Archived News Item

A Special Blessing at the Mater Hospital in Rockhampton

Joanne Molloy, Dominica Camilleri, Berneice Loch, Margaret Dixon, Justina Bedford, Maria Jean Rhule, Amabile Speranza, Brenda Moss, Mary Wildie and Stancia Cawte.


A special Mercy Day event celebrated at the Rockhampton Mater Hospital was the blessing of the new grotto and statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Mater grounds. Fr John Hogan presided at this ceremony to which the Sisters and hospital staff were invited.


To understand the significance of this event, one needs to  revisit the story of Our Lady of Lourdes and her intercessory role in the history of the Rockhampton Mater Hospital.


In 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary made several appearances to the young peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, near Lourdes, a small French village. During one apparition, Mary asked Bernadette to scrape the ground and a spring of running water began to flow. Today, water continues to flow and millions of pilgrims from all over the world travel to Lourdes to wash in this water in the hope of physical or spiritual healing.


One hundred years later, in 1958, the centenary year of Lourdes, Sr M Eymard Brosnan, the Superior of the Mater community, decided to seek Our Lady’s intercession in finding a badly needed water supply on the property. A visiting Oblate Father solemnly blessed the spot where previously, a bore had been drilled unsuccessfully, and he placed a Lourdes medal and some Lourdes water therein. That same afternoon, Sr M Eymard visited the site, explaining what had happened earlier in the day to the Sister who accompanied her. It is said that Sr M Eymard shook the pipe and water gushed forth immediately, much to the surprise of the drilling contractor. On 24 September 1958, the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, a bountiful water supply of 5,000 gallons per day was found. Up until recent years, this bore was the water source for the extensive gardens on the Mater property.


On 11 February 1959, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the foundation stone was laid of the new Mater Convent and Chapel in Spencer Street. Later that year, on 1 November 1959, His Grace, Archbishop James Duhig, Archbishop of Brisbane, blessed and opened the new building, dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, in the presence of Bishop Andrew Tynan DD, Bishop of Rockhampton.


To honour these special favours which the Sisters attributed to Our Lady of Lourdes, a grotto was built in the Convent garden. However, the Convent and Chapel were demolished in July 1984 to enable the construction of the Mercy Boyan wing and because of other building projects that have taken place over the years, this shrine has been relocated several times. It is hoped that the grotto and statue have now found a permanent and visible home, enhancing the beautiful environs of the Rockhampton Mater site.


With the financial backing of generous benefactors and the building skills of Michael McGuire and his workers, this project was the vision and inspiration of Sr Maria Jean Rhule, Mission/Pastoral Care Coordinator at the Mater Rockhampton. It has been Sr Maria Jean’s dream to have the grotto and statue in a place that reflected its significance in the history of the hospital. During the blessing we prayed for all who come to this Mercy health care facility seeking comfort, hope and healing of mind and body.


Fr John Hogan and Maria Jean Rhule RSM


With thanks and messages to: Joanne Molloy RSM


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