Sisters of Mercy Perth

Catherine McAuley, an heiress of 50 years of age, founded the Sisters of Mercy as a Catholic Religious Order in Dublin in 1831. Sister Ursula Frayne was a friend and associate of Catherine McAuley and imbibed her spirit and values very deeply. In 1846, Ursula was chosen to lead the small group of pioneer Sisters of Mercy accompanied Bishop Brady to the Swan River Colony in Western Australia. These Mercy women were part of a band of 28 missionaries. The group included Spanish Benedictine priests, brothers and lay catechists.

In January 9 1846 having landed in Fremantle after a voyage of 113 days on the barque 'Elizabeth' the seven Sisters then sailed up the Swan River to Perth. "We stood in the wilds of Australia in the mid-summer night and we could truly say of it that we had nowhere to lay our heads", wrote Ursula Frayne when they found no arrangements had been made for a place to live.

The Sisters made packing cases into desks and bricks and planks into seats and were ready to open the first school on February 2 1846. This school became the first secondary school for girls in Australia and is the present site of Mercedes College where our original convent, our Mother House, stands today. This pioneer group were the first Sisters of Mercy in Australia.

From 1846 to 1900 there were eight independently operating groups of Sisters of Mercy in W.A.: - Victoria Square Perth that founded West Perth, Bunbury, Guildford/Midland, York and Toodyay. Coolgardie - founded from Adelaide and Victoria Park - founded from Derry.

In 1896 West Perth assumed a separate identity, while the other seven foundations amalgamated under the auspices of Victoria Square, Perth.

Hence at present there are two Mercy Congregations in W.A., West Perth and Perth.

Throughout the past 160-year story of the Congregation, the Sisters have been women of action, providing support and care whenever it was needed. In the early years of the colony, despite primitive and intimidating conditions, early in this century the Sisters undertook to establish schools, in many areas throughout this vast state.

From Coolgardie Kalgoorlie Norseman Leonora Menzies in the goldfields, to Donnybrook Bridgetown Harvey Dardanup in the southwest to York and Toodyay in the wheat belt, while in the metropolitan we operated many suburban primary and secondary schools. Health Care and Aged Care also became well-established works at Mercy Hospital and Catherine McAuley Centre.


Collection consists of administrative and personal records of the Sisters of Mercy Perth and thier ministries since 1846.