Category Archives: colonial education
A Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on the 14 August will mark the end of a year’s celebration of 175 years since Sisters of Charity arrived in Australia. Other events have marked this anniversary in places associated with the Sisters. One of the most significant was that at Parramatta on Saturday 5 April at Parramatta, near the date of the first religious profession in Australia in 1839, that of one of the five pioneer Sisters, Sr Xavier Williams.
Parramatta was the location of the Female Factory where the Sisters came from Ireland in 1838 to minister to the neglected women sent out as convicts. The pioneer Sisters visited the Factory in the early mornings and in the evening, and taught children at the school during the day. Much of their activity revolved around the Catholic Church: teaching the faith, visiting the prisoners and the sick, helping the poor, and sewing for the clergy.
The Sisters continued at the Factory until 1847, as well as working in the broader Sydney community. Today the Sisters’ presence can be typically known by the name of St Vincent’s Hospital in most eastern seaboard capitals. Many of our Sisters work in the education and pastoral care ministries as well as health, and their stories are documented in this book beautifully produced for the occasion: Impelled by Christ’s Love: 175 years serving in Australia. The cover features a picture of Tarmons, the Sisters’ first hospital in Woolloomooloo (now Potts Point), Sydney, which opened in 1857. The book is available from the Sisters of Charity Congregational Office, Level 7, 35 Grafton Street, Bondi Junction 2022, firstname.lastname@example.org ($15 plus $10 p&h).
A Touch of Green, Sydney’s first Catholic schools and their sites by Charles McGee was sent to our Archives recently (published by the Catholic Education Office 2013). It is a delightful, full colour insight into NSW colonial catholic education: we learn there were over 20 schools for Catholic children in the growing town around Sydney cove in the early 1800s mostly staffed by teachers of Irish descent with little training, who were poorly remunerated, teaching in less than perfect schoolroom conditions. The centrespread features a map of Sydney Town in 1836 showing the location of the early Catholic schools. The Sisters of Charity have been acknowledged fittingly for their contribution to Catholic education, teaching at the Elizabeth St and Victoria St Schools.
We do have one small grievance which states that the Catholic Church acquired ‘Tarmons’ in 1856 to be used by the Sisters of Charity as a hospital for the poor (the Sisters’ first school was opened a year later at ‘Tarmons’). In fact, the Sisters of Charity’s loyal benefactors, the lay Catholic community, under the guidance of John Hubert Plunkett, the Attorney General of NSW, raised the funds to acquire the property to provide the Sisters with not only a site for a hospital for the poor, but largely for a permanent home for the Sisters as the Catholic Church had not managed to secure one since their arrival in 1838!