Death of Rev. Mother Mary Benedict Hickey

1941-08-28 - Death of Rev . Mother Mary Benedict Hickey

Death of Rev. Mother Mary Benedict Hickey – Mother General of the Sisters of St.Joseph

A record not surpassed by any nun in Australia

The most remarkable Nun in Australia, Rev. Mother Mary Benedict Hickey, the Mother General of the Sisters of St. Joseph, died at the Convent, Perthville, last week, at the age of 87 years, and in the 64th year of her religious profession. Mother Mary Hickey, a native of Millstreet, Co. Cork, Ireland, came to Australia in 1875 and be came Superior of the Perthville. Convent and branch Convents in 1881, and, with the exception of four terms, has been Mother General all that time — a record not surpassed by any Nun in Australia and probably the world.

In the presence of the largest gathering of clergy, members of religious Communities, and laity ever seen at Perthville for the obsequies of a nun, the remains of Mother Mary Benedict Hickey, Mother General of the Sisterhood of St. Joseph, were laid to rest in the convent cemetery, surrounded with all the solemn requiem ritual of the Church and amid manifestations of profound sorrow.

The church was packed to capacity when the Pontifical Requiem Mass began. Close on fifty priests, representing almost every parish in the Bathurst Diocese, were present. Sisters from every convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph, with the exception of a few, attended. Representatives of the Sisters of Mercy, St. Mary’s, St. Joseph’s Mount and St. Joseph’s Orphanage, Bathurst, the Sisters of Charity, St. Vincent’s Hospital. the Good Samaritan Sisters, Kandos, the entire staff of St. Stanislaus’ College, and laity from many parts, were numbered among the congregation. The music of the Mass was sung by a choir of priests, and a special choir of priests from St. Stanislaus’ College beautifully rendered the ‘Dies Irae’ and tlie ‘Benedictus’ in harmony.  The celebrant of the Mass was Most Rev. Dr. Norton, Bishop of Bathurst, as sisted by Very Rev, Father E. Gallagher, C.M., President St. Stanislaus’ College; deacon, Very Rev. Father M. J. Dunne, Adm. of the Cathedral, Bathurst; sub deacon, Rev. J. Sheehan, Adm., Orange; master of ceremonies, Rev. C. C. Sullivan, the Cathedral, Bathurst. The chanters were Rev. Fathers E. Murphy and M. Keogh, Bathurst, and M. Hayes, Molong. As well as those priests taking part in the ceremonies, there were present: Right Rev. Monsignor O’Donnell, V.F., and Father Scanlan, Dubbo; Fathers Shannon and Farrell, Bathurst; Father M. Henry, Blayney; Fathers T. Wisely and J. McMahon, Rockley; Fathers Loneragan and Healy, Canowindra; Father F. Mc Guinn, Cowra; Fathers E. Fahey and B. Smith, Wellington; Father O. Emelhainz, D.D., Coonamble; Father R. Barrow, Coonabarabran ; Father T. Curran, Ph.D.. Dunedoo; Father J. J. Nolan, Eugowra; Father E. Crowe, P.P., Gulgong; Fathers Ring and Keneflck, Kandos; Fathers Eviston and Brown, Gilgandra; Father T. Brosnan, P.P., Molong; Father C. Duffy, D.D., Mudgee; Fathers A. Gumner, D.D., and J. T. Corcoran, Oberon; Fathers Reen, Gilbourne and Gallagher, OrangG; Father M. Connaughton, . Portland; Fathers McMahon, D.D., Cahill, Cotter, Richardson, .Mannes, McGuire, Clancey, Duffy and Horne, all of St. Stanislaus’ College; Brother John, Superior, De La Salle, Brothers, St. Patrick’s, Batnurst.

