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More light on the founders of The House of the Good Shepherd

‘… by a few zealous ladies’

The precise origin of ‘The House of the Good Shepherd’ [HGS] in Sydney as a Catholic refuge for women and who was involved in its commencement, is a little uncertain.  The various accounts that are given in an attempt to recall its commencement agree in the main but differ in the detail. New information, however, has come to light which would suggest, as this paper will argue, that some adjustment to the accepted narrative of events and persons involved needs to take place.

Simply put, the Catholic tradition[1] on the origin of HGS that has come down to us is that:

On a Sydney street in 1848, Father Farrelly of St Benedict’s Mission met a woman who was tired of life as a prostitute and begged him to find her a place where she could rest and rescue her soul. Farrelly placed her in the care of Mrs Blake, a Catholic laywoman, and when six more women asked for assistance, Polding instructed Farrelly to rent a house in Campbell Street. Mrs Blake looked after these women in the rented house[2] and, while the establishment was under her control, the Sisters of Charity visited to instruct the residents in the elementary tenets of their religion.[3] Archbishop Polding was anxious to make some permanent arrangement for the increasing numbers who were seeking shelter so he together with the Sisters of Charity established the Magdalen House in 1848,[4] which was soon after renamed ‘The House of the Good Shepherd’.[5]

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