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Stories

Mary Glowrey Museum

The Melbourne Catholic Archbishop’s Charitable Fund was pleased to support the establishment of the new Mary Glowrey Museum, Fitzroy.

The museum was established to honour this extraordinary Victorian and draws on the Mary Glowrey Collection owned by the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga. The project was sponsored by ACU, the Melbourne Catholic Archbishop’s Charitable Fund, and Catholic Education Melbourne.

The museum celebrates the life and legacy of Dr Sr Mary Glowrey JMJ, one of Victoria’s early women doctors, who gave up her family and career in Australia to become a pioneering medical missionary in Guntur, India.

Mary Glowrey is only the second Australian to be considered for official recognition as a saint by the Catholic Church—and her cause for canonisation is currently under consideration in Rome.

The museum is located in historic Cathedral Hall, now part of the Australian Catholic University’s Melbourne campus. It features displays of images from the Mary Glowrey Collection, an extensive archive of letters and photographs about Mary’s life, as well as interactive and audio-visual experiences.

In welcoming those attending the opening, Archbishop Hart pointed out the significance of the museum’s opening in the life of the Church in Melbourne, as well as its importance in recognising the pioneering work of Dr Sister Mary Glowrey.
Addressing the gathering, Archbishop Hart said, 'The poor were the people of her choice and incurable patients had a special place in her heart.'

‘The establishment of this museum is intended to make her work more widely known and to invite people to invoke her intercession that her progress to sanctity may continue.
As Archbishop I am deeply grateful to the Executive of the Catholic Women’s League, the Bishop of Guntur, the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and above all to Australian Catholic University for welcoming and hosting this museum. The main building of the University in Melbourne is named the Mary Glowrey Building because of her incomparable contribution and it is this that I recognise today.'

In welcoming those gathered to the museum’s opening, Anna Krohn, member of the Governing Body of the Catholic Women's League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga, particularly thanked Archbishop Hart, as well as Dr John Ballard, Anita Toner (General President of the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga), members of the Governing Body of the League, and many others, singling out for special acknowledgement members of the Glowrey family who were present, including 5 nieces of Mary Glowrey.

In her turn, Anita Toner reminded everybody that the museum’s home is in the very building (Cathedral House) where, 100 years earlier, Melbourne’s Archbishop Thomas Carr had arranged rooms for the use of the Catholic Women’s League.

In his remarks, Associate Professor Patrick Quirk from the ACU Law School who is also director of Mary Glowrey Heritage Limited, said what ‘a great privilege to oversee the bringing together of this Museum’ had been for him, going on to thank the Archbishop, for his foresight, encouragement and support, Fr Michael O’Toole from the Parish of St Mary’s, Colac (Mary Glowrey’s parish) several others whose combined efforts over a long period of time had culminated so satisfyingly in the opening of the new museum.

Quoting Mary Glowrey from a letter she wrote in 1931, Professor Quirk cited her words, ‘God is good and arranges all for the best.’

‘It would be hard to imagine,’ he said, ‘a better arranged team so we give thanks for God’s goodness and of course for this beautiful space. We thank you all for your support and for coming. We would love you to join us on our journey to spread the news about the life and legacy of Mary Glowrey and this Museum.

Mary Glowrey was born in 1887 in Birregurra in regional Victoria and excelled at her studies. She graduated from the University of Melbourne in medicine in 1910. She conducted a private medical practice as well as holding positions in three leading hospitals, and combined her professional responsibilities with community service, including as first President of the (then) Catholic Women’s Social Guild.

In 1920 Mary gave all this up to go to India where she became a religious sister with the Dutch Order of the Society of Jesus Mary Joseph. She spent the remainder of her life treating the impoverished, including women who previously went untreated because they could not see a woman doctor.

Mary Glowrey's many achievements included the establishment of medical facilities and training systems where healthcare was previously inaccessible and founding the Catholic Health Association of India, a healthcare network that today auspices the care of 21 million people annually.

Glowrey died in Bangalore in May 1957 and she was declared a Servant of God by the Bishop of Guntur in 2013.
 
Photos by Casamento Photography/MGHL

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