The Way We Were: Influence of Sisters of Mercy Endures

I began my education with the Sisters of Mercy at St Patrick’s, Millers Forest, in first class, there being no pre-school or kindergarten.

Two of the Sisters crossed the river by punt in a horse and sulky, and later in an early model car. They taught in two rooms, separated by a partition. We had a large wooden altar in an elevated platform and the priest came over to say Mass on first Fridays. Parents came too and supplied a beaut lunch with special treats like packets of ‘Iced VoVos’ supplied by the late ‘Blue’ Pat Hughes’ Mum, Nita.

Kids arrived from farms on foot or on horseback, and there was a yard at the bottom of the school ground for the ponies. Sometimes a farmer would come to the school before the end of the day to collect a son for milking or other farm duties. These were happy and carefree times with the girls and boys enjoying simple fun together.

I progressed to 6th class and under the guidance of Sr M Veronica, I was able to win both a Bishop’s and a state bursary, enabling me to go to St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill. Another scholarship to the University of Sydney led to a Science degree. I will be forever in debt to the grounding I gained from the gentle and kind Sisters.

My wife of over 60 years, Robin, studied with the Sisters in the ‘Big Room’ and the ‘Little Room’, in what is now the parish hall, opposite St Brigid’s Church. The association with the Sisters continued with our four children, with two of our girls helping the Sister-sacristan regularly. When the girls moved on, Robin took on sacristan duties with the Sisters until they left the parish. Only when her mobility was restricted did she retire from these duties.

Each of our children followed professional careers after the grounding they received from the Sisters of Mercy.

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