From humble beginnings
The Sisters of Mercy Catholic Order was founded in Ireland by Catherine McAuley in 1831.
Throughout her life Catherine was particularly committed to women and children, the sick and dying. Her approach to her Mission was characterised by innovation, collaboration and high professionalism. She wanted to meet the needs that nobody else was addressing.
The Sisters of Mercy took their mission to those in need; they went into prisons, hospitals and homes offering care and support. As nurses, social workers and teachers, the “walking nuns” brought care, solace and inspiration into thousands of homes and lives.
On 10 May 1861 Mother Mary Vincent Whitty and a group of six Sisters of Mercy settled in Brisbane and established a congregation at All Hallows, Fortitude Valley.
Hospital facilities were virtually non-existent at this time. The former convict hospital was the only hospital, struggling to operate with minimal assistance and relying on a small number of subscribers.
In the decades that followed, the Sisters established schools and orphanages throughout Queensland as well as a teachers training college and home for unmarried mothers.
Mother Mary Patrick Potter succeeded Mother Vincent in 1892 and within the first year of her appointment in 1893, the Sisters bought 10 acres of land at South Brisbane for £7000 and earmarked it for a hospital, but it was not until 1910 that one opened on the site.
When the first Mater hospital opened in a private house, ‘Aubigny’, at North Quay in 1906, Brisbane’s healthcare situation had improved—but the new hospital still filled a desperate community need.
‘Aubigny’ was a temporary facility until the Sisters of Mercy could raise enough money to build a hospital at the South Brisbane site. It was this small fee-paying private hospital and a huge fundraising effort that helped to provide the much needed funds.