His Lordship Dr. Norton’s Tribute:

His Lordship the Most Rev. Dr. Norton preached an illuminating panegyric when he took I’or his text, ‘Who shall find a valiant woman? Her worth is as of things from afar, and from the uttermost coasts.’ Proverbs xxxi., 10,’ and said: — ‘It was a blessed day for Australia and the Diocese of Bathurst in particular when his Angel Guardian led Bishop Quinn along the road westward from Mallow to Killarney, and Inspired him to visit the Presentation Convent at Millstreet to appeal for postulants. Amongst the nineteen who were accepted was the daughter of Andrew Hickey and Ellen Barrett, whose home was at ‘Turrenbawn (sp. Tooreenbawn) in the neighborhood. They belonged to a fine old Catholic family, many of whom had dedicated their lives to God, the most notable in modern times, apart from Mother Benedict, being the Lord Abbot of Mount Melleray, Father Stanislaus Hickey. When the Bishop spoke, , she listened in her soul to a more insistent voice, ‘And i heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send? And who shall go for us? And I said: Lo, here um I, send me.’ Isaias vi., 8. A soul full of faith urged her, a generous nature assisted and a firm will did the rest.’ From her holy resolve nothing could move her, not even tho pleadings of some nuns and priests from America, who followed the stately, dignified girl even into the Railway Station at Mallow in tho hope that, she would throw in her lot with them. On the voyage to Australia, her cousins Mother Rose (Margaret Hickey) and Sister De Pazzi Hickey (Lucy Hickey) would have had her come with them to the Sisters of Mercy In Bathurst, having a strong argument in the fact that this religious family was long and well established whereas that to which she was going seemed destined never to outlive its swaddling-clothes.

Foundation at Yass.

“On December 8, 1875, Captain Carter brought his good ship ‘Gainsborough’ to anchor at Sydney Cove,’ explained his Lordship. “The four Sisters of Mercy on board went with their postulants to form the foundation at Yass. Of the six priests, Fathers Meade, Murphy and Huggard came to Bathurst with Bishop Quinn and his party of postulants. ‘If Ellen Hickey longed for the ascetic life, she found it in the four-roomed brick cottage that then formed the convent at the Vale. But, what was harder, she found herself that very Christmas in the midst of the crisis that had arisen over the form of government to which the Sisters were to be subject. It is a long and tangled question. Suffice it here to say that, of the original Sisters, all returned to Adelaide except Sister Hyacinth and Sister Evangelist. With these and his seven teen postulants, Bishop Quinn founded his own diocesan Institute of the Sisters of St.Joseph. They struggled on as well as they could for the next five years, during which the Bishop engaged that remarkable man, Father Tenison Woods to draw up their rule and train them in tne science of the Saints. In 1882, Sister M. Benedict, who had been professed on April 7, 1877, and had worked for a while in the Trunkey Creek and other schools, was appointed Superior.


‘Something like inspiration must have impelled the Bishop’s choice of the young nun, who had not yet made her life vows, saia the preacher. ‘He had found ‘the valiant woman’ of the Proverbs. It was not by accident that she had been given the name of the Father of Western Monasticism, for, she had been blessed with some of the singular wisdom of her great ‘patron, and some of his skill in governing Religious Communities. Time and again, her Sisters re-elected her their Superior, till in all she ‘governed her In stitute, in various terms, for thirty-six years. It was touching to see them renewing their choice twelve years ago, putting into her aging hands once more the reins of government, reminding us of the days when the Romans called back from his plough the old Cincinnatus because the State was in danger. They had supreme confidence in her, in her firm if motherly hand, in her impartiality, in her silence, in her unfailing courtesy, in her bigness of heart, but above all in her holiness, till their attitude towards her can best be summed up in the word ‘veneration.’ It became a tradition with them that her prayers were always answered. To this the captain of the ‘Gainsbrough’ would have testified, because’ a novena to Our Lady brougnt his ship from a dead calm to one of the most speedy parts of the voyage. ‘Among the vicissitudes of those days, there was alwyays the fear that the Sisters, might not be able to preserve their corporate life, and that the Bisnop’s project of a Diocesan Congregation might prove to be an ineffective venture. That it was not so; that on the contrary, it flourished and produced much fruit, not only here but in several other dioceses, was due, under God, to the wise government of the remarkable woman whose death has filled us with grief. She it was who imparted life and vigor, overcoming obstacles and winning helpers to the cause so near her heart, by the sheer radiance of faith and trust. Through it all, she kept a winning simplicity and a spirit of self-effacement. Though all her life she was the confidant of Bishops and clergy, she ‘maintained the unaffected character of a child. Be cause she was to my predecessors and myself what the holy women of the Epistles were to St. Paul, ‘fellow-workers in the Gospel,’ it is my privilege to speak of her to-day, though she in her reticent piety would have been horror-struck at the notion of a panegyric, which is the least tribute I can offer to her memory, apart from the wish to give God His glory for one who was so entirely dedi cated to His love’ and service.

