Our History

Australian Province

Australian Province History

The Beginning

Lyons, France 1861, and a courageous, visionary woman – Euphrasie Barbier – lays the foundations for the establishment of the international community of women known as the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions.
The Sisters’ arrival in Perth dates back to 1897 when on the invitation of Bishop Matthew Gibney, the Congregational Superior General, Mother Mary of the Holy Rosary, visited the colony on her way to New Zealand.
The intention to proceed with the foundation at Highgate was announced in the Sacred Heart Highgate church during the Sunday Eucharist of 13 July 1897. Three months later, five Sisters arrived from New Zealand and the school was opened on 25 October of the same year.
The temporary corrugated iron building served as both a school and church, however, the unrelenting sun that bore down on the building all day made it almost impossible for the Sisters and their 38 students to get any work done.

Needless to say, plans were soon made for the building of a school, convent and chapel on the Highgate Hill site, the foundation stone for which was laid on 18 September 1898.

The following year, three more Sisters arrived at Highgate to assist in the running of the school that had increased its enrolment from 140 at the end of 1897.

Expansion in Education

In the ensuing years in WA, the Sisters became involved with the establishment and/or administration of fifteen primary and six secondary (including Highgate) schools, starting with St Joseph’s School, Busselton in 1903 and concluding with Wanalirri Catholic School, Gibb River that opened on 31 January, 1991.

Within 25 years of arriving in Western Australia the Congregation was also invited to establish a convent and school in Donald, Victoria and later in Charlton, Oakleigh and East Kew. Later, in 1968, the Sisters commenced teaching at Sacred Heart, Pearce in the ACT.

At the invitation of Bishop John Jobst, two sisters arrived in Broome to open the new school, Nulungu Girls’ College, in February 1974. The aim was to provide an education that would affirm Aboriginal culture with its positive values, as well as prepare girls to take their place confidently in contemporary Australian society.

In all of these schools and ministries the Sisters have made significant contributions to the life, of not only their students but to the whole community. Like their Foundress, Euphrasie Barbier, they were women with vision who began these schools and then handed them over to the local people to continue.

Missions and Ministries

In 1964, the southeast sheep farming towns of Wagin and Narrogin became the bases for the Congregation’s Motor Mission whereby the Sisters commenced the teaching of catechesis. Almost 30 years later in 1992, the last Motor Mission concluded in Lake Grace.
Internationally, a number of Australian Sisters have served (since 1920) and continue to serve in the Congregation’s overseas missions located in India, Indo-China, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Peru, Kenya, Senegal and Germany.

Whilst teaching, and particularly the teaching of Aboriginal children and those with special learning needs, has continued to be a focus for the Congregation, there has also been dissemination into other ministries where needs have been identified. A number of Sisters have been engaged as counsellors, spiritual directors and pastoral workers in metropolitan parishes.

The Sisters also endeavoured to participate and contribute to voluntary pursuits, some of which include Personal Advocacy, Carrod, the Shopfront and other social justice initiatives.

End of an Era

The end of the Year 2000 brought with it an end of an era for the Congregation as the Sisters relocated from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent in Highgate to new residences in the southern suburb of Rossmoyne.

To the delight of the Sisters, a number of the offices of the Catholic Archdiocese relocated to the former Convent following renovation and restoration works that have endeavoured to preserve much of the original building and in particular the chapel. A stained glass window donated to the project by the Sisters provides an ongoing living memory of their presence.

And Now

Following the leader of their foundress, the Sisters of our Lady of the Missions dedicate themselves to share the Good News of God’s presence, particularly among those marginalised in society.

The Australian Mission Office is actively working to contribute to the ongoing work of Sisters in overseas mission work which includes; supporting the establishment of micro-credit banking, workplaces for women at risk, schools and medical centres.

Though ageing we continue to deepen our sense of belonging to one another, the wider community of the Congregation and to our partners in Mission.

A living memory

A Missionary Journey

This commemorative stained glass window was commissioned by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions and placed in the Catholic Pastoral Centre, 40 Mary St, Highgate, Perth, Western Australia. The building was built in 1897 as the Provincial and Novitiate House of the Sisters, where young women were formed and prepared for mission. It commemorates and recognises over 100 years of missionary service by the Sisters in Western Australia. It seeks to not only honour those who have served throughout the years, but is a visual reminder to all of us, that we continue the tradition of missionary service both here and around the world.

