By Matthew Lau
The campaign for Sister Mary Glowrey to become Australia’s second saint, after the canonisation of Sr Mary MacKillop in 2010, is now “in God’s hands”.
Dr Mary Glowrey was the founding president of the Catholic Women’s Social Guild in 1916, which is today known as the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga.
General President Jane Munro said the League’s members hope and pray that Sr Glowrey of the Sacred Heart JMJ will be Australia’s next saint.
“Naturally, we would be very excited and delighted if she does,” Mrs Munro said.
“All the information about her has been sent to Rome, and Fr Cherian Thunduparampil CMI has been appointed as postulator for the cause. As for ‘if’ or ‘when’, we do not know … that is in God’s hands.”
Sr Glowrey was born in 1887 in a Victorian town as the third of nine children to parents of Irish descent.
She was a missionary sister-doctor in Guntur, India from 1920 – until her death in 1957 – where she spent the rest of her life serving the medical and spiritual needs of the most marginalised people, particularly women and children.
In 1943, she established the Catholic Health Association of India, which now provides healthcare services to some 21 million people each year.
In 2010, Sr Glowrey’s cause for canonisation was opened – and the Catholic Church declared her a Servant of God three years later.
Her body was exhumed in Bangalore, with her remains moved to Guntur as part of the diocesan phase of the cause.
The Catholic Women’s League currently has some 900 members across five dioceses in the eastern states of Australia.
“It would seem that many within the League, whilst not actually pushing for canonisation, recognised the need to preserve her legacy,” Mrs Munro explained.
The first person connected with the League, and to have recognised Sr Glowrey’s abilities and holiness, was Fr William Lockington, founder of the Catholic Women’s Social Guild in 1916.
He persuaded her to become the first President.
Her sister, Lucy Connellan, kept correspondence.
Ursula Clinton, long-time editor (for 60 years) of the League’s The Horizon magazine, also recorded her work in India in articles.
“Sr Monica Butler gathered articles and letters to put some order into the documents and memoirs. Robyn, Madge and Tom Fahy spent many hours preserving and cataloguing letters, photographs and other memorabilia,” Mrs Munro added.
“The religious sisters – of the Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – whose order Dr Glowrey joined in India, recognised her God-given gifts too.”
Mrs Munro has trawled through the “fascinating” archived articles written by Sr Glowrey more than 100 years ago.
“Her wisdom and concern for the well-being of members shines through. Written in a time of social upheaval and dislocation of young women, at the end of World War I, she gave practical advice to members,” Mrs Munro elaborated.
“One article on sleep started with the words: ‘All nature is governed by laws. Our bodies no less are subject to laws which cannot be broken with impunity. That sleep is essential no one would deny’.
“I wonder if she took her own advice as her workload in India must have been overwhelming.”
Mrs Munro said the League remembers Sr Glowrey fondly for her evident gentle wisdom, care, and love.
“Sr Glowrey was accepting of traditional medicines in India, not because they are traditional, but because she did not reject them as inferior but tested them and added them to her meagre armoury.
“It speaks to me of a truly humble person with an inquiring mind, willing to ‘think outside the square’ and prepared to learn from others,” Mrs Munro concluded.