Prayer and Action

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“There is but one question. Does our Lord want me to do this for Him?”

Dr Mary Glowrey, 2 November 1916

A chance reading of a pamphlet about the appalling death rate amongst babies in India, and the desperate need for medical missionaries, fundamentally changed the direction of her life. Mary later wrote: ‘It was during this busy period that God deigned to give me my religious vocation. On 24 October 1915, I attended Holy Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The day was being celebrated as ‘Hospital Sunday’.10 From the Cathedral, I went to my rooms in Collins St. On the hall table there was a small pamphlet addressed to me.’ The pamphlet was about Dr Agnes McLaren, a pioneer Scottish doctor who at the age of sixty-one became a Catholic and at the age of seventy two, went to India to establish a hospital for the care of women.

Falling to her knees, Mary finished reading this pamphlet and knew that God had called her to help the women and children of India. Mary, describing this moment many years later, said: ‘It brought me face to face with Christ.11 My life’s work lay clear before me now. It was to be medical mission work in India.’12 Mary answered: ‘Fiat’.13 And so it was done, Mary wrote to her parents telling them of her decision and acknowledged the part they had each played in her vocation—her Mother who had taught Mary to always pray to do the Will of God and her Father who had perseveringly asked her to study medicine.14 Mary was anxious to go India at once but was unable to do so because of the war.15

Mary-Glowreys-Family 350
The Glowrey family at the ordination of Mary’s younger brother, Fr Edward Glowrey, in Ballarat, 1918.
Back row, from left: Gerard, Eliza, Edward (known as Eddie to the family) and Harold (an MP in the Victorian State Parliament).
Front row, from left: Lucy, Edward, Margaret and Mary
© Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga

In 1916, Mary Glowrey was elected as the first General President of the newly formed Catholic Women’s Social Guild (CWSG) now known as the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga. Deeply concerned about the economic and social inequities that women faced, this inspired group of young Catholics sought to change society through prayer and action. Mary addressed meetings throughout Victoria, wrote frequent articles about health matters for the Guild’s newsletter and started a baby clinic (with Dr Eileen Fitzgerald, another founding member of the CWSG) to make information about the healthcare of infants freely available. During this time, Mary also studied for a higher medical degree with a particular emphasis on obstetrics, gynaecology and ophthalmology and, was conferred as a Doctor of Medicine in December 1919.

10. Glowrey, op. cit.
11. Swamikannu, op. cit., p 42.
12. Glowrey, op. cit.
13. Sister M. Adelaide Orem S.C.M.M., Out of Nothing: The Genesis of a Great Initiative, 1968, p 17.
14. Glowrey, op. cit.
15. Ursula Clinton, Australian Medical Nun in India, 1967, p 19.