Sisters of Charity remember their ministries in Tasmania


In honour of the 170th anniversary of the Sisters of Charity in Tasmania, four of our Sisters remembered their time ministering in the Apple Isle.

Sr Jean Montgomery: One year at Kingston as possibly the happiest in my life

I was in Tasmania at two different times The first was for six years — 1961  to  1966 .  I spent one  year at Kingston and five years at Aikenhead House in Hobart. The second time I ministered as pastoral associate at Kingston from 1993 to 1995.

My very first year at Kingston has the most remarkable memories for me.

I was sent there  at the beginning of its second year. The convent Superior and school Principal was Sr Eileen Thynne. Community members were Sr M Agnes Mulquinney (RIP), Sr Patricia O’Loughlin and me.

The school was situated at the top of a hill with a stunning view of Hobart’s Derwent River.

In its second year, the school was still a very small school with lovely parents and children.  They were not wealthy people – but very generous and helped us build up the school. Many of the husbands were fishermen, and school fees would come to us in the form of fish. We often had fish for dinner !

We had a wonderful speech and drama teacher – Madam Kelly.  It was incredible how many times Madam Kelly was able to train those little country children to such a standard that they won almost every eisteddfod she entered them in.

Our parish priest was Fr Rex  Donoghue, a kindly priest who was very devoted to the church and his priestly duties. On Sundays,  as well as Mass at Kingston, he went to three out-station churches: Margate, Snug, and Longley. He appreciated the Sisters’ attendance at these Masses to lead singing and be there for the people of these areas.  I particularly loved going to these small churches and the people there.

In the parish were two spinster sisters, Jean and Kath Bradshaw, who were extremely good to us.

Every Sunday, Jean would have a thermos of coffee and fresh ham sandwiches for us to have on the way to either Margate, Snug, or Longley.

I loved living in this country atmosphere. We were a happy community and I look on this one year at Kingston as possibly the happiest in my life.

Sr Margaret Guy: A very special and memorable time

I think our Congregation of Sisters of Charity has special bonds with Tasmania going right back to our history of the first three sisters — John Cahill, Catherine O’Brien, and Xavier Williams being invited there by Bishop Willson in 1847.

I have heard many stories of Sisters’ ministry and community in Tasmania. These were around our ministries of gaol visitation, looking after children in Aikenhead House, and later caring for children in group homes at Taroona and educating children in schools, responding to the changing needs after the days of the Cascade Female Factory and Orphanage for children

I spent three years as a parish worker in Christ the Priest Parish, Kingston and consider my time very special and memorable.

Although there were many challenges, I found the people very welcoming and faith-filled. Parish groups were very much alive, as were the Eucharistic liturgies.

I felt very much part of the parish community. Being cut off from the mainland, I think we bonded more as an RSC community, which in my time was Mt Carmel, Sandy Bay, and Kingston.

Mt Wellington always dominated the scenery, along with the beauty of the Derwent River and the city of Hobart. Many times I took visitors up that mountain and enjoyed snow times there by myself or with other sisters.

Mt Wellington would have dominated the Cascade Female Factory and all those women imprisoned and suffering from hard labour (e.g. washing all the laundry with carbolic soap and often standing in water running down from the mountain).

I did not visit this now heritage site of the Cascade Female Factory till years later on during the 160 year celebrations of RSCs in Tasmania and 175 years of RSCs in Australia celebrations and then again on the morning of October 14  before the Unveiling Event in the afternoon.

This time impressed me more deeply. I seemed to learn more details of the daily life which these women and babies suffered and, as a result of which, many died.

With the sculptures unveiled, I felt as though these life-like figures, Indiarna 19, Alison 36, Laen , 27 and baby Harry and the boy Toby were so real. What suffering and hardship were ahead of them!

Sr Helga Neidhart: Ministry in Tasmania

Having just returned from our celebration of 170 years of RSC ministry in Tasmania, I ‘ve been invited to reflect on my contribution to this ministry.

While never resident in Tasmania, I’ve ministered there for around 20 years.

As a staff member at Australian Catholic University (ACU), I was invited by a former Tasmanian Director of Catholic Education to investigate the possibility of introducing the ACU Masters of Educational Leadership to Hobart and Launceston.

Tasmania, of course, has its own university with campuses in both the south and the north. ACU, however, was considered better able to offer an appropriate leadership program for Catholic schools.

Our Masters students were primary and secondary teachers with an interest in leadership studies. As these students were in full-time employment, we worked at weekends and in holiday times and lecturers travelled from the mainland.

Over the years, many cohorts graduated, and this helped create a strong base of leadership personnel for Catholic schools. Several students also proceeded to doctoral studies.

