Sisters reflect on visiting the Heritage CentrePrint
Having lived in our Convent at No 1 Rockwall Crescent, Potts Point for several years, I was amazed to see the transformation of our Convent into a stunning and informative Heritage Centre outlining our proud history since our arrival in Australia in 1838.
It is a showcase of all the works we have been involved in not only here in Australia but our overseas mission as well. Usually when you visit heritage centres, you are given a feast of information of the history of an organisation or group.
The thing that delighted me about our Heritage Centre is the focus that has been given to our current ministries.
Walking into our Heritage Centre, the first thing you are greeted with is the wonderful painting by Indigenous artist, Lisa Buxton, depicting our relationship with our First Australians and the work of the Sisters shown from an Aboriginal perspective.
As I currently work in the Northern Territory and am now familiar with authentic Aboriginal art, this painting made my heart sing.
This heritage centre is very modern with opportunities for interactive viewing as well as a theatre for movies and other displays.
The other important thing about this centre is that houses our Archives. Our Archives are extremely important not only to us as Sisters of Charity but to historians and others who often request information and artifacts from our Archives for research and historical displays.
This access I am sure will now be easier not only for our staff who work there but for those requesting the information.
Our Heritage centre and Archives are certainly a great testament to the Sisters of Charity and our work with the poor and disadvantaged since 1838.
It also shows how the vision of the Sisters have enabled the governance of our ministries to thrive into the future through the Trustees of Mary Aikenhead Ministries. I am sure it will be visited often by the staff and students from the hospitals, schools and colleges now under the governance of the Trustees, giving them the opportunity to learn about the history and roots of the institutions where they now work.
However, it is also important to remember that our mission and ministry continues. It has always been, and will continue to be, the work and face of Jesus today.
It is God’s work, and the spirit of Mary Aikenhead is truly seen through the Sisters today and we continue to take up her challenge to us to walk with and advocate for people who have only faint or no voices in our society and “to give to the poor what the rich can afford with money.”
I would like to urge everyone, if you are visiting Sydney to make your way to No 1 Rockwall Crescent, Potts Point to the Sisters of Charity Heritage Centre and be taken on a journey with the Sisters and be inspired at what can be done when 5 women from Ireland and England have the courage to get on a ship, to leave their countries to do God’s work in another land, transmitting the spirit of Mary Aikenhead, our Foundress, from generation to generation. – Leone Wittmack rsc
Image 1: Sr Leon; 2: The painting at the entrance of the Heritage Centre; 4: Lisa Buxton, the artist; 5: Sr Leone in the Congregational Archives with Sr Cate O’Brien
Finally, June 6 had come. For five years we had heard snippets about the new Heritage Centre. The chosen site had always been contentious but now we were invited to come and see, to celebrate and decide.
For me it was an experience of images and memories: The illuminated wording on the carpet as you moved through each of the various sections, Mary Aikenhead’s gifts to this tiny mission at the ends of the earth – the beautiful hand-written copy of the Constitutions and the hand-written copy of Sister M Xavier Hennessy’s Method Manual for the Government of Schools and the Teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic – all a tangible link with the Upper Gardiner Street School in Dublin. I stood before the life-sized photo of Sr M Conleth Cuneen on her Profession Day, in which she is wearing her Communion Cloak and I noted it is adjacent to Sr Moira O’ Sullivan’s well-worn Manual Work Apron.
The many talents and gifts of our Sisters celebrated – Sr M Ursula Smith’s magnificent calligraphy; a set of Mass Charts complete with gold leaf highlights contrasting with Sr Myrna Lynch’s hilarious cartoons, depicting life at Megiar PNG; a gift from one Sister to another – Sr M Vianney Byrne’s exquisite oil painting of a vase of chrysanthemums.
Sadly lack of time prevented me from being involved in the interactive display of Social Justice – the Refugee, the Unemployed, the Alcoholic and the Drug Addict, the Homeless and Victims of Domestic Violence. Another day. Finally being absorbed into the magnificent Indigenous Triptychs in the Foyer and noting the pulsating heart of Mary Aikenhead “ a stubborn woman” sending forth the five Sisters who made all of this possible. Incredible. I will be back. – Jeannie Johnston, rsc.
I experienced immense pride when I attended the Blessing and Opening of our new Heritage Centre. The building was very welcoming, open and airy and very attractive in design.
It so appealingly houses the story of our journey from the very beginnings of the Sisters of Charity in Australia to the present day. It gave me great pleasure to see the excitement and joy on the faces of those present as they discovered images of themselves and Sisters they had known, loved and ministered with in years past. So many memories, so many shared experiences, so many loved and respected companions, mentors and friends, many now resting from their labours in Heaven, brought to life once again by means of historic objects, photos, stories, images and technology. What an amazing gift to us all!
As I came away from the Heritage Centre, I found that I was profoundly moved by the story of our Sisters and their endless efforts to bring the love of Christ into the lives of the poor, the sick, the lonely, the marginalised, those in prison and the abused. They simply saw a need and did everything they could to meet and fill that need. No need was too great or too small. Urged on by the love of Christ, our Sisters of Charity have brought relief, comfort, practical assistance, conversion and hope into the lives of countless of God’s “little ones.”
Hopefully, by adopting Mary Aikenhead’s motto, I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. and inspired by our Congregational motto, The love of Christ impels us, we can together write the next chapter of the story of the Sisters of Charity of Australia. – Anne Turner rsc
The Heritage Centre – my reaction? In a word, “gob-smacked!”
