Early Years

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Mary Glowrey pictured as a child. © Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga

“In the course of my lifetime I have been called by many names—‘good-for-nothing’, ‘slow coach’ and ‘dreamer’—all names that are easily understood and perfectly applicable.”

(Dr Sr Mary Glowrey JMJ, The Horizon, 1 January 1932)

Mary Glowrey was born on 23rd June 1887 in the small township of Birregurra in Victoria. Of Irish descent, Mary was the third of nine children born into a loving and prayerful family. Each night the Rosary was said and with it a prayer for priests and doctors. Mary Glowrey recalling that practice may years later wrote: “When my brother and I were respectively priest and doctor, I sincerely hoped that many another mother added that ‘trimming’ to the Rosary.” One of Mary’s younger brothers, Harold, became a Member of the Parliament of Victoria. Her youngest brother, Gerard, became a dairy farmer.

The family relocated to Garvoc when Mary was only five months old and then to Watchem, in the Mallee region, when Mary was five. The Glowrey family later moved to Swan Hill after doctors advised Mary’s parents that her younger sister, Eliza, needed to live in a warmer climate.

From about the age of seven, Mary had prayed to do God’s will. She was always deeply thankful to God that this supreme Grace had been given to her at the dawn of reason.3 Mary could not have realised then what such a prayer would lead her to and, the level of trust that would be required of her when many years later she boarded a ship bound for a life of service in a foreign land with an religious order whose name she did not know. Nearing the end of her life, Mary Glowrey reflected: ‘Whatever else I may have neglected, I have always prayed seriously, if not earnestly, as I might, that God would teach me His Holy Will and give me the Grace to do it.’4 It was this openness to the will of God that was to become one of the primary formative factors which grounded and permeated her whole life.

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Mary Glowrey with school students at South Melbourne College in 1902. Pictured in the back row, on the far right.
© Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga

When Mary was ten, she made her first acquaintance with sorrow. On Palm Sunday 1897, her little brother Joseph was born. Mary was passionately fond of him and spent a great deal of time playing with him. Towards Christmas, Joseph became ill and died shortly thereafter. Joseph had taken his last breath cuddled in the arms of his mother and surrounded by his loving family. Mary’s father gently removed Joseph from his mother’s arms and gave him to a neighbour. This neighbour took Joseph and then dropped him unceremoniously on the bed. Mary later wrote: ‘That hurt and gave me a first idea of what death meant.’5 It was the 22nd December 1897. Mary felt a pain around her heart, a real physical pain, for many months.6

After completing her primary school education at Watchem State School, Mary gained a scholarship enabling her to complete her secondary education at South Melbourne College. When she matriculated, Mary was too young to be accepted by the University. She repeated the Matriculation course in other subjects and so gained a very wide education.

3. Ibid.
4. Glowrey, op. cit.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.