Precious Education Work.

‘In order to understand the greatness of that service,’ added his Lordship, ‘we, must remember the desperate need that then existed for the Catholic education of the young, not so much in the more settled places, as in the gold-fields, then attracting tens of thousands. In the eyes of Mother Benedict and her Sisters, the souls of the children of the gold diggers were more precious than the elusive metal for which their fathers delved. So we aro still shown on all tho old gold-fields tho places where once stood

“In the glory of slab and shingle, the little convent school.”

‘To Sofala, Hill End, Trunkey Creek, Sunny Corner, Pyramul, Bodangora, Dripstone, Peel, the Sisters came, and with their coming the terrible spiritual destitution gave way to ‘seven years of plenty’ that made ‘the desert bloosom like a rose.’ Many other places in this diocese and elsewhere can testify to the extent and usefulness of the Sisters. Evans Plains, White Rock, Kelso, Rockley, Lidster, Locksley, all at one time were blessed by their presence, until the ebb and flow of population laid bare the fields of their labors. In most of these places the little convents were very primitive. Why! the Sisters once lived in tents at MacDonald’s . Hole on the Mudgee line, lest the children of the railway construction camps might have no one to hand them the bread of life. On that memorable day in the Millstreet Convent, Bishop Quinn had been perfectly frank, ‘You may be sure Of your breakfast,’ he said, ‘but the other meals are very problematical.’ And so in literal truth was it proved. Even the commonest food was often pitiably scarce. But Mother Benedict’s wit and humor made light of these privations, and if the Sisters often went to bed hungry, she would remind them of the words of their Master. ‘Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.’ (John 12: 24).

A Glorious Expansion.

‘That fruit is here for all to see,’ as the Bishop explained. ‘Our diocese has twenty-four convents of the Sisters of St. Joseph, with one hundred and forty nine religious. Maitland, Goulburn, New Zealand and Tasmania have between them seventy-three convents with five hundred and sixty-five Sisters of St. Joseph. So that directly or indirect ly seven hundred and fourteen religious, wearing the black habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph are bound by common ties to Mother Benedict, and in close on a hundred convents of their institutes the news of her death will bring profound grief.

Deatn had no Terrors.

‘But death had no terrors for her, ‘disciplined and dieciplined in grace’ as she was. Rather during the past few weeks, when her strength was slowly ebbing away, did she frequently say she longed for death. Throughout, her mind was clear, with that, clarity for which she was always remarkable, and she faced death with the same calmness with which she met all the other crises of her life. She could say with confidence, ‘i am going to Him whom my soul loves.’ in her illness she was sustained by the most touching care of her Sisters. Many of the clergy came to take their leave of her. I, myself, had the privilege of giving her the Holy Viaticum. All of us realised that we had, alas, come to the end of a chapter, and that the holy nun, who was yielding up her pure soul to her Maker, was the greatest of those who had crossed its pages. ‘In giving her such length of days Almighty God was alreadv rewarding His servant and filling her with consolations. All but a few of those who had shared with her the early days of rigor and privation had gone to their reward. Their silent heroism, enduring and laboring without murmur, had not been spared till Vesper-time. There are those who reap and those who sow; for one the golden weather and the joy or harvest; for the other, the bleak winds, the hard soil, and the labor done in hope and only hope. Mother Benedict had been spared to see the institute, of which she may well be called the foundress, reaching its full maturity. ‘The Sisters whom she formed have ever made learning the handmaid of religion and have exhibited their piety in the care and instruction of the young. To this humane and sacred purpose they ‘have given, as she did, their lives, showing their courage as pioneers and their accomplishment as teachers. They have done more: they have proved that the influence of virtue travels far beyond ‘ the cloisters in which it is nourished, and like a river,

