Sisters of Mercy celebrate 125 in Grafton

THERE was an overwhelming sense of goodwill and happiness during celebrations on Saturday to mark 125 years of the Sisters of Mercy in Grafton.

Congregation leader Sister Barbara Bolster said that despite stifling heat, a wonderful gathering of people came together outside the church for morning tea.

“If only Catherine McAuley, the first Sister of Mercy, Clare Moore, the first superior in Bermondsey and M Stanislaus Simson, Grafton foundress, could have been in Grafton on Saturday,” she said.

“How they would have rejoiced.

“Catherine's spirit was carried from Dublin to Bermondsey and thence to Grafton; it was palpable in the congregation at St Mary's Church, Grafton, as the celebrations began.”

She said the fellowship was 'grand' and would no doubt have impressed Catherine McAuley.

Invited guests later moved to the Convent, where Sister Berenice Kerr had prepared an historical presentation to launch 'Letters to Bermondsey From the Pioneer Sisters of the Grafton Community'.

Grafton craftsman Jim Muldoon, a former student, built a cedar box to hold a cup and saucer, which was part of an original tea set given to the Sisters before they left Bermondsey. The cup and saucer are now being returned.

The current Sisters later attended the old Grafton Cemetery where all but one of the Pioneer Sisters are buried.

Sr Bev Whitton had prepared a simple ritual of prayer and remembrance, and a single rose was placed on each grave.

Sr Barbara said the story of the Grafton foundation was not over.

“As Sisters and friends read and re-read the letters written 'home' between 1884 and 1939, there is no doubt that they will be encouraged and re-energised to continue the work that was so dear to the heart of Catherine McAuley, Stanislaus Simson and the Sisters who left Bermondsey, their 'first, dear Convent home' to come to 'wild Australia',” she said.

“We rejoice in the shared gifts of all who celebrated with us the blessings of 125 years of foundations in the Lismore Diocese and outreach to PNG, Asia and Africa.”

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