Archived News Item

160 Years Since the Arrival of Mercy in Melbourne


27 February 2017


Celebrations are being held this year to mark 160 years since the arrival of the first three Sisters of Mercy in Melbourne, Victoria, as well as pay tribute to the incredible journey of thousands of Sisters and lay men and women in seeking to be the face of the God of Mercy in our world.


On March 6, 1857, Mother Ursula Frayne (pictured above) and two Sisters arrived in Melbourne from Fremantle, Western Australia, where they had established a firm Mercy presence after more than a decade since arriving from Ireland. Ursula was the eleventh Sisters of Mercy, who nursed Catherine McAuley in her final illness.


While a seasoned traveller, aspects of the journey to Melbourne were some of the worst experienced by Ursula. Her descriptions of their journey includes the following account –

‘Alas, the winds did not favour us… My face naturally pale, became scarlet. and so swollen that the eyes were hardly visible, and the mouth a mere slit’.


The theme chosen for the anniversary is appropriately ‘Many Roads, One Journey’.


Carole Carmody rsm, a representative of the committee coordinating events for the 160th, said the theme seeks to capture the many paths that we have all trod, but all of us are on one journey of Mercy.


“Like Ursula and her companions,  all of us have walked different paths both in a physical, emotional, practical, educational and spiritual sense. Yet we are all part of the one journey of Mercy and the theme seeks to capture the essence of our combined journey both now and over the past 160 years”.



One of the main events to commemorate the 160 years will be a Eucharistic celebration in the Ursula Frayne Chapel (pictured above), Palmer Street on Monday, March 6. Ursula’s body is interred beneath the Chapel’s Celtic Cross which commemorates her dedication, vision and labours. The Vicar-General for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Monsignor Greg Bennet will preside at the celebration.


Celebrations at Academy of Mary Immaculate

One of the first tasks of the Sisters who arrived in Melbourne in 1857 was to provide a school. It was the desire of the Sisters to begin with the children of the poorer class, but it was pointed out by the Bishop that provision was already made for these in what was termed the common schools and that, in fact, the great work of charity at that time was education of the “poor rich”. Thus a school for young ladies, The Academy of Mary Immaculate, was opened on April 20th 1857. It is Victoria’s oldest girls secondary college. The picture above was taken in 1914.


Earlier this year, on Monday 30 January,  the Academy community had their own acknowledgement of the foundation of  the College by Mother Ursula. Sisters present at the Mass also in the Ursula Frayne Chapel included Jan Geason rsm, Leonie Glennen rsm, Rosina Livingstone rsm, Hermenilda McManus rsm, Brigid Maloney rsm and Academy Principal, Mary Moloney rsm.


The gathering honoured the College’s theme for 2017, “Celebrating our Journey”, and the 160 years’ anniversary of foundation.


Rapid expansion and population growth in the young colony had prompted Archbishop Goold to write to Ursula Frayne in Perth to establish a Convent in Melbourne. In March 1857, Mother Ursula Frayne came with her two companions, Mother Anne Xavier Dillon and Mother Joseph Sherlock. The Bishop vacated his residence in Nicholson Street for Mother Ursula Frayne who has the distinction of being the foundress of the first religious house in Victoria. The first task of the Sisters was to provide a school.


Mary Moloney rsm, Principal of the Academy, noted that this year’s theme is very much looking forward, as well as looking back.

“The journey of mercy is dynamic and ever evolving,” she said.