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Ellen Whitty (1819–1892)

Mother Vincent Whitty, memorial card

Mother Vincent Whitty, memorial card

State Library of Queensland, 102372

It is with very deep regret we announce the death of the Rev. Mother Vincent [Ellen Whitty], foundress of the Order of Sisters of Mercy in Queensland. The venerable mother (we learn from the Brisbane Australian) had been suffering from an attack of bronchitis lately. Serious symptoms developed themselves early list week, and, surrounded by her religious children, she passed calmly to her reward about 1 a.m. on the 9th inst. There are few Catholic households in Queensland to which good Mother Vincent's name is not familiar, and during her long period of service she endeared herself to many persons outside her own communion.

Her remains were conveyed to St. Stephen's Cathedral on Thursday morning, where a solemn requiem service was celebrated. The cortege from All Hallows to the Cathedral consisted of most of the schoolchildren of Brisbane, wearing white scarves tied with black, and the Sisters and boarders of All Hallows School and St. Anne's Industrial School. His Grace the Archbishop presided. Father Dunham was celebrant of the Mass, Father Belton deacon, and Father Hegarty sub-deacon. The Rev. D. Fouhy acted as master of ceremonies, and there was a large number of priests present, including many from the country. There was a very large congregation. The choir rendered the solemn music for the occasion very impressively. At the conclusion of the Mass the funeral started for the Nudgee Catholic Cemetery. Archbishop Dunne officiated at the grave.

From the Australian Catholic Directory for 1892, in which a portrait of the venerable nun appears, we glean the following particulars. Mother Vincent Whitty was born in the County of Wexford, Ireland, on March 1, 1819, and entered the Baggot-street Convent, Dublin, over 53 years ago namely — on January 16, 1839. This institution was then under the charge of Mother Mary Catherine McAuley, who was actual foundress of the Order of Sisters of Mercy. Two years later (August 19, 1841) the young novice took her vows and eventually she become superioress of the Baggot-Street Convent. While officiating in the latter capacity the Crimean War broke out and Mother Vincent was instrumental in despatching a staff of sisters to nurse the wounded on the battle-field. When the late Dr. James O'Quinn was consecrated Bishop of Brisbane (June 29, 1859), he endeavoured to secure a staff of Sisters of Mercy to accompany him, but at first he failed in his task. He, however, persevered, and eventually Mother Vincent was permitted to leave Ireland for Queensland. The devoted nun and four other Sisters left Liverpool with the Bishop in the ship Donald Mackay, in December, 1860, and on May 10, 1861, she founded the order of Sisters of Mercy in Brisbane. The little band has grown until there are about 170 sisters in the order, and several branch establishments. Schools were established by Bishop O'Quinn and Mother Vincent under the auspices of the order, and the Nudgee and Stanwell orphanages are the out-growths of Mother Vincent's enthusiastic work years ago. The later and crowning joy of her life was to witness the establishment of the Magdalen Asylum at Lutwyche. Mother Vincent celebrated her golden jubilee as a nun on August 18, 1891, when she was the recipient of congratulations and presents from all sorts and conditions of persons of all denominations.

A well-known Brisbane Catholic, Mr. P. W. Crowe, writing in one of the Brisbane dailies, says–

Her love for the sick, the poor, the outcast, knew no limits, whilst her love for the children found expression in her last words to her beloved spiritual daughters, whom she trained to a life similar to her own, "Give my love to the children." Mother Vincent was full of ideas for the amelioration of the poor, and with a calmness befitting her character she would speak of the works she would like to see built up in this city before her death. Her beauty of character, her sweetness, her tenderness, are known to thousands in Queensland. How many hearts has she not healed ? How many of the weak and desolate have found in her a true sister of mercy indeed ? She came from a family in the county Wexford, that has given great ecclesiastics to the Church; her brother, Father Whitty, S. J., is the consultor to the General of the Jesuits, for the English-speaking world, while another brother was vicar-general to Cardinal Wiseman. From the little wooden house of which the aged religieuse was the first rev. mother, in Brisbane, rose the majestic pile of buildings which for position and architecture has no equal of its kind in Australia. The orphanage at Nudgee was an object of her special thought, and even in her advanced years she found pleasure in going among the little ones. The establishing of the Magdalen Asylum was the accomplishment of her lifelong wish; but she was anxious, too, to see established a hospital for the sick, to be conducted like the great hospital of the Mater Misericordicae, Dublin, and a home for the aged poor was continually in her thoughts. How dear she was to the people, both clergy and laity, may be gathered from the numbers present at the solemn Requiem Mass this morning at St. Stephen's.

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'Whitty, Ellen (1819–1892)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 28 February 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Mother Vincent Whitty, memorial card

Mother Vincent Whitty, memorial card

State Library of Queensland, 102372

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Whitty, Mother Vincent

3 March, 1819
Oilgate, Wexford, Ireland


9 March, 1892 (aged 73)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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