Archived News Item

Geelong: 150th anniversary celebrations

On Thursday December 3, 2009, a Mass of Thanksgiving will be held at St Mary’s Basilica, Geelong (Victoria) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in Geelong. Joan Wilson RSM (Melbourne) reports.

On Thursday December 3, 1859 six Sisters of Mercy arrived by train in Geelong. They had left Dublin on September 5, 1859 and left Liverpool on the "Ocean Chief". When they arrived in Melbourne they were met by the sisters from Fitzroy who had begun the first Mercy foundation in Victoria in March 1857.

This little band of courageous Irish women were led by Mother Xavier Maguire. The others were Mother Gabriel Sherlock, Mother Margaret Mulally, Mother Regis Manly, Sister Rose Lynch and Sister Aloysius Ryan. They were welcomed by the people of Geelong who from then until this day have been generous to the sisters.

For a short time the sisters lived at St Augustine’s orphanage but soon moved to a house on Newtown Hill known at the time as Sunville.

In April 1860, the sisters opened a school for day pupils at the convent and were able to accept a limited number of boarders. In a relatively short period of time a large four-wing bluestone building was erected. This building housed a convent, a school, orphans and girls from the courts attending the Industrial School run by the sisters.

The beautiful chapel was completed in Mother Xavier’s lifetime. She found the climate oppressive but forged ahead in her commitment to providing a merciful response to the needs of the people of Geelong.

For a long period of time, the Sisters of Mercy served in many of the Parish Primary Schools in the Geelong area – 13 of these schools today have had some connection with the Sisters of Mercy – as well as Sacred Heart College.

Today the ministry of the sisters is of a different nature with aged care, pastoral ministry, counselling and retreat provision added to the ministries of education and child and family welfare.

On Thursday December 3, 2009, a Mass of Thanksgiving is planned to celebrate this anniversary. It will be held at St Mary’s Basilica Geelong and representatives of all ministries in which the Sisters of Mercy are or have been involved will participate.

Sacred Heart College will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the College in April 2010. Details can be found on the College website where there is a link to SHC 150th Anniversary.

From: Joan Wilson RSM