In the latest of this series, we take a look at the obituary of an Irish-born nun whose vocation took her to Australia.
Death of Pioneer Presentation Nun
MOTHER M. ALOYSIUS HEENAN
On Sunday, 3rd inst, one of the pioneer nuns at the Star of the Sea Convent, Elsternwick (Vic), Rev. Mother Mary Aloysius Heenan, passed to her reward. She had been ailing for a few weeks; but it was not until a couple of days before her death that the symptoms became alarming. On Tuesday morning last week a Requiem Mass, for the late Mother Mary Aloysius Heenan, was celebrated by Rev. Father M.C. Gough, parish priest, in St. James’sChurch, North-road, Elsternwick. Archbishop Mannix presided.
The late Mother Mary Aloysius was born at Rathangan, County Kildare, Ireland, 68 years ago, and came to Australia in 1885. She made her holy profession at the Presentation Convent, Star of the Sea, Elsternwick, in 1888. For three years she was Rev. Mother at the Presentation Convent, Rutherglen (diocese of Sandhurst), and for 12 years was Rev. Mother at the Star of the Sea, Elsternwick.
The deceased nun was the third Rev. Mother at the Elsternwick Convent, which was founded from Wagga, N.S.W., by the late Mother Mary John Paul, who died in 1906, and was succeeded by the late Mother Mary Paul, who was appointed the first Mother-General of the Presentation Order in Victoria, when it was amalgamated under one head. The deceased was appointed Rev. Mother in succession to Mother Paul, who died in 1908.
An outstanding characteristic of the deceased was her great charity. All who had a vocation to the Presentation Order were, welcomed with the distinterested heart of a mother, and the poor never went away empty-handed. Under her wise direction the Star of the Sea Convent made great progress, and to-day its halls are filled by pupils from all parts of the State, and from, even beyond its borders.
Who Was Mary Aloysius Heenan?
Unfortunately I can’t find the answer to this question.
According to the obituary she was born in County Kildare in abt 1854 and emigrated to Australia in 1885 – when she would have been about 31 years old.
There is no record of her in any birth records in Ireland. Nor does she appear in any passenger records currently available on line.
There were however families with the Heenan surname in Rathangan, County Kildare in the 1850s. Records show the baptism of a Margt Heenan, daughter of Thomas Heenan and Eliz Dumm on 13 Dec 1851. Later records show there continued to be Heenans in the Rathangan district in the 1860s.
Mother Mary Aloysius Heenan would have been a member of the Presentation Sisters, an order established in Cork just over a century earlier. Seven other members of the order – from Limerick – had sailed to Australia in 1873 after an appeal by Father James Corbett, Parish Priest of St Mary’s (East) S Kilda. He wanted sisters to staff a local school to provide a Catholic education for local children, many of whom were from poor Irish immigrant families.
The Victorian Education Act of 1872, with its provision for free, secular and compulsory education, had ended funding for independent schools and there were insufficient funds to pay teachers. Without volunteer help, the schools would not survive. The newly-arrived sisters established the first Presentation Convent and school in Victoria at Windsor , later moving to Gardenvale (then known as Elsternwick). In March 1883 they took up residence in a house called Turret Lodge (on the site of the present Chapel) from where they had an uninterrupted view of the bay, prompting them to name their home after Our Lady, ‘Star of the Sea’.
- Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_the_Sea_College
- Website of the Presentation Order: http://presentationsociety.org.au/congregations/victoria/history/
- The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1942), Thu 14 Sep 1922 Page 28
- Ireland Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms collection at Findmypast.co.uk