WALKING IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS
When Ursula Frayne and her Mercy companions set foot on the Barrack Street jetty on the 9th January 1846, they would not have envisaged that when they looked down the panorama of the years, the Sisters of Mercy and their friends would be celebrating their historic arrival 170 years later.
The pilgrims met at the Bell Tower at 9a.m. where they were presented with a small guidebook outlining the pilgrimage route and containing quotes from Ursula’s letters written in 1866, where she describes her impressions and those of her companions, as they walked that first pilgrimage journey into Perth.
It was quite a moving experience to see each small group of four or five pilgrims face the river and read the following passage which Ursula had written all those years before.
“At length we came to the landing place, a veritable jetty, upon which were assembled a crowd of sightseers, a few of whom hailed us with delight. Others looked on with indifference, and a greater number with positive displeasure.”
At various points along the pilgrimage way, further quotes from Ursula’s “Sketches” (M. Ursula Frayne Sketches of Conventual Life in the Bush, Convent of Mercy Archives, Perth) were read and discussed. On arriving at the Pro Cathedral, the pilgrims entered and read the following extract from Ursula.
“At long last we stopped at the Catholic Church, entered, returned thanks to Almighty God for His watchful care over us during the voyage, and for bringing us safely to our journey’s end. A few minutes sufficed for this duty. We arose from our kneeling position and walked out from the Church expecting to be conducted to the house provided for us, but alas! Our arrival was totally unexpected. We stood in the wilds of Australia on that mid-summer night and we could truly say with our Divine Model “We have nowhere to rest our heads.”
The pilgrims then continued on their way and entered the Convent through the front door, from where many took advantage of their visit to walk around the Heritage Centre and absorb a sense of what it was like for those early Sisters, in that Convent built by the Fenians in 1871. In the Music Room, through which hundreds of pupils had passed, Mercedes pupils were playing on the grand piano – a happy memory.
All those who had participated in the pilgrimage then joined with those who had been unable to walk, in sharing a delicious morning tea. Over 100 persons had been involved and all agreed that it had been a very memorable occasion.Some memorable quotes from pilgrims who had walked in the footsteps of those first Sisters of Mercy into Australia:
“This was my first experience of pilgrimage and it was a very joyful occasion for me.”
- “The story of the pilgrim shell and the meaning of pilgrimage, along with extracts from Ursula Frayne’s letters made for a very interesting morning.”
- “One cannot help but admire the courage of that band of your Mercy Sisters led by Ursula Frayne.”
- “I found the pilgrimage quite a moving experience.”
“With sentiments of gratitude for everything the Church has received, and with a sense of responsibility for the task that lies ahead, we shall cross the threshold of the Holy Door fully confident that the strength of the Risen Lord, who constantly supports us on our pilgrim way, will sustain us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers . . . lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of Mercy. Today this Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope.”(4)
The morning concluded with a vote of thanks to all those who had contributed to making the 170th celebration such a memorable one.
Click HERE to read the small guidebook used on this pilgrimage.
Messages to: Sr Mollie Wright