Providence Provides

Providence Provides: The Brigidine Sisters in the NSW Province

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: UNSW Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Providence Provides
    Book Description:

    Since the arrival of the first six Irish-born nuns in Coonamble in central west New South Wales in 1883, generations of Brigidine Sisters have set up schools and other ministries in Australia and New Zealand, and dealt with educational, social and religious challenges. Janice Garaty reveals the story of the Brigidines in the New South Wales Province in this evocative history.

    eISBN: 978-1-74224-630-7
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-V)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. VI-VI)
    Anita Murray

    One of our deepest longings is to know our origins, what Thomas Hardy calls ‘the family face’ and what the current popular TV show calls ‘Who do you think you are?’. This longing is as true for institutions as it is for individuals, and in this well-researched book the author brings together the many threads that reveal ‘the family face’ of the NSW Brigidines.

    She weaves together the threads of their very Irish origins, their introduction to Australian life on the black soil plains of Coonamble, their subsequent many foundations, their steady growth in numbers that so rapidly declined in...

  4. Author’s notes
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-X)
    Kathleen Butler
  6. 1 Soft green fields to black soil plains
    (pp. 1-21)

    They were setting out on a journey to the Antipodes – to a small beginning in a wide brown land of unimaginable proportions and physical challenges beyond their ken. The six black-clad figures stepped into the coach before the sun broke through the soft mist. They had breakfasted after a Mass that would stay forever in their memories; a shared expression of the spiritual values they held so dear. It was 17 April 1883; the time had come for these Sisters of St Brigid to farewell Ireland and to begin their mission. Their bishop and his vicar-general stood wharfside and continued...

  7. 2 Expanding horizons
    (pp. 22-42)

    The close ties between Mother John’s good friend and mentor, Bishop James Murray, and Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran would allow her small band of Brigidines to gain a foothold in the Archdiocese of Sydney, which at this time stretched from the southern edge of Murray’s Diocese of Maitland as far as the Victorian border. A decision she faced in late 1887 would not have been made lightly but had to be made quickly. Considerations of distance from Coonamble and from Sydney, the site of the only university in the Colony of New South Wales, had to be weighed against the...

  8. 3 Novices and a sea change
    (pp. 43-66)

    Mother John’s leadership was put to the test by events in her homeland and in Rome. Bishop Lynch of Kildare and Leighlin was convinced that the Institute of the Sisters of St Brigid would not receive official approval from Rome while each of the Irish houses of the Sisters of St Brigid remained autonomous. Consequently, in August 1889 he effected amalgamation and pronounced Tullow to be the Irish mother house and general novitiate, decreeing all novices be sent there.¹ Mother Gertrude Kelly was elected the first superior general for a six-year term at the first Irish Chapter in 1889.² The...

  9. 4 A golden period
    (pp. 67-96)

    TheSydney Morning Heraldran a series of articles on girls’ schools in 1921. Its reporter had been enchanted by Mother Provincial Claver Cooke and her ‘flow of ready wit’ as theHeraldwas shown around ‘the tennis courts, the fernery and the row of Christmas trees’ at Mount St Brigid. The reporter concluded: ‘We left feeling that Nature’s gifts had been unsparingly bestowed upon the college environments and not less so upon its capable and queenly head.’¹ Such a report would do no harm in enhancing a reputation already well established in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

    The influx of Irish...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. 5 Brisbane beckons
    (pp. 97-119)

    At the same time as the Brigidines were establishing their Maroubra school across the sand dunes from the mother house at Randwick, they were being urged to set up a new community at Leura, in the upper Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Archbishop Kelly donated money for the purchase of land and Mother Superior thought it was a ‘splendid opening for the Sisters’. However, it was not to be. Mother Provincial Stanislaus Hayden informed Archbishop Kelly: ‘As our want of nuns is so great at present we could not open another school.’¹ Nine years later a request by Archbishop Duhig...

