Short, Careful Steps 2019
Porcelain, artificial grass, furniture.
Let us take one day only in hand, at a time, merely making a resolve for tomorrow, thus we may hope to get on taking short, careful steps, not great strides.
Catherine McAuley, 1841
This beautiful sitting room is an ideal place to rest as you gaze over the Brisbane River and reflect in the journey of Mother Mary Vincent Whitty and her small band of Sisters making their way up the River on their arrival in 1861
In May 1864, Mother Mary Vincent Whitty wrote to the Reverend Mother in Dublin, describing ‘… this lovely spot, which appears more suitable every day, for a Convent. I wish you could all come and see it and the lovely Australian flowers.’
Responding to impressions of this place, ceramic artist, Helen Earl, has created a garden of flowers that represent the changing landscape of this site. Interwoven together are both exotic species of flowers and botanical species native to Queensland Proteaceae species, boronia and flannel flowers; some of which the Sisters may have seen when they arrived in Brisbane.
Banksia aemula flowers adorn the interior of the fireplace referencing both site history and the ecology of banksia species whereby fire regimes ensure healthy regeneration in poor soils and harsh conditions. Atop the green lawn settee are Actinotus helianthi, commonly know as flannel flowers and tiny Boronia falcifolia both delicate yet resilient indigenous flowering plants.
Flowing around the room are exotic flowers from Ireland and Europe such as shamrock, roses, dahlia and poppy interspersed by the Mercy magnolia. The roses ‘flourish’ along the window sills mirroring the central exterior garden space.
The Mercy magnolia
Interspersed throughout the flowers are magnolias, which have a special meaning for the Sisters of Mercy Brisbane Congregation. The old magnolia tree at the side of the convent was planted when the Sisters moved to this site in 1863. According to All Hallows’ lore, one day Mother Mary Vincent Whitty was looking out the parlour window and saw a goat eating the young tree. She commented that if the tree survived the Sisters’ mission would flourish. She was an astute predictor¾not only does the magnolia tree continue to bloom each year, but God’s spirit of mercy and Mercy ministries have blossomed for nearly 160 years and continue to evolve.