24 November 2023

Order of Sisters with health at their heart celebrate 100 years in Young

| Edwina Mason
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Old 1900s photo of Sacred Heart Hospital at Young.

The first Catholic hospital in country NSW, Sacred Heart Hospital would become home for the Sisters of Mercy in Young who arrived in 1923. It eventually became known as Mercy Hospital. Photo: Trove/NLA.

When the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Young in 1923, their calling was one of health, reflective of a society still recovering from a worldwide pandemic.

An Order whose mission across Australia since arriving in 1846 had already expanded through orphanages, schools and convents, it wasn’t long after the Sisters of Mercy opened their first Victorian hospital (St Benedict’s in Malvern) in 1920 that a hospital in NSW came into their sights.

The Sisters of Mercy had already started teaching at the Sacred Heart Convent School in the tiny village of Murringo, east of Young, in the six years since Young’s Sacred Heart Hospital had been established in 1911 by the Reverend Father Hennessy.

This hospital – on the corner of Hume (now Campbell) and Berthong Streets – was the first Catholic hospital built in country NSW.

When the Goulburn Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy took over management of Sacred Heart and Mount St Joseph’s Home (known locally and colloquially as The Old People’s Home), their mission was to care for people through all stages of life.

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For the next 50 years, the two buildings became just that, with a maternity unit and new nurses’ quarters added to the hospital in 1935, a new nurses’ home opened in 1960 and additions to the Mercy Hospital constructed in 1963-64.

A new building at Mount St Joseph’s Home was also opened in September 1972.

Eventually, rationalisation meant Mercy Hospital would become a regional unit for the care of elderly, chronically ill and palliative care patients.

When this took place in 1982, most other services, including surgical, emergency and maternity care, were relocated to Young District Hospital.

a group of people at tables

The Mercy Health centenary celebrations took place at the historic Clifton Homestead near Young. Photo: Mercy Care.

In 1983, Mercy Hospital and Mount St Joseph’s Home were renamed the Mercy Care Centre Young, with more than 60 residents now residing at their aged care home known as Mercy Place St Josephs.

In honour of the milestone 100 years since the Sisters of Mercy began supporting the Young community through Mercy Health, November has marked a month of celebration, including a ‘100 Years Young’ event at the historic Clifton homestead.

The well-attended event gave pause for reflection on a legacy that has earned them a reputation for excellence in care and hospitality, which has grown in strength to this day.

Sister Theresa Foley is one of the many Sisters of Mercy who cared for the Young community, beginning her journey with the Mercy Order in January 1962.

She started her training alongside five trainee nurses and would eventually take on the role of Director of Nursing at Mercy Hospital – the new name given to Sacred Heart – and remains one of the longest-serving Sisters in Young.

Over her time in the community, Sister Theresa said she witnessed many periods of change, which fortified the mission of delivering high-quality care.

“In my beginning years, I watched many renovations take place and saw firsthand how Mercy Health grew into the dedicated health service it is today,” she said.

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Sister Theresa said the community had always played an important role in supporting the Sisters of Mercy.

“We are very grateful to the many trainees, trained staff, ancillary staff doctors and the people of Young who have supported us over these past 100 years,” she said.

At the celebration, Group CEO Angela Nolan paid tribute to the Sisters of Mercy, whose legacy lives on within Mercy Health and all its services nationwide.

“For the past 100 years, the Sisters of Mercy have selflessly served the people of Young with hospitality and compassion,” she said.

“It is both heartening and honourable to sustain their legacy by providing the highest quality of care to the communities we serve,” Ms Nolan said.

Mercy Place Mount St Joseph Service Manager Navpreet Kaur said it brought many of the staff and residents great joy to be able to acknowledge and celebrate the past 100 years of the Sisters of Mercy in Young and thank them for all that they have contributed to our community.

Operations Manager and Director of Nursing Mary Lou Cusack said Young is the community it is today because of the care and service from the Sisters of Mercy.

“I cannot thank them enough,” she said.

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