Return to Edition Index

Bundaberg Mater celebrates 75 years

17 August, 2021
Sr Beryl Amedee, Sr Mary Della, Judy Christensen, Rita Hyde

Bundaberg Mater Hospital celebrates 75 years of care

A celebratory mass was held at Mater Private Hospital Bundaberg on Wednesday 28 July 2021 to mark 75 years since the hospital first opened its doors to care for the Wide Bay community.

Mater Chair Francis Sullivan, Mater Chief Executive Officer Dr Peter Steer, Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt and Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey attended the event, along with several former and current nurses and doctors who have trained and worked at the Bourbong Street hospital over the past seven decades.

Bundaberg Mater Hospital Executive Officer Catherine Hackney said the hospital was founded on 28 July 1946 by the strength and spirit of the Sisters of Mercy and had been delivering compassionate care to the community ever since.

“This hospital has played a special role in many people’s lives over the years, including my own,” Ms Hackney said. “My parents are both GPs and I spent many hours here when I was growing up, even spending the night occasionally when my mum was providing after-hours cover. My very first day as a qualified nurse was in the operating theatres here and although I have worked in other hospitals, I have kept coming back to this one because it’s a special place.”

Special guests also included Sisters of Mercy and relatives of the owners of the original grand home that became the hospital, as well as nurses and other staff who learned their craft inside the wards.

Former nurse Terri Bretherton, who was one of three siblings to train and work at the hospital in the 1970s, remembers hard but rewarding work and plenty of fun living in the nurses’ quarters.

“I worked at the hospital on and off for 40 years,” she said. “I finally left Mater in 2013 to work at CQUniversity, involving myself in the education of future Mater nurses.”

Mater Board Chair Francis Sullivan said Bundaberg was an integral part of the Mater hospital network in Queensland.

“Today’s 75th anniversary celebrations provide us with an opportunity to reaffirm Mater’s commitment to caring for the people of Bundaberg and its surrounding region,” Mr Sullivan said.

Mater Chief Executive Officer Dr Peter Steer said the anniversary was testament to its commitment to providing safe, compassionate care to the communities it served.

“Last year, Mater made the decision to become one single, uniform organisation, creating the largest not-for-profit health network in Queensland,” Dr Steer said. “This has provided each of our hospitals – including Bundaberg – with an unprecedented ability to leverage resourcing and expertise from across the state.”

The celebrations included a curated display of donated keepsakes and memorabilia from the past 75 years.

Homily give by Fr John Daly

“Have I told you lately that I love you.” A few evenings ago I was listening to songs on YouTube – a discovery I’ve made since the Corona Virus.

Van Morrison appeared singing “Have I told you lately….”. Some of the words are:

 Have I told you lately that I love you.

 Have I told you there’s no one else above you.

You fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness,

ease my troubles that’s what you do.

For the morning sun in all its glory greets the day with hope and comfort too.

You fill my life with laughter and somehow you make it better,

 ease my troubles that’s what you do.

There’s a love that’s divine, it’s yours and it’s mine

and at the end of the day we should give thanks and praise

to the one, to the one.”

While this is a love song and a song of gratitude and hope of one person to another, it is also a love song we can sing to this Bundaberg Mater Misericordia Hospital founded 75 years ago.

From the very beginning this hospital has been dressed in gowns of Mercy. The spirit of Mercy gave the vision, courage and hope to citizens of Bundaberg and the Sisters of Mercy to begin this hospital. The same spirit of Mercy has continued till today.

So today we gather to tell again the story of this hospital founded on Mercy – to remember. During this Mass we celebrate 75 years and using the words of our song – “and at the end of the day we should give thanks and praise to the One, to the One.”

As we remember and give thanks, we are grateful to the Sisters of Mercy who from the beginning and for many years with the partnership of nurses and doctors have run and served the countless people who have sought help and healing here – healing that has been both physical and spiritual. We acknowledge the Sisters of Mercy here today – descendants of many extraordinary women.

The founder of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley, is an extraordinary witness to Mercy and what it can do for our world, especially the poor. She had a vision which enabled her to gather young women together to embrace God’s mercy and care for the poorest.

They began by taking in and giving hospitality to homeless women and children. Their nursing role began in earnest when Catherine and her companions staffed a cholera hospital in 1832 – when no one else in Dublin was prepared to do so.

From her group of young women the Sisters of Mercy were founded to ultimately bring the Gospel of Mercy to the world especially to the needy and poor, reaching even our home town of Bundaberg.

Many years ago, the Sisters of Mercy handed the administration and nursing over to lay people – nurses, doctors, administration staff, various other dedicated workers and volunteers, chaplains, and Holy Communion ministers. No doubt these will be acknowledged today.

But we remember them – those from the past and these presently serving here, and give thanks in this Mass.

They were handed not just a hospital building but to witness, in their service, this Gospel of Mercy.

As our song goes – “have I told you lately that I love you.” John, in the gospel today and Paul in his letter to the Romans speak of love. It is no ordinary love. It is a difficult love. It is a self-sacrificing – a giving love. It is the demanding love we can call “Mercy.”

As our Scripture Readings tell us, it is the greatest commandment that Jesus gives us. “Love one another.”

In many ways this sense of love we can call Mercy is itemized for us in Paul’s letter and in our song “Have I told you lately….”

Paul says love must never be a pretence, we must show profound respect for each other, and not give up if trials come. Be with others by rejoicing when they rejoice, being sad when they are in sorrow.

 “You fill my heart with gladness,

take away my sadness

 Somehow you make it better

 ease my troubles, that’s what you do.”

Paul finally says, “Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending.”

The Spirit of Mercy, especially as described in our scriptures, has walked through these corridors now for 75 years. The buildings have changed over the years but the same challenge is present.

Be merciful.

So Mercy must be in the hearts of all who serve here. Mercy must be experienced by those who seek care here; must show reverence and honour all who die here.

Today is very personal for many who gather here. Our stories, and the story of this Mercy hospital becomes intertwined. It is personal for me. The hospital is one year younger than I am. I have been part of its story over the 75 years;

as patient quite a few times (as a child and in recent years),

as visitor to the sick and dying,

as support for staff and so on.

Many members of my family have been cared for here:

My father died here in 1965.

My mother, very beautifully cared for physically and spiritually , was here quite a few times until she passed from this life in 2004 in the embrace of love in this hospital.

My grandmother, aunty, uncles, a young nephew have been cared for and died here in the arms of Mercy.

It has been personal and supportive for many in our city who have experienced healing themselves, or for a family member or friend. All experienced the comfort given to the dying ones they lost.

This hospital is a celebration of mercy and compassion. Mercy gives it its identity. We celebrate particularly those who have served here over the years and you who continue in various ways to serve and respect the sick and dying.

Have I told you lately that I love you? This song we sing to the Bundaberg and district communities, especially to the sick, troubled and dying.

Have I told you lately that I love you,

have I told you there’s no one else above you.…….

and at the end of the day we should give thanks and praise

to the One, to the One.