Sisters of Charity of Australia

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Mother Mary Aikenhead, Founder of the Sisters of Charity

The Sisters of Charity of Australia (formally the Religious Sisters of Charity, who use the postnominal initials of R.S.C.) is a congregation of Religious Sisters in the Catholic Church who have served the people of Australia since 1838.


Mother Mary Aikenhead, who had founded the Religious Sisters of Charity in 1815 in Dublin, Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, was requested by John Bede Polding, O.S.B., the first Catholic bishop in Australia, to send some Sisters to help the many female convicts who had been transported to Australia as penalty for their crimes. Arriving in New South Wales, then still a colony of the British Empire, on the Francis Spaight on 31 December 1838[1] the Sisters who had volunteered to go to Australia from Ireland were the first Religious Sisters to set foot on the Australian continent.[2] The Sisters of Charity of Australia have operated independently of the congregation in Ireland since 1842.

The spirituality of the Sisters of Charity derives from the life of St. Vincent de Paul and the vision of Mary Aikenhead, their foundress. In addition to the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the Sisters of Charity take a fourth vow, of service to the poor. For the Sisters of Charity, "Service of the Poor" denotes not only the alleviation of a present affliction by immediate action, but also includes having a "preferential option for the poor".[3]


The ministries of the Sisters of Charity have been quite varied in nature from the beginning of their founding. From ministering in prisons to managing hospitals and acting to conserve environments, they have been quick to move to where they have been most needed, and to where they have been of the greatest service to the poor. One of their most prominent ministries has been the establishment of St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney in 1857, which they have administered ever since.

In 1957, the Sisters opened Mt Olivet Hospital as a hospice in Brisbane. It now provides a wider range of hospital services and has been renamed St Vincent's Private Hospital.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our History: Origins". Sisters of Charity of Australia. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "St Vincent's Hospital, history and tradition, sesquicentenary -". Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  3. ^ "Sisters of Charity Australia – The Love Of Christ Impels Us". 2002-06-14. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  4. ^ "Our Story". St Vincent's Hospital (Brisbane). Retrieved 28 October 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cullen, John H., 1938 'The Australian daughters of Mary Aikenhead : a century of charity, 1838-1938', Pellegrini, Sydney
  • Donovan, Margaret. M. (1979bc). Apostolate of Love: Mary Aikenhead, 1787–1858, Foundress of the Irish Sisters of Charity. Melbourne: Polding Press

External links[edit]