Leaving Clifton Hill, April 2017


Some 21 Sisters of Charity gathered on April 2 for Sunday Mass at St John’s Church (left), Clifton Hill, celebrated by parish priest, Fr Peter Hoang sdb, and Fr  Kellie Kam sdb.

The occasion? The Sisters, who have lived and ministered in the parish since 1894, were  being formally farewelled from Clifton Hill.

During his homily, Fr Hoang  thanked the Sisters for the great contribution they have made for more that 120 years to the life and work of the parish and school communities.

It was an opportunity for some of the Sisters to take part in liturgy. Sr Eileen Thynne, a past Principal, along with Gabrielle McMullen, a parishioner and a trustee of Mary Aikenhead Ministries shared the readings.  Srs Judith Christy and Jeannie Johnston, both past pupils of St John’s, offered the gifts on behalf of the congregation in the offertory procession. Sr Joan Stapleton was a Communion minister.

In the presentation before the final blessing, Jennifer Jacobs-Vandegreer (the liturgy co-ordinator) thanked the Sisters and made a presentation to the Congregational Leader, Sr Clare Nolan.

A presentation was also  made to Sr Joan Stapleton, the last Sister of Charity to be involved in the parish.

Jennifer spoke dearly of Srs Dorothy Maher and Joan’s contribution and assured the Sisters that though their formal presence had gone, the parish and school communities look forward to carrying on the work and tradition of the Sisters of Charity.

Daniel Ryan, the school principal spoke on behalf of the school community and made a presentation to Sr Clare.

Sr Clare gave a short historical overview of the Sisters at Clifton Hill which became a parish independent of St Brigid’s, North Fitzroy in 1885, and where St John’s parish primary school opened in 1886:

“In 1894, at the invitation of Fr Collins, the parish priest, the Sisters of Charity became the administrators of St John’s School. Four Sisters were appointed to teach at the school. They lived at the Convent in Victoria Parade, Fitzroy and travelled to St Johns by tram or walking. Sr Mary Francis McGrath was the first Principal of St Johns and Sr Pauline Nicholson the last. Sisters of Charity served as Principals from 1894 to 1990,” Sr Clare said.

In October, 1923 the parish priest proposed an agreement to find housing for ten Sisters including furnishings so the Sisters had no need to fundraise. On December 5, 1923 Sr Mary Berchman’s Daly responded gladly to the offer and offered 12 Sisters of Charity to teach in the School, a rectress who would supervise School and Convent and was free from teaching. Two Sisters would teach music and one Sister provided domestic help – a domestic Sister.

“In 1924 the Sisters took up residence at 12 North Terrace, a two-storey house, not far from here, purchased for the Parish by Fr May, parish priest. At this stage, nine Sisters taught in the School,” Sr Clare continued.

“Archbishop Daniel Mannix officially opened the convent and there were more than three thousand people present. The cost was two thousand pounds and an adjacent block of land was soon purchased.”

But times and needs moved on. “By May 2003, there were only two Sisters at North Terrace and plans were being made to move to 88 Rowe St that had been bequeathed to the Sisters of Charity by the O’Donnell sisters who were parishioners of St Johns. The Sisters took up Residence at Rowe St in May 2004,” said Sr Clare.

She then looked to the future: “Now it is time to move forward. We, the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity can look back and see great achievement and growth, but not without being surrounded by Priests, other Religious and people who supported us and encouraged us in our ministry of Education.

“May God bless each of you for coming this morning to celebrate and give praise and thanks to God for all Sisters of Charity who have served in this Parish. As you go, you may like to think of the image of a bridge and hear God saying to you: ‘T hat’s what bridges are for, to get you to the other side. Trust Me to protect you…I am the God of your journey’.”

For the final blessing during Mass, Fr Peter invited all the Sisters present to join him in the sanctuary.

After Mass, the congregation processed over to the Aikenhead Wing for lunch prepared by members of the parish and school communities.

Just before Fr Peter said Grace, he thanked the Sisters once again and made a presentation to Sr Clare.

Srs Clare, Jeannie Johnston, Judith Christy, and Joan Stapleton cut the cake (right).

The morning was a wonderful tribute to all the Sisters, especially those who lived and ministered in the Parish during the past 123 years.

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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