It is a living memory to all our Sisters, past and present and an inspiration for those yet to come.
The artwork was designed by Sister Helena Brabender RNDM, and the stained glass windows were beautifully crafted by Mr Vic Burns. Images have been used throughout our website and their significance is outlined below.

Ship Journey of the five pioneering RNDM Sisters from New Zealand.

Sails Stylised map of Australia – their destination.

Five Figures The five Foundation Sisters – yellow section depicts their dreams and vision for their future mission.

Red Semi-circle Community aspects – unity, vowed life.

Inserts Right – Convent Highgate

Left – Sacred Heart School monogram

Sunset Passing of the years; dedication enabling and empowering the laity to take their rightful role in the Church: the hope that comes with the dawning of a new day.

RNDM Logo International emblem of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, surrounded by Australian flora of gum leaf and wattle.

Blue Globe Mandate of the Sisters as an international missionary Congregation to work internationally and in cultures other than their own.

Book The Scripture and Constitutions basic to the Sisters’ way of life; also symbolises Book of Knowledge as education was the primary mission of the Sisters.

Water Fulfilment of Baptismal commitment to be missionary and prophetic.

Grapes and Wheat The Sacramental life which gives Spiritual nourishment and strength.

Dove Holy Spirit – Pentecost – Patronal Feast of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions.

Red Rays Gifts of the Holy Spirit which give life and direction to the RNDM Charism.


We are one, we are love

History of the Congregation

Euphrasie Barbier began the missionary order, Religieuses de Notre Dame des Missions (RNDM), in 1861 and sent the first missionaries to New Zealand in 1864. Over the following years Sisters were missioned to Australia, England, Wallis, Futuna, Samoa, India, Myanmar and to Bangladesh.

At the time of Euphrasie’s death in 1893 there were 205 professed Sisters.

The Congregation continued to grow through the education of women and girls and Sisters moved to Canada and Indo-China.

World War II saw RNDM Sisters in Vietnam and Burma imprisoned by the Japanese, a frightening experience for all. In France, they experienced the German invasion, and in England the aerial bombardment.

By 1966 there were 1,243 Sisters. Vatican II asked religious communities to look at their missionary life and to move outside their countries for new opportunities. New missions were established in Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Peru, Senegal and Samoa.

Today the Congregation is a multi-cultural group of women from every continent. The Congregation Leadership Team and administration are based in Rome, Italy. Growth in professed Sisters today comes mostly from Asia and Africa.

The original enthusiasm for new Missions lives on today in the Congregation, and now includes Taiwan, Philippines, and Laos, still with a focus on  “various forms of education and social ministry, responding to the needs of people, especially marginalized women and children and those who are poor and oppressed. We enable them to live with dignity and respect and to take their rightful place in society.” Constitutions No 35 Mission

Women with a heart for the world

Reach Us


Doncaster Heights LPO
PO Box 439

SR Mary McInernery

Sr Mary McInernery

For over sixty years Mary has had many opportunities to walk in the footsteps of Euphrasie Barbier, reaching out to the vulnerable earth and peoples. An important part of her personal mission has been seeking of partners for support of children with disability enabling them to reach their full potential through access to education and medical care. As a returned missionary from 22 years spent in Kenya she hopes to continue to share charism and spirituality with our Sisters, partners and the wider community. Mary is fascinated by the history of the Congregation and hopes to find ways of making it more accessible. She enjoys reading and poetry.

SR Anne Noonan

Sr Anne Noonan

Born in South Perth, Anne celebrated her 90th birthday in July 2020. The eldest of nine, Anne was a born leader and lover of learning. After completing her BEd, she joined the RNDM’s. She was Principal for many years at Sacred Heart Primary School Highgate.Province Leader for Australia and Papua New Guinea twice over, Anne served on the Congregational Leadership Team in Rome, enthusing and animating Sisters and their missionary projects worldwide. Gaining a doctorate in spirituality in USA, Anne engaged extensively in spirituality work, first in Rome, and in Perth 1995-2012. Anne now resides in Margaret Hubery House, Shelley.

SR Marie Therese Ryder

Sr Marie Therese Ryder

Marie Therese is a West Australian by birth, but international by vocation! That nascent sense of having a heart and vision that embraces the world was fanned into a flame in her 40’s when she directed an International Renewal Programme for 9 years at Marino in Italy. There she came to know RNDM’s from across the world and to share vicariously in their missions. The Congregation leader at the time, Sr Marie Benedicte, often stayed with Marie Therese whilst writing a book on the spirituality of Euphrasie Barbier, our Foundress. Her sharing was a further source of enrichment. All of which continues today to nurture and expand her relationship with God, with RNDM’s across the world and with the whole cosmos.

