A Dynamic of Hope: Institutes of Women Religious in Australia

By Blee, Jill | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2007 | Go to article overview

A Dynamic of Hope: Institutes of Women Religious in Australia


Blee, Jill, The Catholic Historical Review


Australian A Dynamic of Hope: Institutes of Women Religious in Australia. By Mary Rosa MacGinley second edition. (Darlinghurst, New South Wales: Crossing Press for the Australian Catholic University National Research Centre for the Study of Women's History, Theology and Spirituality 2002. Pp. viii, 439. Paperback.)

The arrival of the Sisters of Charity in Sydney in 1838 at the invitation of the bishop of New Holland and Van Diemen's Land, the Benedictine John Bede Folding, began what would become a major influence on the development of a strong Catholic culture in Australia. Dr. Rosa MacGinley does not, however, begin A Dynamic of Hope: Institutes of Women Religious in Australia with this arrival. Instead she provides a brief, but excellent, account of the evolution of institutes of religious women from early monastic times through to the formation of congregations established to meet the changes overtaking Christianity in post-Reformation times. She pays specific attention to those which extended the boundaries imposed by the Council of Trent so they could educate young women in the Faith and provide for the needs of the poor and dispossessed in a rapidly changing Europe.

As the majority of the religious institutes who came to Australia were either Irish foundations or continental institutes with substantial interests in Ireland, it is not surprising that Dr. MacGinley devotes considerable space to institutes and their founders like Nano Nagle, who established the Sisters of the Presentation in Cork, and had to overcome many hurdles in order to carry out the work to which they had committed themselves. They paved the way for others like the Sisters of Charity founded by Mary Aikenhead and Catherine Macauley's Sisters of Mercy, who were able to go out among the poor of Dublin and bring them comfort and education. Their experiences there made them ideally suited to the work they would do in Australia. …

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