Putting my words of appreciation on paper is difficult. Like others, I was privileged to attend the Heritage Centre Opening in June. The Congregation has been focused on the centre for some years now – years of visioning, gathering ideas and artefacts, not to mention discussion and complex decision making. As the time for the actual opening approached, excitement and curiosity mounted.
The Opening ceremony commenced in the Potts Point Chapel, where a capacity congregation had assembled for a meaningful and creative liturgy. The occasion was honoured by the presence of the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher OP, who spoke warmly and personally about the ministry of our sisters.
The “converted” convent at No 1 Rockwall Crescent was a miracle in itself! It is always much easier to build from scratch, than to convert an existing space, so here was a further challenge! However complex the process, the result is magnificent. The building was skilfully repurposed from a 12-bedroom convent to a superb Heritage and Archives Centre.
The Centre, however, is much more than a stunning building. It houses a veritable treasure – the record of 200 years of our ministry as Sisters of Charity, the first religious women to take vows in Australia.
The Heritage Centre and Archives is a generous gift to the Australian church, to researchers and anyone interested in colonial history – it is a genuine example of contemporary ‘best practice’. We can be proud to promote it. – Helga Neidhart rsc
I travelled from Melbourne to Sydney to be with our Sisters,Staff , friends and guests for the opening of our Heritage Centre and Archives.
It was a milestone in our Congregation. It is a place to give all who visit there a look inside our Congregation and a way of transmitting the spirit of our holy institute as Mary Aikenhead asks of us, we her daughters. All to the glory of God! – Regina Millard rsc
Reflecting on the opening day of the Heritage Centre, I recall saying, “I could never have imagined the dream would have become such a reality!”
Yes, it was the detailed planning of each area; the attractive setting out of each aspect of our life and ministry in Australia and, again, the detail applied to each. The feeling at the time was that I was walking our story, some of which I had been part and some of which had become part of me. I felt proud to be a Sister of Charity and to have in some small way contributed to that story.
May many be touched and inspired not only by what is seen but also by what it represents in terms of courage, vision, self-sacrifice and resourcefulness. – Margaret Scully rsc
My first reaction as I visited the Heritage Centre was “WOW!”
Over the last couple of years I wondered how an ordinary house could be transformed into a museum, archives, meeting place.
So, after walking around the Centre I stood in wonder, with a sense of thanksgiving for the sisters, architects, builders, curator, designers and many more who brought the dream of the Congregation to a reality.’ – Elizabeth Costigan rsc
An exciting new initiative that brings together pieces of our history since our original foundation and our very own Australian story.
The exhibits are very user friendly and attractively presented.
The Heritage Centre compliments well with the Harold’s Cross Heritage Centre and brings to life a further stage of our Congregational story.
Well done to all who had a hand in it’s development! – Helen Clarke
I was so looking forward to attending the Opening of the RSC Heritage Centre and Archives and I wasn’t disappointed.
As I walked into the centre, three images captured my eye as I glanced around the room: The large image of Mary Aikenhead on the left, the painting of the Five pioneer Sisters on the far wall and the striking Indigenous painting on the right. It was beautiful!
The chapel brought back so many wonderful memories of celebrations: professions, jubilees, chapters and funerals.
The courtyard had a serene atmosphere with quotes from Mary Aikenhead.
The archives are so well-designed, It was spacious and allows for growth, and each room had its own purpose. The staff expressed their delight in such a well-designed and spacious collection and working area.
The Heritage Centre has so much to see and encapsulates the story of the Sisters, their life, their ministries, and their talents. I need to go back and spent time at each section to really appreciate it all. I know I didn’t see and read everything on display.
I particularly want to thank everyone who were part of this project:- from the Sisters who first muted the wish of developing a Heritage Centre to all those who met, planned, designed and completed this amazing centre for all to see. – Christine Henry rsc
On June 6, I was at the opening of the Heritage Centre with Sr Josephine Cannell, the senior sister of the Congregation.
The liturgy was a very special one. For me, it brought back many memories being in the Chapel where I had made my final vows, Chapters and now the opening of the Heritage Centre and Archives.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP spoke so affirmingly of our many years of ministry in Australia and of the new addition to this Ministry the Centre.
Visiting the Centre after the blessing, I was very proud of the Archives and Heritage Centre which displayed our history since 1847 to 2019 with photos, pictures, plaques and so on.
I am looking forward to returning to the Heritage Centre to walk through the history at my own leisure. I thank everyone who contributed towards the opening of this most important part of our history. – Catherine Meese, rsc
The Heritage Centre provides a creative space for visitors to see, listen and hear the Mission of the Sisters of Charity of Australian in a creative, imaginative and comprehensive manner.
The exhibits tell the enfolding story of passion and diversity of the Sisters of Charity as they have responding to the emerging needs of the poor within Australia and across the globe for 180 years.
The stories highlight the centrality of relationships, the value of Colleagues and the reciprocity that serving the poor in a myriad of ways has enriched individual Sisters of Charity and the Congregation as a whole. – Linda Ferrington rsc
The Heritage Centre is brilliant, an inspiration and a grand tribute to Mary Aikenhead and all her Australian Daughters past and present.
Taking photos was such a privilege because so many people were so proud to be there, to be photographed and being part of the history of the day.
– Genevieve Walsh rsc