Mother Ursula Frayne
Ursula Frayne was a woman who crossed the world by sailing ship to support the struggling minority of her Celtic clan and discovered another race more severely dispossessed than her own in newly colonised Australia. She was an extraordinary woman, a pioneer educator, welfare reformer, advocate and policy maker. A perfect role model for the students of Ursula Frayne Catholic College. She was a person who led a group of courageous Irish women committed in faith to the pursuit of Justice and Compassion.
Clara Mary Frayne was born in Dublin in 1817 and died in Melbourne in 1885. She was trained by Catherine McAuley, and became a professed Sister of Mercy on 25 January 1837.
In 1845 Ursula Frayne had 21 days to prepare to sail for Western Australia with five other Sisters of Mercy and one Postulant. Together with Bishop Brady, his European missionaries, one Irish priest and seven Irish catechists, they sailed for Western Australia via the Cape of Good Hope. The journey on the ship 'Elizabeth' was no pleasure cruise and when they arrived in Perth, their arrival was unexpected and no arrangements for sleeping quarters had been made. To quote Mother Ursula Frayne: "We stood in the wilds of Australia on that mid-summer night, and we could truly say with our Divine Model, we have nowhere to rest our head".
Undaunted, the Sisters found lodging at the house of a Methodist lady, Mrs Crisp, who, despite her astonishment at the unusual apparel of her guests, and her confusion when she discovered that they could not eat chops because it was Friday, made every effort to make the Sisters comfortable.
Mother Ursula Frayne opened the first Mercy school in Australia on 2 February 1846 with planks, bricks and packing cases as the furniture. Instead of the 4,000 children Bishop Brady had promised them in Dublin, only one child turned up. This did not discourage them however, they began house to house visits. After a lot of work they had 50 children in their school and by 23 August 1846 they had 100 children.
Later the Sisters established a boarding house for a few students from the country. This school was crowded and so the Sisters decided to build a convent. On 3 May 1847, the foundation stone of the new convent was laid and they were able to take it over on 2 May 1848. The building was two storeys high and built across the back of the church, forming the letter T. Both buildings are still standing today at Victoria Square, Perth.
In 1979, the City of Perth honoured her contribution as an educator by dedicating a plaque to her on the pavement in St George's Terrace.
The legacy of Ursula Frayne is through the ministries of Mercy. It is to encourage women and men to be resourceful and merciful, followers of Christ in the world. Young, vital and committed to the development of a better Australia, Ursula Frayne is an ideal example for all young Australians today.
Source: 'Ursula Frayne, A Biography by Catherine Kovesi Killerby'
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