‘fed while It fosters, filling as It flows,’ enriches the fields, even of men who may not visit its secluded source. Hence, this ‘valiant woman,’ with the heart of a mother and the vision of a statesman, is well entitled to a niche amongst the group of Irish nation-builders to whom Australia is in debt. Although the field to her labours was more restricted, she can well be named in that goodly company of great women — Catherine Mc Auley, Nano Nagle, Mary Allcenhend, Mother Mary of the Cross and Mother Mary Potter — who have, in modern times, strengthened the Church with new auxiliaries. Though the flower of her earthly life has faded, it will bloom again in labor undertaken by her Sisters and sustained in remembrance of her goodness. Some day, It may be, her naijio will be an honored one in an even higher sense throughout the Catholio. world. Meanwhile we must pray for her immoral soul, hoping that she in turn will not be unmindful of us when she has been admitted into the blessed company of ‘the virgins who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.’ (Ap. 14:4). — Amen.’

from: The Catholic Freeman’s Journal, August 28th 1941, page 24



Ellen is not listed in the Millstreet Baptismal Records. Her year of her birth should be about 1854 (1941 – 87 years = 1854), but catholic births did not have to be registered until 1865)

Registered baptisms for children of Andrew Hickey and Ellen Barrett are:

Baptism of DANIEL HICKEY of TUREENBANE on 8 May 1856
Baptism of JULIANA (JULIA) HICKEY of TUREENHAURE on 20 May 1854


Dom Stanislaus Hickey (Lord Abbot of Mount Mellary 1931-1933)
Dom Stanislaus Hickey

A little on: Dom Stanislaus Hickey (Lord Abbot of Mount Mellary Abbey 29th Oct 1931 – 25th Feb 1933)

Tipperary-born Dom Stanislaus Hickey was the sixth Lord Abbot of Mount Melleray, and had been elected on 16 August 1931. His tenure was not to be a long one – he died of pneumonia on 25 February 1933.

Photo & video: Procession into his consecration

There are a number of photos in the National Library from his consecration



“I have 2 nuns Hickey relatives who went to Bathurst New South Wales as sisters of Mercy–names Margaret Hickey (sister Rose) and Lucy Hickey (Mother De Pazzi) parents were from Milstreet County Cork named John Hickey and Honora Murphy.” – from


(By N. C. W. C. News Service) San Francisco. June 3 1929.–Mother  Mary de Pazzi Hickey, a Sister of Mercy, died recently at Bathurst, Australia, at the age of 75, according to word just received by relatives here.
Mother de Pazzi, who was born in Cork, Ireland, went to Australia in 1875, in the company of 12 other postulants in the charge of the late Mothers M. Gonzaga and M. Borgia.
Only one of the 12 postulants in the charge survives her. Mother de Paz-
zi was superior, at Dubbo convert’, for nearly 20 years, being transferred
later to St. Joseph Orphanage, Bathurst, as superior.


Millstreet Nuns that emigrated to Australia:  Millstreet Nuns and Sisters of the Catholic Church in Australia 1838 – 1918 c.pdf

Five of the nuns listed were part of the group that went in 1875.

