NEWS CENTRE

REMEMBERING OUR PIONEER SISTERS

The first group of Sisters to come to Australia from Ireland on board the “Elizabeth” in September 1845 were a group of seven and one of them was a young woman, Anne Gogarty.  At the age of twenty-nine, four years after her religious profession as a Sister of Mercy, she was chosen as a member of the group to travel to the Australian mission. However, as Sr. M Catherine she was to spend only six months in this new and challenging mission.

ANNE GOGARTY
Anne Gogarty was born in County Louth, Ireland in 1817. At the time of her arrival in Australia she had only been professed as a Sister of Mercy for four years. She entered the Sisters of Mercy, Baggot Street, Dublin in February 1840 and her Religious Profession took place on 30th September, 1842. Her religious name was Sister Mary Catherine.

Sister M. Catherine died six months after her arrival in Western Australia. She had been in ill health before leaving Ireland and it was hoped that the sea voyage and change of air would be of benefit to her. However this was not to be.

During the short time she was here, Catherine was the Mother Assistant to Mother Ursula Frayne in the new foundation. Mother Ursula wrote to the Sisters in Ireland, “I don’t know what I shall do when I lose her . . . I have depended perhaps too much on her . . . I would wish to be resigned and listen to the will of God. I often say so, but I fear my heart goes not with my words.”

Sister Catherine died in the Convent of the Holy Cross in Perth on July 30th, 1846. She is buried in the grounds of the Convent of Mercy, Victoria Square, Perth, Western Australia.

     
From the Sisters of Mercy Register, St. Catherine’s Convent, Dublin, Ireland.
Text:
Daughter of Thomas and Julia Gogarty of Bramore in County Meath entered the Convent on 3rd February, 1840; received the holy Habit on 18th August 1840, and made her Religious Profession 30th September 1842; being called in Religion Mary Catherine. She left this House for our Convent of the Holy Cross, Perth Western Australia, September 8th 1845, where she Died 30th July 1846.

 

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

REMEMBERING OUR PIONEER SISTERS

Again during our 170th Year, we take a brief glimpse into the life of one of our pioneer Sisters.

Among the first group of Sisters who undertook the momentous voyage from Ireland to Australia on board the “Elizabeth” in September 1845 was a young woman, Margaret Dillon.  At the age of twenty-seven, one year after her religious profession as a Sister of Mercy, she was chosen as a member of the group to travel to the Australian mission. As Sr. M Anne Xavier she was to spend just over forty-four years in the Mercy missions of Perth and Melbourne.

MARGARET DILLON

Margaret Dillon was born in County Tipperary, Ireland in 1818. At the time of her arrival in Australia she had only been professed as a Sister of Mercy for a little over a year. She entered the Sisters of Mercy, Baggot Street, Dublin on April 1, 1842 and her Religious Profession took place on December 28, 1844. Her religious name was Sister Mary Anne Xavier. After her profession she was appointed to the ministry as a lay sister.

Anne Xavier Dillon was of a quiet disposition. Although little was known of her by the rest of the Baggot Street community as she was a lay sister and worked in the background, Mother Cecelia Marmion selected her for the Mission to Australia.

While on the Barque, Ursula wrote home to Mother Cecelia that Anne Xavier was a “most angelic creature”. Ursula added the following in her letter: “What short sighted poor creatures we, at least I am; when you told me that Sister Anne was coming I heard it with perfect indifference…I found her all I could have hoped for…”

It was while on this long and arduous journey that Ursula and Anne formed an effective, supportive and religious partnership. Sr Anne Xavier Dillon was appointed to the office of Mother Assistant in August 1846. In 1850 she accompanied Ursula Frayne to Europe and Ireland, returning in 1851. She was re-elected Mother Assistant on June 5th 1851, resigning from this office on June 1 1854 and re­elected on the same day.

Sr Anne Xavier Dillon resigned as Mother Assistant on 27th June 1856 and accompanied Mother Ursula Frayne to Melbourne in January 1857 where she was to work with Ursula until her death.

She died on May 11th, 1890 and is buried in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Convent of Mercy, Nicholson Street, Fitzroy, Victoria.

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

REMEMBERING OUR PIONEER SISTERS

The first group of Sisters of Mercy arrived in Australia from Ireland on January 8, 1846. After travelling for four months on the Barque ‘Elizabeth’ they came ashore at Fremantle and travelled up the river to the Swan River Colony (Perth) the next day.

Mother Ursula Frayne was appointed as the leader of the group and with her came six women of deep faith, courage and everyday witness to the spirit of mercy. These women began a pilgrimage without a map. They did not know how far their journey would take them. They had no idea how long they would be on the Barque and the high seas. All they knew was that they had responded to a plea that children were in need of education and that the colony was very poor. They were yet to find that most of the people living in the Colony were Protestant and the few Catholics had been without a priest until 1845.

Amidst the poverty they experienced in the Swan River Colony, their hearts were centred on Jesus and their decisions on many occasions spoke of their commitment. They spent their days being merciful through their many acts of kindness, listening especially to the women in the colony, preparing food for the poor, visiting the sick and lonely.  And of course, the Sisters were dedicated to their ministry of education. Among the Sisters who undertook the momentous voyage on board the “Elizabeth” in September 1845 was a young woman, Catherine O’Reilly.  She was often referred to as ‘the postulant not wearing a cap’.  As Sr. M Evangelista she was to spend nearly fifty years on the Perth Mission.

CATHERINE O’REILLY

Catherine O’Reilly was born in County Cavan, Ireland in 1824. At the time of her arrival in Australia she had not yet been received as a Sister of Mercy. She formally entered Religious Life on February 10, 1846, received the Habit of a Sister of Mercy on September 10, 1846 and her Religious Profession took place on September 13, 1848. Her religious name was Sister Mary Evangelista.

Sr Evangelista’s practicality seemed to be her greatest trait. Her natural resourcefulness was much appreciated during the planning and building of the Holy Cross Convent in 1848. Mother Ursula Frayne wrote of her as “our old carpenter” as Evangelista was always ready to hammer a few nails here and there and transformed the wooden crates brought by the Sisters from Ireland into seats, tables and desks. When the first branch convent and school was set up in 1855 in Guildford, Sr Evangelista was a member of the community.

Sr M Evangelista was appointed Mother Assistant in 1865. In April 1872 she left the Victoria Square Convent to take charge of the new branch house in York. Here she lived until 1879 when she went to take charge of the orphanage at Subiaco.

In 1883 Mother M Evangelista became the Mother Superior and remained in this position until her death in 1899 aged seventy five years.

It was during her time as Mother Superior in 1883 to 1889 that an exceptional expansion of branch convents were established – Geraldton (May 1883); Bunbury (June 1883); Toodyay (Newcastle 1884); West Perth (July 1888).

As with the other pioneer Sisters, Sr Evangelista had a great love of the poor in the colony.  She was the last member of the pioneering group to die and as stories were told of her life, there was gratitude expressed that she, a generous hearted woman, contributed so much to the progress of education and the development of so many schools and communities. She died on October 3, 1899 and is buried in the Subiaco Cemetery, Perth.

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

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Photo 1 – St Mary’s Convent, Guildford

Photo 2 – The entire Guildford school enrolment taken outside the ‘classroom’.