In 1982, during Sr Patricia Murphy’s second term as Congregational Leader, Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor began exploring the desire to move into smaller communities. The Sisters were supported in their discernment by Fr Patrick O’Sullivan.
The particular needs of the people in the Minto/Macquarie Fields area of Campbelltown were most evident. At the time, family income in the region was significantly lower than that of the wider Sydney area. There were few apprenticeships and jobs in the area, with the unemployment rate almost 20%. One of the critical needs in the area was accessing government services, with migrants further disadvantaged by language barriers.
The congregation agreed to set up a new ministry serving the sick poor and disadvantaged in the Campbelltown area. After a successful application to the Housing Commission, Srs Patricia Murphy and Kerry Macdermott moved into their new home at 14 Bigge Way, Minto. Sr Patricia continued her Leadership responsibilities and travelled to Coogee as required.
The ministry commenced on 14 December 1984. The Sisters were able to offer support in distress, nursing skills as required or help navigate access to government services. As community nurses were unavailable during the weekends, the Sisters often visited and cared for patients in their homes, some of whom were suffering from cancer. The local priest celebrated Mass in the Sisters’ home each week, with neighbours invited to attend. The Sisters were active in Lenten programs, interagency meetings and family support.
The Sisters were particularly active in the Aboriginal community, many of whom had been moved from the inner city. The Sisters had known many of these families at earlier times and their presence and support came at an opportune time. Srs Patricia and Kerry believed that providing spiritual outreach was important to the Aboriginal community. Together with Aboriginal elders, they formed the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in 1993. The Holy Trinity Church at Minto became a place of welcome where they felt comfortable, where Aboriginal spirituality was appreciated, and where they wanted their children to be baptised.
At the same time, they realised that a better understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members of the broader community was necessary. They formed a reconciliation group called Winga Myamly, Wiradjuri words meaning ‘to sit down and talk’. The group met on a monthly basis to create a better understanding and awareness of Aboriginal concerns. That is what Jesus would want us to do and as Eileen our Foundress asked of us – “have no other means save love” and “be with the poor as Jesus was”. In the group, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal would work in a culturally appropriate way, taking the advice of our Aboriginal elders for the good of the community.
On 22 July 2011, due to the re-development of the Department of Housing townhouse section of Minto, many families, including the Sisters, had to relocate. It was a major upheaval for everyone involved, as many families had lived their whole lives in Minto. Srs Patricia and Kerry relocated to 6 Laurel Place, Macquarie Fields. The Sisters travelled far and wide in the various areas to help families adjust and settle into their new surroundings and build up their community support.
After her term of leadership concluded, Sr Patricia Murphy remained in Minto, carrying out ministry visits to those in need throughout Minto, Macquarie Fields and the wider Macarthur area. Sr Patricia died on 13 June 2018, having given 34 years of loving service to the poor and disadvantaged of this area in the spirit of Jesus, reaching out with great care and compassion to the little ones of this world. She was still ministering to people right up to the week before she died. Her focus in life was to be of service to others.
The ministry will continue long after the Sisters have gone, as the spirit of Eileen O’Connor will live in the hearts and minds of all those the Sisters have touched. It will continue to evolve by responding to the needs of the poor. Today, it continues through the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry at Minto and through the Winga Myamly Reconciliation Group Members.
Sr Kerry Macdermott oln