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Catherine de la Hoyde was born in County Louth, Ireland in 1804. She entered the Sisters of Mercy in Birmingham in England on October 18, 1842. The Birmingham Convent was the last Convent to be founded directly by Catherine McAuley in 1841. Catherine went from there to Baggot Street and thence to Australia. At the time of her arrival in Australia she was still a novice and her Religious Profession took place immediately on arrival in Australia on January 25, 1846. Her religious name was Sister Mary Ignatia.

Sr Ignatia was the senior novice in the pioneer group of three professed Sisters, three novices and one young woman who was intending to enter the community, who arrived in Perth in 1846. She was the first woman to make her Religious Profession in Australia. This took place in the Holy Cross Convent.

Except for a few months in Fremantle (1847) Sr Ignatia lived in Perth, Victoria Square and was the first of many sisters to be the Cathedral Sacristan. She was appointed sacristan of the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in 1846. She served possibly until the late 1860s. In the Archdiocesan archives we read of the first celebration of Christmas in the Cathedral on 25 December 1846. “On Thursday at Midnight, there was a Pontifical High Mass in the Church, at which ten little girls, in simple white dresses, made their First Holy Communion. Christmas Day, Bishop Brady celebrated his third High Mass at the Convent.”  The sacristan was Sr M Ignatius de la Hoyde who “exerted all her ingenuity in decorating the Church and the altar.”

Sister Ignatia became involved in the Perth Schools and took on the entire management of a “bazaar based on a totally new plan”. She was determined not to make less than one hundred and fifty pounds – however this was not achieved. Sister Ignatia was one of original group of Sisters who moved into the new Convent built in 1871. Gradually she became involved in visitation of the homes and an outreach to the poor. The West Australian Record states that “She was worshipped of the poor as an instructress and benefactress.” cf W.A.R 29.9.1913

Sister Ignatia died in Perth on December 22nd, 1875. She is buried in the grounds of the Convent of Mercy, Victoria Square, Perth, Western Australia. The final entry in the Community Register states “her death was truly peaceful and holy.”

Top – Convent of Mercy, Birmingham England
Bottom – Original Mercy Cross

Taken from the booklet “The Pioneer Women” prepared by Joan Smith rsm