The Sisters of Mercy, inspired by their foundress Catherine McAuley, had always tended to the sick. From the earliest days of their arrival in Townsville in 1878 they visited people in their homes, helped the sick and ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of the dying.
From the early years of the city’s history there had been widespread support from the Townsville community to establish a Catholic hospital. The sisters were encouraged by Bishop Hugh Ryan and Dr Leslie Halberstater to establish their own private hospital. The dream was realised with the purchase of the Lister hospital in Stagpole Street, West End in 1945 from Dr Halberstater. The hospital was renamed Mater Misericordiae (Mother of Mercy). The hospital was registered as a training hospital in 1946.There were three Mercy Sisters there at the beginning, Mother Mary Dominic, Sister Mary Basil and Sister Mary Claver. Support also came from Sister Eileen Lynch, Deputy Matron of the Townsville General hospital. The Sisters, including the first Matron, Sr Mary Dorothea Loth lived in part of the hospital building until a convent was erected in the grounds. The first graduation ceremony as on 16 October 1950.
Health Care was open to all who came, the Mercy philosophy not to turn anyone away was well known throughout Townsville. The Townsville Catholic News announced in May 1954 that a new Mater hospital was to be built in Fulham Road Pimlico. It was to be a further eight years before it was ready to be opened to patients. Bishop Ryan chaired the committee charged with raising the one hundred and fifty thousand pounds needed to erect the building. Patron was the Bishop, President, Dr L Halberstater, vice president, Dr R Douglas and Dr K Dorney. The membership reflected the local business and medical community, among the group: Jack Gleeson, Tom Rush, and Allan Sherriff. It is much quoted by the Sisters that the “the Mater hospital was built on the pennies of the poor” –the working people of North Queensland. A loan came from the bank of New South Wales and large and small donations came from the community: organising appeals in the streets, the Annual shows, raffles, turf club, Mater Debutante ball and Street Stalls. The new Mater became a reality.
Each day is a step towards eternity and we shall continue thus to step from day to day until we take the last step, which will bring us into the presence of God.Catherine McAuley - Foundress of the Sisters of Mercy