Sisters of Charity continue to care for others in the areas of education, health, aged care, social welfare and social justice.
This story is an excerpt of an article written by Catherine Sheehan and published in The Catholic Weekly. Read the full article here.