Archived News Item

Archives and Heritage: Between the Leaves – Memories found in the pages of our Melbourne Library Collection

The Little Companion of the Sisters of Mercy


Books have always served the dual purpose as a repository for small snippets of memories. Flower petals, prayer cards, postcards, photographs and news paper clippings are just some of the items we have found amongst our library collection.


Recently within a tiny old copy of The Little Companion of the Sisters of Mercy on page 27 was found a tiny crumbling snippet from the newspaper announcing the death on Sept. 9 of Sr. M. Clare Coakley, as no year was shown we went to our registers and found it was in 1947;

“COAKLEY – On September 9, at Convent of Mercy, Lilydale. Catherine (Sister M. Clare), daughter of the late Mary and Timothy Coakley, dearly loved sister of John (deceased), James, Mary, Thomas and Margaret (Mrs Semmell deceased).– Requiescat in pace.”

A little more searching of the archives discovered the following information about Sister;


Catherine Coakley was born in Beechworth on 19 August 1878. Her parents were Timothy Coakley, a Customs Officer, and Mary (née Burns). She entered the Convent of Mercy in Lilydale. She received the Habit and was given the religious name of Sister Mary Clare and  took her vows on 10 April 1901.


In 1901 Sr. M. Clare went to Healesville as a member of the first community, which returned to Lilydale after one year when the Mansfield community took over responsibility. This community also stayed only one year, and then a second group from Lilydale, which again included Sr. M. Clare, returned to Healesville. This time a convent big enough to accommodate twelve boarders as well as the Sisters was built. However, the Convent did not become self-supporting and in 1915, the Sisters handed over the Convent to the FCJ Sisters and returned to Lilydale.


Sr. M. Clare spent the rest of her religious life in Lilydale. She was a Lay Sister, which meant that she would have spent much of her time undertaking domestic duties at the Convent.  Sr. M. Coakley is buried in the Lilydale Cemetery.


A search of TROVE NEWSPAPERS ONLINE found the following article from the Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Wednesday 10 September 1947, page 11.

“COAKLEY.-Requiem Mass will be offered at St Patrick’s Church, Lilydale, for the repose of the soul of Sister M. CLARE, at 9.30 a.m. TOMORROW (Thursday). The Funeral will leave St. Patrick’s Church at the conclusion of the Mass for the Lilydale Cemetery.”

So next time you are cleaning out some old books be sure to check for what may be hidden within as you may also find a story worth telling.


More items found in some of the books which are part of the Archives Collection


Messages to:  Archives and Heritage

Click here to return to Just Mercy