The Sisters of Mercy and the Sacred Heart College community in Geelong last week celebrated the 160th anniversary of the arrival of the first Mercy Sisters from Dublin to the Victorian town. Source: Mercy World.
In 1859, the then Melbourne Archbishop James Goold was in Ireland when the brave band of women – Mother Xavier Maguire and her five companions: Mother Gabriel Sherlock, Sisters Mary Margaret Mullaly, Mary Regis Manley, Mary Rose Lynch and novice Mary Aloysius Ryan left for Australia.
He confided to his diary: “I have secured a community of Sisters of Mercy – able, active and well educated”.
And so they proved to be, establishing schools, an orphanage, a shelter for homeless women and the Children of Mary Sodality group, as well as engaging in other traditional works of Mercy in what is today Victoria’s largest provincial city, located 75 kilometres south-west of Melbourne.
Income was generated from funds earned from lending books from their public library, fees from teaching music and from their needlework, hand sewing gentlemen's shirts for a firm in Melbourne.
The anniversary celebrations took a number of forms:
- Mass celebrated in the heritage precinct in front of the college grotto
- A blessing and rose ceremony held in the Sisters of Mercy cemetery
- Afternoon tea
- Launch of the book, Mother Xavier Maguire – A Women of Faith and Vision, written by Sr Helen Delaney RSM.
Sr Christina Aitken RSM welcomed all to the gathering on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy. “We have come,” Sr Christina said, “because we have experienced at this place aspects of the Mercy of God made possible because of the courage, dedication and passion of the first Sisters of Mercy to set foot in Geelong.”
Bishop Mark Edwards was principal celebrant, assisted by college chaplain Fr Jim Clarke, and eight priests of the Melbourne Archdiocese.
In his homily Bishop Mark spoke of his admiration for Mother Xavier and her companions: “Their ambition and vision astounds me. Starting with a 4,000 pound debt, they changed Geelong. Their hearts were in their work and, over the next 20 years, 47 young women, largely from their students, applied to join them, of whom 20 became sisters. God did bless these strong, brave, intelligent and articulate women of faith on their journey.”
Celebrating 160 Years of Mercy in Geelong (Mercy World)