SR Margaret Spain

Sr Margaret Spain

Margaret was born in Victoria in 1946, receiving her schooling from the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions at the local parish school. In 1968 Margaret began full-time study at the University of WA, at the same time attending Secondary Teachers College. Following her Final Vows she returned to Victoria as a teacher at Sacred Heart Girls College Oakleigh. Then followed six years at Nulungu College in Broome WA. The last half of 1985 was spent in Rome as part of an international RNDM group focused on Mission studies. From 1986 to 2016 she was part of the Senegal Mission. She now enjoys teaching adults English as a second language in Perth and relaxing in her spare time.

SR Mary Goretty Kim Dung Vu

Sr Mary Goretty Kim Dung Vu

Mary Kim was born in 1946 in North Vietnam and entered religious life in 1966. Mary Kim spent time on mission in Vietnamese communities, then in 1993 she was missioned in Perth, and worked with the Vietnamese Catholic Community for liturgy, with children for catechist and LOTE program and with women in faith accompaniment. Then a move to Melbourne, where she worked for the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association. Through her ministries, she learned to respect, to love, and to serve people. Her favorite loved ones are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. She feels blessed for being able to accompany them on their difficult life journey as a friend who has shared the bread of life and the hope for a better future. Now retired, Mary Kim keeps them company in her thoughts and prayer.

SR Lorna Brown

Sr Lorna Brown

Lorna began her schooling at Good Shepherd Convent School in Chadstone, Victoria. Following secondary school at St Mary’s Donald, Lorna worked for two years in Melbourne as a Junior Clerk. She entered the Novitiate in Perth in 1945. Lorna’s missionary experience has been long and varied in primary and secondary schools in city and country Western Australia and Victoria. After three years in Papua New Guinea and nine very fulfilling years as Pastoral Associate, three years in Rome became preparation for retirement. This was interrupted just once by a short time in Kenya. Lorna now enjoys spending her time writing letters to young Sisters on Missions overseas, book clubs, reading and knitting.

SR Tar Clifton

Sr Tar Clifton

Maureen Faye Clifton is the eldest child of Kitty and Laurie Clifton. She grew up in Moreland, Victoria. In 1937 – aged 11 she became a victim of the polio epidemic which left her with a life-long disability. This however did not deter her from following her dream to become an RNDM, she travelled to Perth to enter the novitiate in 1945. She was skilled with figures and the intricacies of book-keeping. Whether teaching in Western Australia or Victoria she endeared herself to everyone. She enjoyed her retirement at Mt Eliza where her presence at the Senior Parishioners Club and Vincent de Paul activities was much appreciated. Friends from these days are faithful visitors to St Catherine’s Aged Care where she continues her mission of prayers for all. Always with a smile. She enjoys cricket, reading and visits from family, Sisters and past pupils.

SR Maureen Dwan

Sr Maureen Dwan

A New Zealander from Christchurch, Maureen was educated by the Sisters and felt drawn toward the missionary aspect of our Congregation. Maureen spent 29 years on mission in Papua New Guinea working alongside the Capuchin Friars of the USA, when the diocese was still in the early stages of development. From 2002 Maureen had six years in Rome on the Congregational Leadership Team followed by two years in Sturry, England setting up a Heritage Centre in memory of the life and mission of our foundress Euphrasie Barbier. A move to Australia included working in the International Mission Office and setting up a Sponsor a Child Programme which she now runs from the Australian Mission Office.

SR Catherine Brabender

Sr Catherine Brabender

Catherine Brabender was born and educated in Oakleigh at both Sacred Heart Primary and Sacred Heart Girls College. Early years in ministry were in Primary education as teacher and Principal. She then moved into Adult faith formation, organisational development and Province Leadership. For the past ten years was Director of the International Mission Office. It was during these years that she was privileged to visit most Provinces and Missions of the Congregation to assess their needs and then approach funding agencies in Europe and other parts of the world seeking support to enable these great missionary projects among some of the world’s most marginalised peoples, to continue. Through her passion for Mission she inspired many to become Partners in RNDM Mission. One of the highlights was bringing Papa Oo from St Therese’s Orphanage Myanmar to Australia for reconstructive surgery on her ears and as a result a cochlea hearing aid was fitted. This has given Papa the opportunity of an education and hope for the future. Catherine enjoys reading, walking, cooking and catching up with family and friends.