From this beginning came other invitations such as to participate on interview panels and do school and other performance reviews. I was also asked to mentor a director of Catholic education and several secondary principals.

Today, as I am no longer at ACU, my main involvement is in governance, which provides an ongoing opportunity to minister in Tasmania, where our contribution as Sisters of Charity has been both long and rich.

Sr Virginia Wilkinson: A memory of St Aloysius School, Kingston Beach

Being asked to write a reflection on some memory of my time living and teaching in Tasmania gave me much to think about. I chose this little anecdote as it is a very treasuredmemory of some very special children.

St Aloysius, Kingston Beach was a small, fairly new school in a semi-rural area, about 16 kms out of Hobart. The children came in from Snug, Margate, Longley, Kettering, and from Kingston itself. The school looked out on to a view of the mouth of the Derwent River that would be the envy of people anywhere in the world.

Every Friday morning, as the bus pulled up outside the school, out stepped Melba Kelly. As she approached the school, dressed in a most colourful array of flowing gowns, brilliant scarves and flamboyant hats, a quiver of joy and expectation went through the classrooms.  Melba was a speech and drama teacher of note, who no longer worked in the high school;s or the drama and theatre scene of Hobart, but who came to share her wonderful gifts with our children.

As in many small towns in Tasmania, Kingston had an excellent drama group known as the Kingston Players,  which produced wonderful plays each year to which we were always invited. I remember enjoying such plays as Bonaventure, and several Noel Coward productions.

This group organised a Junior Drama Festival each year and involved all the schools in the area. Due to the giftedness of Melba Kelly and the unbelievable talent of the children, St Aloysius took out the first place every year. Melba saw their possibilities and suggested competing in the Hobart City Eisteddfod. Most of our children had rarely, if ever, been into Hobart, so this was a very interesting and exciting experience. Here again, as Melba elicited the most beautiful speech, animate, and sheer talent from the children, they won many awards.

There was a section for boys only choirs, which catered for all the big high school groups of talented males. St Virgil’s College entered two big choirs each year, and frequently won first and second prizes. To meet the required number to compete in the choir section, our little school had to include boys from 7/8 years to 12 year-olds.

The day of the Hobart City Eisteddfod  finally arrived and we made our way to Hobart to take our place in history.

After sitting through  choir after choir performing over many hours, we were delighted again to take take first and second places with our combined choirs.  The time had come. Announcements had been made, and the boys from St Aloysius climbed on to the huge stand, on the huge stage, in the huge Hobart City Hall for the performance of their lives. As I saw how small they were, I wanted to take them down. To us, they were already champions.

However, the bell sounded for silent and a hush fell over the whole place. These young boys from outside the city limits were competing with the best. But only we knew that they had been trained by the best.

As the last line of the last poem can to an end there was a deathly silence throughout the hall. It was only seconds, but it seemed like minutes. Suddenly, the whole place erupted into a sea of applause. They had done it again. These boys had completed what they came for and it showed in their beaming smiles and angelic expressions.

Then the big moment came. From the back of the hall, the adjudicator approached the stage. She critiqued the performances, and then announced the place-getters: 3rd place to one of the big Hobart colleges; 2nd place, St Virgil’s Christian Brothers College. (I was very happy for them.)

I was feeling so much for our small, tired boys, standing there amid the senior boys in their very smart uniforms.

Finally it came: First place, St Aloysius School, Kingston Beach. The hall erupted again. Not just applause this time, but a standing ovation which seemed to go on for eternity.

The boys looked stunned. We were all stunned. As silence was called for, one of the smallest boys in the front row stepped down, walked across the front of the stage, looked across to where we sat, and called out in this beautiful young voice, with perfect diction: “WE WAS GOOD, SISTER, WAS WE?”

They had climbed the heights that day, but nothing could change our delightful, happy unsophisticated, St Aloysius children.

As a footnote,  Melba Kelly died in her sleep very soon after that Eisteddfod, aged in her late forties.


When we have so much to praise the Lord for, we must not complain.
True affection is to rejoice in the happiness of our dear ones. Never allow a sentiment of resentment to enter into our hearts.
Pray, reflect and consult – and may the divine spirit direct all to God’s greater glory.
May our dear Lord Jesus fill your hearts with His own love. Amen!
We must have patience with others as He has patience with us.
Under every difficulty try to pray fervently.
We have much to thank Him for, even for those little drawbacks on our comforts and conveniences.
Do pray that justice may be accomplished in peace and that truth may prevail.
Go on now as steadily as you can, relying on the Divine assistance and fear not.
What we do ought to be done well.

The Sisters of Charity acknowledge the First Peoples and traditional custodians of this land where we live. We respect, value and honour their history, culture and spirituality. We are committed to standing in solidarity and to actively working for justice, peace and harmony in this land.

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