On 23 January 2018, Christine Raeside, Rita Zhang and I joined a Pilgrimage led by Rachel McLean and Anne Taylor rsc to the Female Factory at Parramatta.
We followed the journey of the five Sisters of Charity who arrived in Sydney from Dublin on 31 December 1838: Mother Mary John Cahill, Sr Lawrence Cater, Sr Mary de Sales O’Brien, Sr Xavier Williams and Sr John Baptist De Lacy.
Walking from St Vincent’s College through Kings Cross, stopping on the way to view the Safe Injection Room set up in 1999, we visited St Vincent’s Hospital Darlinghurst. We walked past “The Wall” and paused at the Pink Triangle Memorial which commemorates lesbians and gay men who were killed by the Nazis during the war.
We continued to St Mary’s Cathedral taking time to sit and reflect on what we had already observed on our Pilgrimage.
After morning tea at Hyde Park Barracks, we boarded the River Cat at Circular Quay where we disembarked at Parramatta and walked along the Parramatta Riverside walk. The artwork on Aboriginal history on the footpath, hand painted by Jamie Eastwood, a descendant of the Ngemba people of far north western NSW.
Our pilgrimage continued to St Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta destroyed by fire on 19 February 1996, rebuilt and re-opened on 29 November 2003.
Our last stop was the Parramatta Female Factory which operated from 1802 to 1821 as a place which allowed women who had not been assigned ‘masters’ on arrival
in NSW to gain employment in the colony. A new Female Factory opened on 1 February 1821 serving as a multipurpose institution until 1848.
The pilgrimage ended at the stone memorial in the grounds of the old Female Factory for reflection on the sacrifices the five sisters made and their care for the women held captive in the Female Factory.
The day was enlightening and a very special experience.