Memories from the past: Mercy Sisters

1 Sep 2021

Above: St Brigid’s School West Perth c1899. Source: Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Australia in January 1846, and in that same month the first Mercy School
in Australia was opened by Mother Ursula Frayne and the Perth founding Sisters of Mercy, with one student in attendance.

Today, Mercedes College continues to operate at the original 1848 Perth convent site as a ministry of Mercy Education Ltd.

Mother Ursula and two sisters travelled to Melbourne in 1857, and shortly after arriving they opened Our Immaculate Lady of Mercy School Academy in Fitzroy with six pupils. Mother Ursula Frayne was the first principal, and this school (now known as The Academy of Mary Immaculate) still exists on the original site and remains the oldest Catholic girls’ school in Victoria.

In May 1861, Ellen Whitty (Mother Mary Vincent Whitty) and her five companions arrived in Brisbane at the invitation of Bishop James Quinn bringing the first Sisters of Mercy to Queensland.

That year, the Sisters founded All Hallows’ School, the first secondary school for girls established in Queensland. Mother Mary Vincent Whitty became the school’s first principal and the Sisters began teaching in the Dean’s cottage next to St Stephen’s Cathedral. All Hallows’ School marked 160 years of education in 2021.

In 1865, the North Sydney Mercies established a presence in Sydney under the leadership of Elizabeth McQuoin (Mother Mary Ignatius). The Sisters began teaching children and their first ‘school’ was the crypt under St Patrick’s Church in The Rocks, Sydney.

In 1866, the Bathurst Sisters of Mercy commenced classes for about 90 girls in spare classrooms at St Patrick’s School for boys. The North Sydney Sisters established a day and boarding school for girls in 1875, eventually the convent and college were named Monte Sant’ Angelo and the convent became the Mother House and Novitiate for the North Sydney Mercies.

In 1880, the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Adelaide from Argentina via London and wasted no time in opening a school at Angus Street in Adelaide in South Australia. This school, now known as St Aloysius College, still operates today as a ministry of Mercy Education Ltd.

Convent School Cobar, NSW c1884. Source: Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

In February 1884, Sisters of Mercy from the Bathurst Congregation opened a low-cost primary and infants’ school in Cobar in the Diocese of Wilcannia Forbes.

In 1888, the West Perth Congregation opened their first school at St Brigid’s Convent, Western Australia. St Brigid’s
College, Lesmurdie and Aranmore College, Leederville still operate today. Sisters of Mercy from Callan, Kilkenny arrived in Parramatta in 1888, opening a primary school on 10 December 1888 with 55 students.

In January 1889, the Sisters of Mercy at Parramatta opened a secondary school with seven girls. Over the next 20 years, the Sisters established a further 11 schools from Woolloomooloo to North Parramatta, in addition to St Michael’s boy’s
orphanage in Baulkham Hills and St Brigid’s girl’s orphanage in Ryde.

Mercy Education Ltd was established in 2011 and sponsors 13 schools in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Many schools and colleges across Australia owe their heritage to the Sisters of Mercy and many maintain strong Mercy links as members of the Australasian Mercy Secondary Schools Association.

Mercedes College, Perth.

All Hallows’ School Brisbane, 2020, Sisters of Mercy, accessed 16 June 2021.
Australasian Mercy Secondary Schools Association, 2021, Overview, accessed 16 June
Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia & Papua New Guinea, 2021, Our History,
accessed 16 June 2021.
Mercy Education Limited, 2021, Who we are, accessed 16 June 2021.
Sisters of Mercy, Brisbane Congregation, 2018, Who we are, accessed 16 June 2021.
Sisters of Mercy, North Sydney, 2021, Our Story, accessed 16 June 2021.
Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta, 2021, Our Parramatta Story, accessed 16 June 2021.


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