The table is too wide to display here, so we put it in the pdf above. below is the raw data in non table format:


Record    Religious Order    Order Centre    Religious Name    Surname    Christian Name    Father’s Christian Name    Mother’s Maiden Name    Mother’s Christian Name    Birthdate    Colony/ County of Birth    Town of Birth    Date Entered    Date of Death    Comments

2180    MERCY    BATHURST    ROSE    HICKEY    MARGARET    JOHN    MURPHY    NORA    03/17/55    CORK    MILLSTREET    12/10/75    11/21/36    ENTERED & BURIED BATHURST. ARRIVED 1875. MTHR GENERAL 1921-2





4676    MERCY    PARRAMATTA    JOSEPH    O’CALLAGHAN    NORA    JOSEPH         JOHANNA    01/01/62    CORK    MOHER    07/13/86    10/10/94    PIONEER FROM CALLAN, 1888. BORN MOHER, MILLSTREET.

10350    MERCY    MELBOURNE    TERESA    HARTY    ELIZA    JOHN         ELIZA    01/01/41         MILLSTREET    08/04/69    06/07/11    BURIED EASTERN GEELONG. ENTERED GEELONG.

10969    MERCY    MELBOURNE    TERESA    HARTY    ELIZA    JOHN         ELIZA    01/01/41         MILLSTREET    08/04/69    06/07/11    DI=1906 E’BETH OF MAURICE HARTY &ELIZA(KILLKER),G’LONG,AGE65

11070    MERCY    MELBOURNE    TERESA    HARTY    ELIZA    MAURICE              01/01/41         MILLSTREET    08/04/69    06/07/12    ADVOCATE 21JUL 1906,P20; FTHR OF GEELONG


Women of the Vale Perthville Josepites 1872-1972 - book coverWomen of the Vale Perthville Josepites 1872-1972 (302 pages) – is a book by Marie Crowley which tells the story of the foundation of the Sisters of St Joseph at The Vale or Perthville. Mother Benedict features significantly in that story.


The Perthville Josephine Sisters website is at:



A little followup has revealed that the Hickeys of Tooreenbawn lived on the Aubane to Kilcorney Creamery road, about half a mile from Aubane Cross. Click this link to see the location of the farmyard. The Kellehers took over the farm a long time ago. (research is ongoing on this topic)




‘The Letter Under My Pillow’ – Sr Benedict Hickey of Tooreenbawn is profiled in a new book on 150 years of Irish nuns in Western Australia…(the Corkman 9/July/2016)

In chapter 24 of the book it tells the story of Sr Benedict Hickey who was born on a farm at Tureenbawn, Millstreet in 1854. She was baptised Ellen and educated by the Presentation Sisters. At the age of 21 she opted to volunteer when she heard Bishop Matthew Quinn ‘appealing for postulants for his diocese in Australia,’ and she arrived in that ‘faraway country in 1875.’ She wrote of her life and remarked that some sisters were adept at setting rabbit traps and making rabbit stwes while others were good at organising Friday night dances for the young people and providing supper.
However, during the economic depression of the 1890s, great poverty hit all the Australia colonies and the people of the Diocese of Bathurst did not escape – nor did our sisters, she wrote.

‘Severe unemployment, drought and poverty were everywhere. Fifteen sisters died during the 1890s, nine were in their 20s and two were just over the age of 30. Nine sisters died of tuberculosis, which was rampant at the time,’ she wrote. However, she also wrote frankly about “party politics’ when a Sr Lucy Cuffee was elected Sister Guardian. Sr Hickey wrote that she refused to be her assistant as it was hard for her to give up her position of authority and to work with someone she did not trust.
But she noted how Bishop John Dunne from Mitchelstown gave her an ‘ultimatum …to return to the Vale or leave the Institute.

‘Six years later, when Sr Lucy’s term of office was over, Bishop Dunne took it upon himself to appoint Sr Paulinus Farrington as their Sister Guardian rather than letting them elect a sister.
‘HE did so because he believed that we were all engaging in party politics. We were upset with his actions and needed help to come to terms with his decision.’ Bishop Dunne was a good bishop. A decent, hardworking man who cared for his people and priests,’ she wrote.

She also reflected in the chapter on her life in Australia, ‘I look over my life and see a 21 year-old woman from Millstreet who ended up being a leader of a young Australian institute and steering it though the years with the help of many generous souls,’ and she also said she was grateful to God for calling to her.



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