Who we are

Family Care Sisters


Maude O’Connell

Foundress of the Family Care Sisters (Grey Sisters) was born in Beaufort, Victoria on the 30th June 1884.

She was determined, justice-orientated, pioneering  and a feminist, unafraid to challenge the status quo.

Appalled by the working conditions of women she took a job in a factory and became a union official so that she could help improve the conditions. She was an ardent advocate for equal pay for equal work.

She became the Church’s representative on many deputations in relation to industrial and social reform.

Maude’s Vision

To provide a personal service to mothers in their own homes. When she asked Dr William Collins, at St Francis church, Melbourne, why this wasn’t happening; he said:  “are you prepared to roll up your sleeves and help the mothers in their homes?’ “Yes”, she replied, “and I will get others to do it also.”   This was 1928.

In 1930, the FAMILY CARE SISTERS  (Grey Sisters) were founded.

Family Care Sisters journey with Sisters of Mercy

In 2008, after prayer and discernment, Sr Jill Harding and Sr Michele Toussaint on behalf of the Family Care Sisters, approached Sr Kathleen Tierney rsm (Former Melbourne Congregation Leader) to ask if it would be possible for the two congregations to journey together. The response was a resounding YES.

The Foundresses of the two congregations, namely Maude O’Connell and Catherine McAuley, were both ‘doers’. As children, each suffered significant deaths. Neither set out to be a Religious, but rather to be a woman of change, devoted to causes and to the poor.

Although a world apart, there is less than 100 years between the foundations – Daylesford (July 12th, 1930) and Dublin (December 12, 1831); and both women were into their mature years – Maude was 46 and Catherine was 52.

Respecting and preserving each other’s traditions and identities, the two congregations continue to share the onward journey – in the spirit of Ruth & Naomi and Mary & Elizabeth.
We ask God’s blessings on our Congregations, as together we proclaim and engage in the prophetic mission of Jesus.

Family Care Sisters

The Vision of Maude O’Connell continues to inspire and challenge Jill Harding and Michele Toussaint to new and creative ways in Ministry.

Both now reside at Canterbury, and are involved in the Ministry at Nazareth, which will include opportunities for rest, relaxation (respite), day programs and spiritual retreats.

Michele is a Spiritual Director and Pastoral Care Worker.


Contact Details

Sr Jill Harding
Unit 2. 35 Parlington St. Canterbury. Vic. 3126.
Phone: 0419 989 401
Email:  familycare@mercy.org.au

Sr Michele Toussaint
Unit 2. 35 Parlington St. Canterbury. Vic. 3126.
Phone: 0419 989 401
Email:  familycare@mercy.org.au