Mother Vincent Whitty

Mother Vincent Whitty

Ellen Whitty (1 March 1819 – March 1892), better known by her religious name of Mother Vincent Whitty, was an Irish nun known for her work in the Australian state of Queensland. She was a leading figure in the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy.

She was born at Pouldarrig near Oylgate, a village seven miles form the town of Wexford,

She joined Catherine McAuley (the founder of the Sisters of Mercy) at the convent in Baggot Street, Dublin in 1839. Serving as Ellen Whitty's spiritual guide through her noviceship, Catherine McAuley was extremely close to her and requested Mother Vincent to sit by her side in her dying hours. She was made mistress of novices in 1844, and in 1849 superior general, third in succession to Mother McAuley. While she was superior, the Crimean War was carried on, and she offered the services of her nuns to nurse the sick and wounded soldiers. Her sister Mary Agnes was one of those who went to the seat of war.

Involved in the planning of the Mater Hospital, Dublin, Mother Vincent was especially skilled in organisation and as such was considered invaluable to the Sisters of Mercy community in Ireland. It was this that held Mother Vincent in Ireland until Bishop James Quinn (a Dubliner who had recently been nominated as the first bishop of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia) encouraged her to come to his pioneer diocese. The new diocese, as large as France, Spain, and Italy together, had then only two priests and four churches.

Mother Vincent Whitty arrived in Brisbane at 10pm on 10 May 1861 and in November founded All Hallows' School, a Catholic girls school in Queensland. The congregation she founded soon spread throughout the new colony, with more than more than twenty convents founded before her death

Bishop Quinn's decision to include Mother Vincent in his pastoral plan proved to be inspirational, and under his leadership the Sisters of Mercy were able to make a positive contribution to the upbuilding of the Catholic community throughout the State of Queensland.

When Mother Vincent Whitty died at All Hallows' Convent in 1892 she left behind "a group of 222 Sisters in 26 schools of 7000 students and welfare institutions protecting some 200 children" (Mercy Women, 2001, p. ix).


St. David's Well, which has lately become again the object of extraordinary devotion, lies besides her father's land; it is dedicated to St. David of Wales, said to have been the confessor of St. Aidan of Wexford. Of her sisters one became also a Sister of Mercy; the other married the brother of the famous convert and publicist, Frederick Lucas. Father Robert Whitty, S.J., was her brother.


  •  "Ellen Whitty". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  • Mercy Women Making History: From the Pen of Mother Vincent Whitty, Brisbane: Sisters of Mercy (2001).

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