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Missionary doctor regrets that she didn’t do enough

Mary Glowrey

Medical missionary: Sr Mary Glowrey gives medical treatment among the poor.

SR Mary Glowrey was the world’s first missionary religious sister who was also a medical doctor.

Born in 1887, in Birregurra, Victoria, Mary completed her secondary education in Melbourne, on a scholarship, matriculating at 14 years of age.

She won an exhibition to the University of Melbourne and graduated in 1910 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. 

She completed her medical residency in New Zealand. Upon her return to Melbourne, she worked in leading hospitals and had a private inner-city practice. 

A pamphlet about the death rate of Indian babies and the desperate need for medical missionaries changed the direction of her life.

Mary knew God had called her to this work.

The start of the First World War meant that she was unable to leave for several years.

In 1916, Mary was elected first general president of the Catholic Women’s Social Guild (Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga).

She undertook further studies and was conferred as a Doctor of Medicine in 1919. 

In 1920, Mary sailed to India.

There, in Guntur, she joined the Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a Dutch religious order.

Pope Pius XI bestowed a special blessing on her medical work.  

Mary placed the remainder of her life at the service of the people of India.

She implemented a visionary plan to train local women to be doctors, nurses, pharmacists and midwives. 

In 1943, Mary founded the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) which has grown to become one of the world’s largest non-government organisations in the health-care sector. 

For the last two years of her life, Mary shouldered the Cross of excruciating suffering.

Her only regret was that she had not “done enough”.

“I could have done more,” she said.

Mary died on May 5, 1957. 

Her cause for canonisation opened in 2010 and in 2013 she was declared a Servant of God.

For more details visit the website 

Written by: Staff writers
Catholic Church Insurance

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