The first group of FCJ sisters arrived in Australia on 1st June, 1882. Twelve sisters, from Ireland and England, disembarked from the SS Liguria at Sandridge (Port Melbourne) after a voyage from England lasting six weeks. They were missioned in response to the urgent appeal of bishops and priests in Australia for help with the education of Catholic children.
The sisters began teaching in St Ignatius’ Girls’ School, Richmond, less than a fortnight after their arrival, and by the early autumn, they had set up the Convent School, Mount St Joseph’s. Between 1884 and 1888, three further groups of FCJs from Europe followed the original community of twelve and increased their numbers to thirty four.
A property in Kew was purchased in 1888 and Genazzano Convent School was started in a house leased by the sisters. Two years later the school moved into a brand new building. Genazzano FCJ College is still flourishing with over a thousand students.
On 14 August, 1900, the FCJ sisters arrived at Benalla, and set up a girls’ secondary school, Our Lady of the Angels. In 1960 boys were accepted into the school and it was later called FCJ College Benalla. Presently there are over four hundred and fifty students in this ever-expanding school.
In each place where the sisters settled the pattern of development was to begin simply, and gradually increase the outreach as the foundation prospered. An FCJ centre normally included one or more parish schools, boarding and day schools, parish pastoral work and many forms of religious education.
In 1968, the sisters established “Stella Maris”, a school for girls at Frankston. This school merged with the Marianist College for boys in 1979 to form John Paul College. Some of the sisters taught in primary schools in the vicinity: St Anne’s, Seaford and St John’s, East Frankston. Others involved themselves in the parish of St Francis Xavier, Frankston. The sisters left Frankston at the end of 1996.
In Langwarrin in 1975 a Frontier Group of five sisters were contracted to work for five years with the priest and the local community. Their mission was to establish a primary school and to be involved in parish ministry.
The FCJ sisters taught in and administered many parish primary schools across Victoria, some for a few years and others for many years, including St Joseph’s Benalla (88 years); St Ignatius, Richmond (100 years); Our Lady of Good Counsel, Deepdene (57years); Sacred Heart, Kew (85 years).
FURTHER AFIELD IN AUSTRALIA
The FCJ sisters engaged in ministry in the Kimberley from 1987 to 1995. They worked at Notre Dame University and with the Catholic Education Office, moving throughout the Kimberley as consultants as well as participating in local parish activities. Other individual ministries took sisters to Sydney and Adelaide where they responded to community needs.
AUSTRALIANS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND IN COUNTRIES WITH EMERGING ECONOMIES
Since 1986 a number of Australian FCJ sisters have joined sisters of many nationalities in establishing new foundations in developing countries and in countries with emerging economies “being ready to be sent anywhere for the Kingdom of God”. They spent many years in Sierra Leone, Bolivia, Argentina, the Philippines, Indonesia and Romania.
The FCJ sisters continue to minister to others. Through their presence in parishes, some sisters are involved in pastoral work; others are engaged in social welfare, the support of people with disabilities and care of the elderly. Some sisters minister in schools, some in chaplaincies and others give retreats and spiritual direction. A number of FCJ sisters actively work against human trafficking and others give support to refugees. The sisters respond wherever they can, in the spirit of Marie Madeleine d’Houet, seeking to meet the needs of the time.
The Province of Asia-Australia
In 2002, the Sisters from Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines united to form a new province of the FCJ Society – the Province of Asia-Australia. In 2009 a community in Myanmar was added to the province.
God’s Faithful Instrument, by Patricia Grogan, fcJ,
were used on this page.