Following the Little Way: The Sisters of Charity and the TheresiansPrint
World War I was not yet over, and life for the poor and the marginalised in Sydney – in suburbs such as Darlinghurst – was difficult and harsh.
Some 50 per cent of Catholic children in these areas went to diocesan schools or those run by religious institutes. The other 50 per cent? These were the children Sister of Charity St Therese (formerly Anna Cotter) wanted to bring into a loving embrace.
She had taken the name of St Therese after her profession, in honour of the French saint who proclaimed her vocation was “love.” Sr Therese was to live her vocation fully, in love with God, poor people and the young women and girls she attracted into the club. (Following the Little Way: Spreading the Faith 1918 – 1998 by Helena Farland.)
Sr Therese was professed at the age of 36, and was sent to minister at St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst. She was engaged in missionary work, visiting people in their homes. It was tough then, a place full of thugs and crooks, where impoverished families struggled to survive. There were also, as Sr Therese noted in her little book, a collection of “Careless Catholics” among the families with nine children needing to be clothed.
At the Sacred Heart Church in Darlinghurst, she set up her first club, preparing children for their first Communion, welcoming Catholics returning to the Church, and instructing others. Its early years are barely remembered, but as time went on, the Theresian Club grew larger and stronger.
Many Theresians discovered their vocations and entered religious orders. Among the institutes and congregations they entered were the Brigidines, the Good Samaritans, the Daughters of Charity, the Little Company of Mary, the Josephites, and the Presentation Sisters.
But the largest group entered the Sisters of Charity of Australia – some 44 Theresians entered. Among those still in the RSCs are Srs Mary Frances Gould, Dawn Bang, Eileen Browne, Dawn Bang, and Margaret Valentine.
Images: Sr M. Therese Cotter; Sr Patrice Lohan; Sr Leonard O’Neill
For more historical images of the Theresians, have a look at December 2019 Keep In Touch.