Sisters of Charity celebrate 175 years in Australia

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Sisters of Charity celebrate 175 years in Australia
L-R: Sr Helen Clarke RSC, Dr Dianne Snowden and Emeritus Archbishop Adrian Doyle with the newly unveiled plaque

A new plaque was unveiled in March, at the Female Factory in South Hobart to commemorate 175 years of the Sisters of Charity in Australia.

Emeritus Archbishop Adrian Doyle blessed the plaque, alongside Sr Helen Clarke RSC, a trustee of the Mary Aikenhead Ministries who has been a Sister of Charity for 50 years.

The Sisters of Charity first arrived in Australia on 31 December 1838, following a request from Bishop Polding of New South Wales. Celebrations for the Sisters of Charity’s 175th anniversary therefore commenced in Australia in 2014.

“The plaques were donated to over 80 facilities (hospitals, schools etc) where the Sisters of Charity had ministered during their 175 years in Australia. This included the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart where the Sisters visited daily to support the Catholic women convicts,” explained Sr Helen.

Significantly, this event was held in the week of International Women’s Day – a fitting tribute to the women who pioneered welfare and Catholic education in Tasmania. 

“There were originally only three Sisters who arrived in Hobart after spending time in Sydney after their arrival from Ireland. These were the first nuns in Australia. They are buried at Cornelian Bay cemetery in Hobart,” said Sr Helen.

Attending the event was Dr Dianne Snowden. Dr Snowden’s grandmother’s first cousin, Sr Leonard (born Alice O’Neill), was one such pioneer who entered the order of the Sisters of Charity in Australia in 1930.

“As an historian specialising in convict women’s history, I have long been interested in the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site and the Orphan Schools at New Town. The Sisters of Charity were the only regular visitors to both institutions,” said Dr Snowden.

“Because of my personal and professional interest in the work of the Sisters of Charity at the convict institutions, I felt privileged to be able to attend the plaque unveiling at the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site on Thursday 9 March 2017, acknowledging the contribution of the Sisters of Charity at that site. It was a moving event and a reminder of the significant contribution made by the Sisters of Charity in helping the poor and marginalised from the time of their arrival in the colony of Van Diemen’s Land in 1847,” said Dr Snowden.