SR Patricia Keogh

Sr Patricia Keogh

Patricia Anne Keogh was born in Ashby de la Zouch England in 1944, and her family migrated to Australia in 1951. Pat entered in 1962 and longed to go on the missions, eventually going to Beagle Bay, WA in 1987. Working with the Indigenous people was a very enriching experience. The children taught her much about the environment such as naming the animal tracks, the bush foods and the sea creatures. Pat went twice to Kulaman in the Philippines to help the Sisters and Teachers to teach English to the Primary School children. Today she still enjoys helping adults to learn English.

SR Veronica Martin

Sr Veronica Martin

Veronica was born in West Perth in 1936 to a very down to earth Catholic family, the second of four siblings. In 1961 Veronica entered the convent and after formation and a year at training college she taught at various schools in WA, Act and Victoria plus a two year stint on the motor mission in south west WA. For Veronica her ten years on mission in Peru, South America during the time of ‘Sendero Luminosa’ were challenging yet life giving. She is now fortunate to have part time work in a parish and in her spare time she loves to read.

SR Maureen Belleville

Sr Maureen Belleville

Maureen was born in Donald, Victoria in 1929 and grew up on the farm with her parents and five siblings. After Primary School she boarded with our Sisters and was greatly impressed by their wonderful spirit and this led her to enter the Congregation is 1947. During Maureen’s seventy plus years in Religious Life she taught for almost 50 years in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Commencing in 2004 and concluding in 2010 she had the privilege of teaching English to our Sisters in Vietnam. Since then Sisters from Vietnam, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar have come to study here and live with her. She is grateful to God for so many happy years in the Congregation. She now visits and writes to elderly people in their homes and enjoys reading.

Sr Helena Brabender

Born in Melbourne, Helena’s earliest missionary interests was inspired by the Sisters who taught her at Sacred Heart Primary School Oakleigh. With 25 years spent in Broome teaching Art and Fashion Design at Nulungu College, she was able to encourage the indigenous students to be proud of their aboriginality and incorporate symbols from their rich cultural heritage into fabric design as well as gain self-confidence and pride in themselves which led to them winning many awards at the State Teenage Fashion Awards. The Indigenous Youth Art Gallery run by the students was another great accomplishment of Helena’s time in Broome. As well as her role as Province Bursar, Helena enjoys continuing her interest in Aboriginal Spirituality, Art and Fundraising as well as spending time with family and friends.

SR Madeleine Barlow

Sr Madeleine Barlow

Madeleine was born in Oakleigh, Melbourne where she went to school and first learnt about the life of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions. Over more than 50 years Madeleine has had rich experiences as an RNDM Sister visiting so many of our Sisters engaged with poor disadvantaged people in many countries. Over the last ten years Madeleine has enjoyed regular visits to the Philippines with teachers and students of Sacred Heart Girls’ College Oakleigh – making personal contact with Menubo Tribal People in Mindanao and families living on the streets of Manila, and feels privileged to see their welcome smiles of recognition as she returns with a new group of people each year.

Sr Patricia Byrne - RIP

Patricia, the eldest of six siblings, was educated by RNDM’s. On leaving school she completed her BA at University of Western Australia before becoming an RNDM herself. She was a gifted language teacher and in the course of further studies she gained a scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1972 Patricia became private secretary to the Congregation Leader in Rome, during this time she went to visit Sisters in Vietnam. For over 30 years from 1984 she was a pastoral carer for Vietnamese refugees arriving in Perth. Her profound love for them, she would have said, was abundantly rewarded over the years. Patricia passed away peacefully in Perth on 4th August 2020.

Barlow, Shelley

Sr Shelley Barlow

Shelley Barlow was born in seaside Mordialloc in 1941 and grew up in Oakleigh Victoria. Shelley taught at her Alma Mater Sacred Heart Girls’ College Oakleigh, but her teaching, parish and motor mission ministry was mostly in WA. Short-term Ministry in the Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar was a great joy for her. The heightened experiences of interculturality and finding the face of God in the other, have been bright highlights in her life. Currently Province Vicar she also enjoys pursuing her passion for creation spirituality through retreats and book clubs.