We give thanks for the Sisters of Mercy

Earlier in June, Bishop Michael McKenna concelebrated Mass with priests from across the Diocese at St Joseph’s Church, to recognise and express appreciation for the work of the Sisters of Mercy in the Diocese of Bathurst for over 150 years. Retired Sisters of Mercy were joined by teachers, students and parishioners who acknowledged the profound contribution of the Mercy Sisters.

As an ex-convent school kid from St Matthew’s Mudgee, the occasion brought back many memories of the Sisters. Together with the Sisters of St Joseph, the Sisters of Mercy, provided education for countless children throughout the country Australia. Memories flood back of playing marbles on the dusty gravel area that was our playground, of half school days for Saints, of Benediction, of Altar boy weekly rosters, of rows of single desks, chalkboards, of a peppercorn tree in the bare playground and the bottles of plain milk provided to every primary school student in NSW. Amidst this, I remember the Sisters of Mercy dressed in their full nun garb throughout the year.

I was taught by several nuns, including a Sr Carmelita and Sr Margarita. I have incredible respect for the Sisters, whose lives were devoted to serving God and the mission of the Church, having taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Their lives in those days were often very harsh, regulated and in some perspectives of modern society, thankless. Long days, few holidays, many responsibilities and expectations, and a lack of the material pleasures often given priority in our society. A shining example of their dedication comes in the form of a Sister my Mum still talks about in Mudgee. Sister Mary Clement, retired last year, after 40 years of involvement in Mudgee, after 70 years of service in her vocation, a commitment that saw her still helping others in her 90s.

In Orange, the Mercy Sisters arrived in 1878. Countless women in Orange owe their education to Santa Maria and the Sisters of Mercy. In 1980, the girls joined the boys at James Sheahan Catholic High School and Sister Marjorie Hennessy became Vice Principal of the new school. James Sheahan continues to honour the work done by the Sisters of Mercy and the De La Salle Brothers and aims to continue to inspire students with these two wonderful charisms.

Last year, a milestone was reached when the last teaching Sister of Mercy, Sister Carmel Quade retired from Catherine McAuley Primary School. The Sisters continue to play active roles in their communities, in social work and environmental causes, in the Church and supporting each other.

Thank you Sisters. In the words of Sister Paula, you indeed have transformed many lives and, in doing so, have been transformed. May God continue to bless you and care for you.

Mr Peter Meers

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