  12. 6 Boom times in the sunshine state
    (pp. 120-145)

    At Indooroopilly the Brigidines had proved to be successful educators, willing contributors to the development of the archdiocesan school system and, most importantly, capable of living and working in resource-poor conditions without complaint. Archbishop Duhig, who had invited the Brigidines to his Brisbane Archdiocese in 1927, had remained a staunch patron and a good friend. The time had come for the congregation to establish a second convent in Queensland. When, in 1947, Fr Bartholomew (Bart) Frawley (later Monsignor) asked Archbishop Duhig’s permission to invite the Brigidines to his parish of St Bernadette’s at Scarborough on the northern tip of the...

  13. 7 The country houses are challenged
    (pp. 146-178)

    Over the decades from 1900 to the end of World War II, the Brigidine country houses shared a disadvantage of distance from the Randwick mother house, and isolation from their other Brigidine Sisters. The cost of travel to Sydney for medical needs was borne by the community and chronic illness was an ongoing financial concern. If a lay sister was taken ill, there was the added burden of the community performing her household duties on top of their own teaching duties. In the early twentieth century their convents were austere, with little heating, few if any labour-saving appliances, and primitive...

  14. 8 St Brigid’s Sisters go west
    (pp. 179-205)

    The NSW Province had eight schools in New South Wales and Queensland when it received a call in late 1940 from across the continent for teaching religious. Mother Provincial Anthony Finn received a letter from the Archbishop of Perth, Dr Redmund Prendiville, which was flattering in tone: ‘During the past few years, I have considered the advisability of inviting your Sisters to come to this Archdiocese. I have heard of your great success in the field of education, and I am most anxious to add to the present teaching strength of my schools.’¹ Dr Prendiville’s invitation was to Subiaco, by...

  15. 9 New demands in the country houses
    (pp. 206-232)

    Soon after the war ended the NSW Province was confronted by the challenges of contributing to the ‘development of a multi-cultural society’ in which Catholicism, as ‘the church of all nations’ played a significant role.¹ The Brigidine Sisters were ill equipped to teach secular subjects and catechetics to the influx of non-English speakers in their schools. Added to the struggle to find and fund lay teachers to supplement the numbers of teaching religious was the need to communicate with children, and their parents. The challenges faced by the country communities in the 1950s and ’60s mirrored those of their city...

  16. 10 Difficult decisions in Sydney
    (pp. 233-260)

    The future of the province’s secondary schools became increasingly precarious in the 1970s and hard decisions had to be made, with the closure of the Brigidines’ boarding schools just one of many changes necessitated by the overall decline in personnel numbers and the redirection of activities away from classroom teaching and administration. The dilemmas the Brigidines faced were common to all religious institutes post Vatican II. In NSW Catholic schools, the decline in the participation of teaching religious was rapid, from 3654 in 1965 (69 per cent) to 3240 (50 per cent) by 1970 and to only 1809 by 1980...

  17. 11 New directions
    (pp. 261-289)

    An important gathering took place at the Convent of the Sacred Heart Rose Bay in January 1955. It was the first Congress of Religious Sisters in Australasia, held under the patronage of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Carboni.¹ It brought together religious leaders from Australia, New Zealand and Oceania and was attended by the Brigidine mother general and the NSW and Victorian mothers provincial. This historical gathering addressed the initial and ongoing formation of religious women. Mother Provincial Lawrence Kinkead was a discussion leader on the topic of vocations and another topic of discussion was the spiritual training of the novice....

  18. Afterword: Into the new century
    (pp. 290-303)
    Maureen Keady

    When the Brigidine Sisters worked together in Brigidine schools, they were highly visible. However, over the last twenty years or so that has not been the case, and people have wondered where the sisters are these days and why they are not still in the schools.

    During the last twenty years the relatively small number of sisters who remained in the education apostolate were in schools other than the traditional, well-established Brigidine schools. Sisters Annette Mansour and Pat Nagle, who remained at Holy Family School Maroubra, were exceptions to the general trend. As the Catholic education system developed in the...

  19. Appendix I: Sisters who celebrated the Brigidine Bicentenary 2007
    (pp. 304-306)
  20. Appendix II: Brigidine Sisters — engagement in education
    (pp. 307-309)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 310-325)
  22. Index
    (pp. 326-334)