BRISBANE Sisters of Mercy were back at school this month to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of St Mary’s College, Ipswich.
Twelve Mercy Sisters joined past and present staff and students on May 1 for one of the college’s key sesquicentenary celebrations, a liturgy to bless and re-open Mercy House, previously known as Mercy Convent.
It was the first of several celebrations running from May 1-5.
St Mary’s principal Deidre Young said it was 150 years to the day since the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Ipswich.
“On the 1st May, 1863, the Sisters of Mercy, including Mother Vincent Whitty and Sister Jane Gorry, sailed up the Bremer River on the SS Sadler with Bishop Quinn and disembarked on Roseberry Parade where it meets East Street,” she said.
“The Sisters began teaching with 180 pupils.”
Ms Young said the Sisters initially lived where Ipswich Centre Plaza now stands, until the first convent was built.
“In 1874 the foundation stone of Mercy Convent, which was to be called St Brigid’s, was laid,” she said.
“However, due to financial crises, it was not completed until 1884 and on the 17th August, 1884, the Sisters of Mercy took up residence in Mercy Convent, known today as Mercy House.”
Ms Young said the college bought the convent from the Sisters of Mercy in 2002 and, in 2003, the building was renamed Mercy House.
“Over the past ten years, Mercy House has been used for a variety of purposes but what was clear, was that this grand old building desperately needed some attention,” she said.
Ms Young said a college master plan completed in 2009 included in its priorities the restoration of Mercy House.
She said the main challenge was matching the practical and modern use required of the building, with the responsibility to maintain the heritage features.
In officially opening the restored Mercy House, Bris-bane Catholic Education executive director Pam Betts said her own story was part of a great kaleidoscope of stories that made up the college’s 150 years and it was great to be a part of the Sisters of Mercy journey in Brisbane.
“I spent my first year as a teacher here at St Mary’s and I remain grateful for the support and mentoring that was offered to me during that formative year of my teaching,” she said.
Ms Betts said the community funded the bulk of the $3.5 million renovation cost for the old convent.
The State Government contributed $50,000 and the Ipswich City Council $10,000.
Ms Betts said Mercy House was a beautiful building and it was wonderful to see it restored.
“It adds significantly to the cultural heritage of not only St Mary’s but of the city of Ipswich,” she said.