In 1910, five sisters from the Convent of Mercy in Fitzroy came to Heidelberg, at the invitation of the local priest, to conduct the primary school and the proposed Catholic high school.
They arrived on 24 January and immediately started work in the primary school. On 2 February 1910, the sisters held the first secondary classes for six students in a room at Roma, a private residence that was the first convent. That house was on the land in Cape Street currently used as a College car park.
The first school building was completed in 1911 and was called the Superior School. It operated with an enrolment of 14 students including boys. Further building followed, with the convent building completed later in the year.
In 1927 the Superior School changed its name to Our Lady’s College and much later, in 1962, to Our Lady of Mercy College.
The school grew slowly at first, but in common with many secondary schools began to expand after the Second World War. Further expansion occurred in the 1970s when the College took on its present form.
The Sisters of Mercy
The story of the Sisters of Mercy started in Dublin in the early 18th century. The founder, Catherine McAuley (1774-1841) lived at a time when there was enormous poverty in Ireland. When she received a significant inheritance she decided to build a house in Dublin from where she could be of service to the poor. Included in her plan was a school for the poor that would provide general education and education in faith. Catherine had a special concern for women. She expressed her commitment … no work of charity can be more productive of good to society …than the careful instruction of women.
Catherine was independent in her thinking. Her initial venture challenged the norms of the time. She had a group of single women, who were not religious, living together responding to people in need. She designed and managed the building of her House of Mercy. It was only when the ongoing work of the House of Mercy was threatened that she agreed to form a religious congregation. The Sisters of Mercy were then founded in 1831.
Catherine, in carrying out her work, was innovative and committed to compassionate presence and excellence and these values have continued to be part of the Mercy story.
Catherine and her sisters responded to the call of others for help and this saw her sisters go to places throughout Ireland and overseas. The first Sisters of Mercy arrived in Australia in 1846 in Perth, led by Sr Ursula Frayne. Later, in 1857. she led a group to Melbourne where they started a school on the site of the now Academy of Mary Immaculate, in Nicholson Street Fitzroy.
Today, the main ministries of the Sisters of Mercy are in education, community service and health, including the Mercy Hospital for Women in Heidelberg. Some sisters are educators, theologians, scripture scholars, liturgists, writers and publishers, researchers, archivists, historians, musicians, artists, bioethicists, ecumenists, canon lawyers, lawyers and advocates for justice. Some are working in interfaith relations, with media and communications technology, while others are environmentalists and ecologists. Some continue to administer institutions and others offer hospitality in a variety of ways. The Sisters of Mercy are advocates for people with no voice and for those seeking justice at home and beyond.