Awareness of the life and legacy of Dr Sr Mary Glowrey JMJ, Servant of God, continues to grow with the recent launch by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli of a new initiative, the ‘Mary Glowrey Circle’.
Held at the Mary Glowrey Museum, located in historic Cathedral Hall on Australian Catholic University’s Fitzroy campus, the launch provided an opportunity to further celebrate and acknowledge the significant contribution of Mary Glowrey and the remarkable collection of items that help keep her story alive.
In officially launching the Circle, Archbishop Comensoli reflected on Mary Glowrey’s life, both in Melbourne and abroad, commenting that hers ‘was a life filled with extraordinary faith, hope, love and compassion’.
‘I’m sure everyone today can’t help but be struck by the significance of this particular location, and of Dr Sr Mary’s life,’ he said. ‘Mary felt Gods calling to the purpose and mission that she would take up, here in this area.
‘How graced we are to have been given the opportunity to build and care for a collection that documents such significant moments in Mary’s vocational journey—a witness to a life lived in God’s name, caring for the most vulnerable and forgotten in ways that are hard for us to imagine today.’
He noted, ‘People of heroic faith do not often appear on our news streams. They rarely seek that sort of notoriety. Yet in their quiet and humble ways, they are the light into the world. And through that light, they lift our own lives by their example. Mary Glowrey was such a person, a light and witness to so many—she is such a person, now heavenly.’
More than 60 guests gathered at the museum for the launch, including a number of Mary Glowrey’s great-nieces and a great-nephew; Sr Maria Casey RSJ, the postulator of the cause of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, who has provided invaluable advice with regard to Mary Glowrey’s cause for canonisation; members of the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria Wagga Wagga, including current General President Anna Krohn; and a number of sponsors and members who’ve committed financially to the Circle prior to the launch.
Fiona Power is Curator and Educator at the Mary Glowrey Museum, and part of the small museum team comprised mainly of volunteers. ‘Sharing Mary’s story is central to our work,’ Fiona told those assembled for the launch. ‘And we can do this because of the Mary Glowrey Collection, the archive of items that is associated with Mary Glowrey’s life.’
The collection includes more than 400 letters written by Mary Glowrey, photographs, journals and some artefacts from the pioneering medical missionary’s life in India and Australia. The museum has access to, and cares for, the collection with the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria Wagga Wagga, which owns it. Mary Glowrey was the first general president of the Catholic Women’s Social Guild (now the League), when it was established in 1916 in Cathedral Hall, now the location of the museum. Mary Glowrey’s sister Lucy Connellan bequeathed the collection to the League, and members of the extended Glowrey family have since donated further items. According to Fiona:
This Mary Glowrey Collection is distinctive in that it documents the life and times of a remarkable Australian here and in India, and her legacy. And that legacy today benefits millions of people, many of them among the most marginalised.
‘The Collection has historic and social and spiritual significance. Its value, meaning and importance for people and communities can be described in terms of the rarity of it, the condition, the capacity for interpretation and the provenance of items in it.
‘And the items in this collection offer rare insight into the motivation and character of one being officially considered for sainthood.’ Mary Glowrey’s cause for canonisation opened in 2010 and is progressing. She is currently a Servant of God, and her positio is before the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. She is one of two Australians currently being considered for sainthood, the other being Eileen O’Connor.
At the launch, which took place on the anniversary of Mary Glowrey’s birthday, 23 June, Fiona explained that the collection has been basically documented and some items scanned and transcribed. Most of this work has been undertaken on a voluntary basis, which is one of the main reasons the Mary Glowrey Circle has been established.
‘The purpose of the Mary Glowrey Circle is to make sustainable the tasks that are necessary to protect and catalogue and enable greater access to this archive,’ said Fiona. ‘The Mary Glowrey Circle will connect what’s been done up till now with the needs of the future.’
As part of a five-year plan, the work of the Circle seeks to continue and complete some activities and begin others. The museum team intends to complete the digitisation and transcription of archives, making sure the paper documents and photos are in electronic format and catalogued, which will assist in future research endeavours. Restoration work is needed on some items, though much of the collection is in good (though fragile) condition.
The Circle provides an opportunity for people to financially commit as members or sponsors, allowing them to contribute to the vital work of preserving and promoting the precious heritage represented by the Mary Glowrey Collection. As Fiona said,
We are creating this Circle because the collection is a precious gift. It needs to be cared for. There is so much more to learn about Mary Glowrey’s life and times. And we want people to connect with it now and into the future.'
Speaking at the launch, Louise McGrath, a great-niece of Dr Sr Mary Glowrey and a volunteer at the museum said, ‘I have every confidence that Harold, Lucy and Gerard, our grandparents, would be so proud and humbled that their sister’s name and life story are being shared in such a respectful way. There is such wonder and enquiry into her story.
‘I’ve been so fortunate to be able to volunteer here at the museum and witness the power of story. Visitors of all ages are invited by museum staff to enquire into the story of Mary Glowrey, learn about our Catholic history and traditions, and reflect on how Mary lived her faithful life, both here in Australia and in India.
‘Visitors are encouraged to make connections and reflect on their own lives and, through this process, be inspired by the story of Dr Sister Mary Glowrey. Family members continue to donate artefacts and have confidence in the way Auntie Mary’s story is being preserved, curated, researched and shared. A special thank you to all who have supported the Mary Glowrey Museum and its work. As a family, we also support the future work of the Mary Glowrey Circle as they continue to explore and to discover more about Auntie Mary.’
Speaking of the items in the collection, Archbishop Comensoli said they ‘give an insight into how the Holy Spirit has had a hand in guiding Mary to go beyond what is possible and to do what is truly remarkable.
‘Those materials that have formed the part of the collection about her life are so important. They build for us a visual picture of God’s ability to make saints among us in the most unlikely of possibilities. Today, I want us simply to see the inspiration of this one, singular life and the incredible change and good that can be done through one life in Christ.
‘I encourage all of you to be Mary’s storytellers, that she may be carried into the lives of those communities where we find ourselves, and that her light may become a light into those communities. This is what the Gospel is all about: being saints among the saints, being the ears and eyes and heart and hands of Christ. Mary Glowrey, a daughter, a student, a doctor, a religious, a woman of faith, walk with us today and always.’
The Mary Glowrey Museum shares the life, legacy and story of Sr Dr Mary Glowrey through exhibits, digital and print publications, and tailored education presentations with secondary and senior primary school students and members of the public. The next Mary Glowrey Circle event for members and sponsors will be held in October. Find out more or become a member or sponsor of the Mary Glowrey Circle here.
The Autobiography of Dr Sr Mary Glowrey: ‘God’s Good for Nothing’ was published in 2021 and is also available from the museum website.
Fiona Power29 November 2021