Tasmanian sisters celebrate as Dominicans mark 150 years in Australia

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Tasmanian sisters celebrate as Dominicans mark 150 years in Australia

Dominican sisters from Tasmania have joined with sisters from around the country in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Order’s arrival in Australia.

Held at St John’s Catholic Church in Maitland, NSW, the national celebrations commemorated the year that a group of Irish Dominican sisters arrived in Australia from Ireland to begin a teaching ministry here.

One of Tasmania’s two Dominican sisters, Sr Pamela Davis, travelled to New South Wales to mark the occasion.

The Order has its roots in the 12th century, when it was founded by St Dominic as a religious community of preachers.

“It’s extraordinary really that after 800 years we’ve still got the same charism and hopes and joys of the Order,” Sr Pamela said.

It took until 1959 for Dominican sisters to reach Tasmania, invited by Archbishop Guilford Young.

“We were invited here to Tasmania by Archbishop Guilford Young through the work of Fr John Wallis. He was the parish priest out here at the new parish of Glenorchy and he was very anxious to have Catholic education in his area,” Sr Pamela said.

“Some of the sisters were in Glenorchy and some went out and taught at Claremont. We also were involved in some parish work as well.”

Sr Pamela herself first came to Tasmania in 1963 – in a manner quite different to those earlier Dominicans.

“They came in these old leaky boats that must have terrified them out their wits, and they came across the ocean,” she said.

“I took the plane, and I was never so terrified in all my life – I’d never been on a plane before, but I’ve been many times since, I can tell you. But I got here.”

She still has connections with those she encountered during the early days.

“I was pretty young and vigorous in those years, so it was exciting and we had a lovely time and I still have quite a lot of communication with the girls we had at first.”

Her fellow Dominican, Sr Mary Rickards, taught at Holy Rosary in Claremont over two periods: firstly as a grade 3-4 teacher in the late 60’s and then again between 1974 and 1975 as principal. Between 2006 and 2014 she worked at Dominic College with special needs children.

Both sisters no longer teach, but are involved in other works of service. Sr Mary assists in the library of two local schools, while Sr Pamela is involved in pastoral and liturgy work at Glenorchy Parish.

St John’s in Glenorchy held a special Mass in honour of the 150th anniversary of the Dominican sisters on Sunday, October 1.