From the earliest days of their arrival in Townsville in 1878, the Sisters of Mercy, inspired by their foundress, Catherine McAuley, visited people in their homes, helped the sick and ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of the dying.
From the early years of Townsville'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, and the dream was realised with the purchase of the Lister Hospital in Stagpole Street, West End, in 1945. The Hospital was renamed Mater Misericordiae (Mother of Mercy), and registered as a training Hospital in 1946.
The Hospital was staffed by three Mercy Sisters, 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 building until a Convent was established on the grounds.
In 1954, the Townsville Catholic News announced that a new Mater Hospital was to be constructed on Fulham Road, Pimlico; however, it was to be a further eight years before it opened.
As Patron, Bishop Ryan chaired the committee charged with raising the one hundred and fifty thousand pounds needed to construct the building. Other members of this committee included Dr Lister Halberstater (President), Dr R Douglas and Dr K Dorney, and members of the local business and medical community, including Mr Jack Gleeson, Mr Tom Rush, and Mr Allan Sherriff.
It is much quoted by the Sisters that, “The Mater Hospital was to be 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 through the organising of appeals and raffles at the annual shows, the Turf Club, the Mater Debutante Ball and street stalls.
This community-level support was the foundation of the ministry of the Mater Private Hospital for North Queensland.
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