Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Mary
22 Castle Oaks: Sr. Mary Gough, Sr. Freda McGrath &
Sr. Patsy Butler.
Tel: 051 851606
Grianán Close: Sr. Maureen Breen, Sr. Dolores Carroll, Sr. Céline Murphy, Sr. Clare O’Keeffe, Sr. Catherine McCarthy, Sr. Gwen Power,
Sr. Kate Nolan, Sr. Teresina O’Byrne.
Madonna House, Care Centre: Sr. Deirdre Kavanagh, Sr. Margaret Mary Morris, Sr. Máire O’Donnell, Sr. Mary O’Neill, Sr. Marcella Power, Sr. Eileen Purcell, Sr. Katherine Quilligan.
The Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred heart of Mary was founded in Beziers – a city in the south of France – in the year 1849. The founder of the congregation was a priest called Fr. Jean Gailhac.
Jean Gailhac, as a young man entered the seminary on Montpellier in October 1818. During his years of study he was noted for his diligence, his deep piety and his intelligence. After his ordination in September 1826 he was appointed to the chair of philosophy at the seminary, and was assigned to teach Dogmatic Theology. A brilliant future seemed open for him but he rejected it, and at his own choice was granted the chaplaincy of of the city hospital, where he became aware of the miseries of the poor and the abandoned. He came across numbers of young women whose lives of prostitution and vice left them victims of disease and rejection. Many of them he sent at his own expense to a house of refuge in Montpellier, but he soon realized that this was not sufficient, so he bought a house in Beziers and set up a refuge there.
Six good women in Beziers offered their services to him, they left their homes, their families and their social position and devoted themselves to the task of caring for the penitents. A very good friend of Fr. Gailhac, Mr. Eugene Cure along with his wife helped in the running of the refuge, both financially and practically.
One night a woman rang at the door and handed over a baby to Fr. Gailhac, and hurried away – the house of refuge now became an orphanage also. From 1834 to 1849 Fr. Gailhac, in spite of much opposition, slander and suffering, directed the orphanage and refuge. In November 1848 Mr. Eugene Cure died suddenly and his wife decided to devote her life and wealth to the work of Fr. Gailhac. On the 24th of February, she and five co-workers made a solemn promise to spend their lives working for the poor and abandoned.
The congregation of the of the Sacred Heart Of Mary was born on the fourth of May 1851. Mother St. John Cure and her seven companions pronounced their final vows. Unhappily Mother St. John died after a long illness in 1869.
Other young women as time went on joined the group, and Fr. Gailhac decided to open a school for the Christian education of young women. About this time he became acquainted with a Miss Murphy from Ireland, living in Beziers, and asked her if she knew of any Irish Girls who might be interested in joining the Sacred Heart of Mary Community. As a result of this two Irish girls Rosanna McMullen of Sandymount and Therese Hennessy of Kilkenny left their homes and country and entered the convent in the south of France.
In the early 1860’s the Sacred Heart of Mary community counted several Irish sisters, but the climate and culture evoked health problems for some and Fr. Gailhac thought that a foundation in Ireland would be beneficial. One of his earliest attempts to found a convent in Callan had to be abandoned due to a conflict between the Parish Priest Fr. O’Keeffe and the Bishop.
Shortly afterwards mother St. Thomas Hennessy was chosen to accompany a novice returning home due to ill health. Here she came in contact with Fr. Kelly, Parish Priest of Lisburn, Co. Antrim who was very anxious to establish free education for the poor and a paying school for the better off Catholics, and so, on the 13th November 1870, the first community outside Beziers was opened in Lisburn. The congregation spread rapidly to England, Portugal and USA and in 1879 the convent in Ferrybank was blessed and for 130 years the Sisters have worked here and become part of the parish.
At present the congregation has houses in North, Central and South America, in Africa, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Portugal and of course Ireland.