Celebrating 160 Years of the Sisters of Mercy in Queensland

On this day 160 years ago, Mother Mary Vincent Whitty (Ellen Whitty) and a daring group of five Sisters of Mercy landed on Queensland shores after a six-month ocean voyage from Dublin.

On board, they had endured no electric lights, no matches, and no refrigeration. Conditions were appalling by any standard, but Mother Whitty remained steadfast.

"I just feel that I am in God's hands. I have made every sacrifice my conscience demanded of me and He will do what is best,' she said."

Newly arrived on Brisbane’s shores, the Sisters purchased their first permanent home, 'Adderton', on Ann Street, renamed Convent of Our Lady of Mercy, All Hallows' on 1 November 1863. It remained their base for 144 years, but they also established Mercy centres in Townsville in North Queensland and Rockhampton in Central Queensland.  

The foundations of today’s Mater were firmly laid.

Mother Whitty died in 1892.  During her lifetime, she grew the Brisbane congregation from six to 222 Sisters managing 26 schools and around 7000 pupils, a teacher training college, a secondary girls' school, an orphanage and an industrial school.  

While she had played a large part in establishing the Mater Hospital in Dublin, and worked tirelessly to fulfil the Mercy Mission here in Queensland, Mother Whitty sadly never lived to see her dream of founding a hospital here for the poor and sick.  This was left to her successor, Mother Patrick Potter, who established the first Mater Hospital in Brisbane in 1906.  

In honour of Mother Whitty’s incredible contribution and vision, the original Mater Public Hospital building, opened in 1911 on the South Brisbane campus, was later renamed the Whitty Building.

The pioneering endeavours of Mother Whitty and the Sisters of Mercy evolved into the Mater Mission and services that guide and inspire us to this day.

Our Mission:
We serve together to bring God’s mercy to our communities through compassionate, transforming, healing ministries.

Our values:
We honour and promote the dignity of human life and of all creation.
We act with compassion and integrity.
We strive for excellence.

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