Mary Duncombe (1899 – 1980) Sister of Mercy
In 1944 Mary Duncombe – a Sister of Mercy – was appointed superior of the Mater Misericordiae hospitals, Brisbane, and from 1951 supervised the planning and completion of the Mater Mothers’ Hospital which opened in 1960. By that time she was administrator of the largest denominational hospital-system in Australia.
Mary Duncombe, Sister of Mercy, was born on 6 September 1899 at Hughenden, Queensland.
Following her mother’s remarriage, Mary sought counsel from former teachers. Despite an unsympathetic response from home, she began her novitiate with the Sisters of Mercy at All Hallows’ Convent on 24 September 1927 and was professed in 1930, taking the religious name Damian.
After teaching for sixteen years, Sister Damian turned to administration and remained pastoral in her relationship with the Sisters and staff of the various institutions that came under her care—schools, hospitals, and homes for children and the handicapped. Within the order, former school companions remembered her as a warm and loving friend who frequented plays and concerts; but younger novices could be intimidated by her deportment, large frame and air of self-sufficiency, as well as by her incapacity to make small talk. In 1944 she was appointed superior of the Mater Misericordiae hospitals, Brisbane, and from 1951 supervised the planning and completion of the Mater Mothers’ Hospital which opened in 1960. By that time she was administrator of the largest denominational hospital-system in Australia.
A keen educationist, she had been involved in establishing a teachers’ training college (later Damian House) which was opened in November 1958 at All Hallows’. Sisters were sent abroad for further studies, and two teams extended teaching services to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
Mother Damian also promoted secondary education, but her wish to include Aboriginal children in Mercy schools by means of scholarships was thwarted by opponents of integration. Besides providing responsibly for her various undertakings, she progressively modernized buildings and facilities in homes for the handicapped and disadvantaged. In 1962 she was appointed O.B.E.
Lonely, inward looking and contemplative, in 1978 she retired to Emmaus, the home at Nudgee which she had built for those Sisters no longer engaged in active service. She died there on 30 July 1980 and was buried in the local cemetery.
Source – complete article : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A140059b.htm
Duncombe, Mary Damien – OBE(C), 1962
All Hallows Convent, Brisbane (Mother Mary)
They crossed the river : the founding of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Brisbane, by the Sisters of Mercy / [by] H.J. Summers
Image – The First Mater Private Hospital – image sourced from
Mater Hospital, 1906–1945
Mater Hospital, 1946–1981
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