Little Sisters of Mary

Little Sisters of Mary
calvary
They arrived to form part of a very young church. It was only 45 years previously, in 1843 that Archibishop Bede Polding, an English Benedictine, had succeeded in persuading the Pope to establish the Australian Church with its own hierarchy.  

125TH ANNIVERSARY OF LITTLE COMPANY OF MARY’S
HEALTH CARE MINISTRY IN AUSTRALIA
Tom Brennan, Chair, Little Company of Mary Health Care Limited

They arrived to form part of a very young church. It was only 45 years previously, in 1843 that Archibishop Bede Polding, an English Benedictine, had succeeded in persuading the Pope to establish the Australian Church with its own hierarchy.

And so the history of the Sisters in Australia records the Sisters working in an extraordinary number of communities. Only a small part of that is reflected in the health care institutions which they also so successfully built.

Undoubtedly the most significant of the institutional contributions of the LCM Sisters to Australia has been to the professional quality and development of nursing.

Mother Mary Potter was very clear that her Sisters were to be well equipped for the work which they would do.

Professional nurse training was at the heart of so much of the LCM’s contribution to Australia. Nurse training schools were conducted in Adelaide from 1900, at Lewisham from 1908, at Mount St Margaret’s, which we now call Dalton Gardens, from 1931, in Hobart from 1947 and Cairns from 1952.

The Australian provincial, Mother Xavier, and twelve Sisters were the first nurses to sit the National Australian Trained Nurses exam in 1906. It was held at Lewisham Hospital. From 1907 the written component was held at Sydney University with the practical conducted at Lewisham.

Australian health care, and therefore the Australian community owes an enormous debt to the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary for the early and continuous focus on the quality of nursing education – general, psychiatric and maternity.

In his homily at St Paul’s Outside the Walls Cardinal Pell said:

“We thank God today for the contribution of all the women religious to the Catholic story “Down Under”, not merely the hundreds of young Australian and Irish women who joined the Sisters of St Joseph, but all the religious who have laboured for our benefit, served with “generosity and humility, gentleness and patience” to bring goodness and Godliness into the empty spaces of our vast continent.”

We recognise in those prayers the description of the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary in Australia. Their special focus on being for others, of providing for, and more importantly being with, the sick and the dying forms a very special part of our history and heritage.

Cardinal Pell said of St Mary McKillop:

“We thank God for the life, wisdom and contribution of St Mary of the Cross. We are grateful that she was not eccentric, not religiously exotic. We warm to her advice, are encouraged by her perseverance in sickness and adversity. Her faith and moral goodness are heroic, but not in a way which is off-putting or surreal. She does not deter us from struggling to follow her.”

Again it is very easy for us to see in those words the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary.

They have from the time of their founding worked actively and collaboratively with the laity in pursuing their mission. From very shortly after their foundation the Little Company of Mary was engaged in maternity nursing. A Cardinal in England thought that maternity nursing was not suitable for religious Sisters. That brought the work of the Sisters in maternity nursing to an end. That was no hindrance to Mary Potter. She quickly gathered together a small group of associate lay nurses, “Our Lady’s nurses”, who worked with the Little Company of Mary, as part of the Greater Company, to provide the maternity nursing services which their patients needed.

Tonight we celebrate that spirit, we thank and congratulate the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary for their contributions to Australia and the Australian Church over the last 125 years and we look forward with confidence to carrying on that spirit for the next 125 years.

Complete speech: http://www.calvarycare.org.au/assets/uploads/news/15/speech-re-125th-anniversary.pdf

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