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Today marks 200 years since the birth of Mother Vincent Whitty–the Leader of the Sisters of Mercy who arrived in Brisbane in 1861 to establish the Brisbane Congregation.
Mother Vincent was born in County Wexford, Ireland in 1819. A trained teacher, she joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1839, only eight years after Catherine McAuley founded the Order.
In May 1861, Mother Vincent Whitty and five other women who had dedicated their lives to works of charity and mercy arrived in Australia. Mother Vincent had been a close associate of Catherine McAuley and joining a Mercy venture overseas had been the real desire of her heart for many years.
Under her guidance, this little group was committed to continuing the work of Mercy that had seen the establishment of Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Dublin.
Although the sisters were immediately busy with education and visiting the sick, Mother Vincent’s main ambition was to build a hospital dedicated to caring for the poor. In 1983, one year after Mother Vincent’s death, the sisters bought land at South Brisbane and began to develop plans for the present Mater campus.
Mater’s South Brisbane campus is home to the Whitty Building. This building served as the original Mater Public Hospital from February 1911 until 1981, when Mater Adult Hospital opened. The building was then known as the “Administration Centre” until 2008 when it was renamed in honour of Mother Mary Vincent Whitty.
Designed by architects Hall & Dods, the building had a “butterfly or “X” shape, which was popular in England in the early 20th century. The design’s broad verandahs provided effective ventilation for the Brisbane climate.
Although the building has undergone numerous extensions and additions, there are areas where the original structure and design are still evident including woodwork, pressed metal ceilings, plaster work and stained glass windows.
Images courtesy Mater Heritage and Archives Centre
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