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Celebrating 150 years of Sisters of Mercy 3

21 August, 2023
Students from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, North Rockhampton, present Sr Anne Slattery and Sr Desma Clarke with Year 1 student portraits of Mary the Mother of Jesus as part of the 150 Years celebrations.

Catholic Education in the Diocese of Rockhampton (CEDR) and The Cathedral College (TCC) community recently hosted celebrations to mark the arrival in Rockhampton of the Sisters of Mercy on 4 August 1873, 150 years ago.

The celebrations commenced at the 8am Parish Mass on Thursday 3 August at St Joseph’s Cathedral. At the conclusion of the Mass, a Morning Tea was held to honour 150 years of dedicated service by the Sisters of Mercy to the Diocese of Rockhampton.

Thirty Sisters attended both the Mass and the Morning Tea in addition to representatives from TCC, the Catholic Education Office, Catholic schools in the Rockhampton area and parishioners.

In welcoming people to the Mass, Principal of TCC, Mr Rob Alexander said this milestone occasion gave them the opportunity to give thanks to God for the gift that the Sisters of Mercy have been to Catholic Education over the past 150 years. “150 years ago, on 4 August 1873, an event took place in Rockhampton that was to shape the lives of thousands of people, including many of us sitting in this Cathedral today” Mr Alexander said.

Mr Alexander said on that August day in 1873, seven Sisters had arrived by boat in the Fitzroy River after an arduous journey on the “Lady Bowen” thus beginning an incredible mission of outreach to the communities of Central Queensland including the foundation of many of our Catholic schools. “Today, as we celebrate this significant milestone of service, we thank you Sisters for your courage, commitment, and compassion and for your ongoing prayerful support of Catholic Education and TCC” Mr Alexander said.

At the Morning Tea that followed, Director of Catholic Education – Diocese of Rockhampton (CEDR), Ms Leesa Jeffcoat, said that Catholic Education owed a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Sisters of Mercy. “The first Sisters left everything familiar to them, travelled to the fledgling town of Rockhampton to minister and care for those in the community who were poor, disadvantaged, sick or marginalized, and went on to establish a presence that would touch countless lives through their outreach in education, health and simply caring for those in need in their communities,” Ms Jeffcoat said.

Ms Jeffcoat said that many Catholic schools and Colleges in the Diocese of Rockhampton were founded by the Sisters of Mercy and were places where a faith-based education in the Catholic tradition was accessible to all families long before government funding was made available. “Their tenacity, resourcefulness, dedication to their mission, and their absolute faith that God would provide whatever they needed, saw them through the most challenging of times,’ Ms Jeffcoat added.

Ms Jeffcoat said the Mercy spirituality so clearly described and witnessed by the Order’s foundress, Catherine McAuley, has always been at the heart of story of the Sisters of Mercy and has been a source of inspiration for many in Catholic Education in this region since 1873.

On behalf of the Sisters, Sr Anne Keim, Northern Community Leader of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea, expressed heartfelt thanks to Fr Jomon Poothara, Miss Jeffcoat, Mr Alexander and all who had assisted in organizing these very special celebrations that honoured the work of the Sisters in this Diocese over the past 150 years.

Students from The Cathedral College, Rockhampton with Sisters of Mercy following Mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral celebrating the sesquicentenary of the arrival of the Sisters in Rockhampton.