Connecting Both the Past and the Future
December 5, 2016
The Sesquicentenary of the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in Bathurst was celebrated on the weekend of October 28–30, 2016. One hundred and fifty years ago, at the invitation of Bishop Matthew Quinn, first Catholic Bishop of Bathurst, seven Sisters arrived from Charleville in Ireland. Within a few days they began teaching and took into care the first of many orphaned or neglected children. More women joined the original Sisters and they became the Bathurst Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy who then carried the mercy tradition forward over the next century and a half as teachers, nurses and social workers.
A reunion of forty Sisters who were members of the former Bathurst Congregation, was held on Friday, 28 October. It was a day of memories and of recognition of the new place of the Sisters in the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG) established in 2011. Now part of an organisation comprising eight hundred Sisters and eighteen thousand lay people, these women share in a mission of mercy that responds to the need for compassion and mercy in all Australian States, in Papua New Guinea and beyond.
More than three hundred Sisters, friends, associates, families, ex-students and partners in ministry gathered at St Joseph’s Mount, Bathurst for a Garden Party on Saturday 29 October 2016. They sat and exchanged stories over afternoon tea; they listened to a music recital performed by Mrs Anne Whale, Jo Cook rsm and Kathleen Williams rsm and students from MacKillop College; they watched a film on the history of “Logan Brae”, the stately villa, now called St Joseph’s Mount, which was gifted to the Sisters by the Hon. John Meagher in 1909 and they spent time with archival material and wandered the grounds in the beautiful sunshine.
Berneice Loch rsm, Mercy Institute Leader joined Councillor Monica Morse, Ellen Geraghty, Executive Officer of Rahamim Ecology Centre and Robert George, Director of Centacare to welcome the crowd and tell of future initiatives. Bishop Michael McKenna, accompanied by the members of the recently established Bathurst Diocesan Pastoral Council, congratulated the Sisters and spoke of the interconnectedness of the Sisters of Mercy and the Diocese of Bathurst.
Two visitors to the Garden Party demonstrate something of the efforts made by people to join the Sisters in Bathurst for this celebration and the joy everyone experienced in meeting up with old friends. Mary Dennett rsm drove herself from Melbourne to the event. She took two days travelling and was warmly welcomed by many she had directed in Workshops and Retreats at Rahamim in previous years. Brother Malachy Yates, de la Salle brother who now lives in Brisbane, drove himself all the way to Bathurst in spite of still recovering from a triple bypass. He linked up in storytelling with a number of the visitors who had been on his staff or were parents of the students he taught at St John’s College in Dubbo, where he was Principal from 1972-1974. Both Sister Mary and Brother Malachy have treasured memories of their times in the Central West of NSW.
Many visitors stayed on in Bathurst to join in the Diocesan Celebrations on the Sunday. These included breakfast at Mackillop College followed by a “pilgrim” walk into the Cathedral for the 10.00am Mass, led by Bishop McKenna. This recalled the walk into Bathurst from Kelso to the Cathedral in 1866 by Bishop Matthew Quinn and the first seven Sisters and was followed by luncheon at the Cathedral Primary School. Many of the Sisters of Mercy delighted in being chauffeured along the way of this walk in beautifully maintained vintage cars.
The book produced by the Sisters for the occasion: Through Catherine’s Eyes: Stories of Mercy Ministries since Vatican II, celebrates the 150 years with a special emphasis on the last fifty years and the changes that have occurred in that time. It can be purchased from Books Plus in Bathurst (Telephone: 02 6331 5994). We, as an organising Committee, have had an amazing journey over this year preparing for this event. We thank the many Sisters and friends who took responsibility for parts of the celebrations for us. The generosity of all was evident. The call of our world and our planet for mercy and compassion in this Year proclaimed by Pope Francis as a Year of Mercy is strong and insistent and demands an urgent and imaginative response. The Sisters of Mercy pray that this call will not fall on deaf ears.
Patricia Powell rsm, Mary Trainor rsm and Paula Smith rsm.
Messages to: Paula Smith rsm