Mary Aikenhead
Sr Maurus Tierney rsc
Serving food to unemployed men in Tusculum Lane at the back of St Vincent’s Convent, Potts Point, ca
Sisters of Charity
In response to Bishop Polding’s request for a community of Sisters to be established in New South Wales, Mary Aikenhead willingly sacrificed five well-trained and experienced Sisters for the new mission.

These were Mother Mary John Cahill, Sr Mary Francis de Sales O’Brien, Sr Mary Baptist de Lacy, Sr Mary Xavier Williams (still a novice) and Sr Mary Lawrence Cator.

On December 31, 1838, the ‘Francis Spaight’ entered Sydney Harbour; on deck were the five Sisters of Charity for whom the long journey to an unknown land was drawing to an end. They were welcomed by Bishop Polding of Sydney and a large crowd of Protestants and Catholics many of whom had never seen a nun before.

The first task of the Sisters was to bring Christian love into one of the worst remnants of an evil system – a gaol in which up to eight hundred women lived in degradation and misery. Despite difficulties in obtaining adequate accommodation in Parramatta, the work of the Sisters seemed to bring instant acceptance and improvement, for Dr Polding wrote to Archbishop Murray in Ireland in March 1839 that, within three weeks, an almost miraculous change had taken place in a gaol that had seemed full of hopeless misery, resentment and despair.

Today one of the features of the Sisters of Charity is the extraordinary range and variety of ministries in which the Sisters are engaged. This no doubt reflects their fourth vow of Service of the Poor. From the beginning, this vow was understood in terms of making themselves “extensively useful”. Wherever a new need was perceived, they endeavoured to discern their response, constantly seeking creative ways by which to do this. At times, this has led to a new form of ministry, perhaps even to relinquishing a traditional one that no longer required involvement or was being well served by others.

The Sisters have a commitment to the alleviation of poverty, loneliness, suffering, ignorance and oppression in today’s world.

Please visit the Sisters of Charity website for more information

Mary Aikenhead
Sr Maurus Tierney rsc
Serving food to unemployed men in Tusculum Lane at the back of St Vincent’s Convent, Potts Point, ca
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