Reflection given by Sr Catherine Reuter on the occasion of the farewell to the Mater Children’s Hospital

Farewell Mater Children’s Hospital – A Sisters of Mercy perspective

1 November 2014

Today we gather to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of the Mater Children’s Hospital to the community during the past 83 years.

On 1 November as Christians celebrate the Feast of All Saints, it is a good time to remember with gratitude those persons whose goodness has inspired us at Mater in our beliefs and given us courage to act on what is believed.  It is a day to acknowledge that holy women and men have helped us find our potential for goodness.

The Saints were not perfect people. They had their faults, idiosyncrasies, and weaknesses. They had struggles and difficulties. Yet, they are people of integrity with a central focus at the core of their lives ‘the love (and mercy) of God’. Consistently, they chose to act out of this central reality.

On the feast of the ‘communion of saints’,  I am drawn to the artwork Embrace (to our left) unveiled and blessed in 2008 in recognition of commitment and contribution to Mater of 263 individual Sisters of Mercy of the Brisbane Congregation. The installation scripted with the Sisters’ names is both a tangible reminder of their good and dedicated service to the health care and the community and a reminder of the central focus ‘to reveal the face of Christ’ at Mater through practical and professional care and compassion to the sick.

Today in our fare-welling of the Mater Children’s Hospital is an opportunity for us to be re-inspired by their stories and their trust in God’s providence.  

In 1976 Archbishop Francis Rush noted,

          ‘The Mater is of estimable value precisely because it has made Christ more real to people by reflecting his loving concern for the sick and afflicted…it(the Mater)would be a failure if it did not succeed in revealing Christ.’

          (p208 Sommers ‘They Crossed the River’)


At Mater Children’s across 83 years: from Mother Patrick Potter’s 1926 dream to build an 80 bed modern public children’s hospital, to the May 10th opening in 1931 of half of what was dreamt, to the 1976 completion of the dreamed 3 storey complex, to 1984s opening of a range of specialists’ clinics, to 1992’s assurance from the Sisters that Mater Children’s would remain on the South Brisbane site, to the 1998 opening of Australia’s first private pediatric facility, to 2001s building of a new Mater Children’s hospital and Mater Children’s Private hospital on Stanley Street, to today’s farewell of Mater Children’s Public Hospital, one sees consistently the Gospel imperative ‘to love’ in the tradition  of mercy enacted in the many opportunities of injecting ‘a spirit of warm personal care into daily relationships with young patients, their families and staff’.

(p207 Sommers They Crossed the River)

Whether in 1931 or 2014, the Sisters of Mercy initially and later members of Mater’s numerous committees, auxiliaries, Boards, volunteer groups and exceptional staff faced and continue to face recurrent issues – issues of financial capacity, future planning, availability of land, funding sources - community and or government support, ongoing commitment to catholic values, changes to health legislation, standards compliance, disaster, increased demands for specialists responses to need, provision of educational opportunities in pediatrics, staffing ratios, new initiatives and always trust in the providence of God. And all of these against the backdrop of social, political and medical changes as well as those in the church and within the Sisters of Mercy. 

In 2008 the Sisters of Mercy in Queensland received approval from the Vatican to establish a new Catholic Church entity called Mercy Partners. This was another significant step for the Sisters as they envisioned a future for their institutional works of Mercy (at Mater) within the Catholic Church. In April 2013, Mercy Partners assumed canonical responsibility for Mater Health Services Brisbane Limited.

This new governance arrangement did not mean any change to the mission, values and ethos of Mater Health Services and its associated entities or its commitment to exceptional health care in the tradition of Mercy. For the Sisters however this change marked another deep and heartfelt ‘letting go’ and was tempered as Catherine McAuley would say with ‘joys and sorrows intertwined’.  

Today we are letting go again – this time of the Mater Children’s Public Hospital and experience the intertwining of life’s joys and sorrows. Again comes the whispered reminder to trust in God’s Providence and see in the Mater Children’s Private Hospital and future developments new ‘seeds of mercy’.  

So be assured the Sisters of Mercy will always value and embrace our historical ties and strong links with the Mater.

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