Tim Fischer to deliver inaugural Mary Glowrey Lecture

Published: Monday 16th November 2015

Former deputy prime minister and Australia's first ambassador to the Holy See The Hon. Tim Fischer AC will deliver the inaugural Mary Glowrey Lecture on 26 November at Cathedral Hall, Fitzroy.

The Hon. Tim Fischer AC was appointed Australia’s first permanent resident ambassador to the Holy See in 2008. He began the role in January 2009 and served until January 2012. Mr Fischer worked closely with the Sisters of St Joseph on the diplomacy and coordination aspects of the canonisation of St Mary MacKillop.

He is uniquely placed to consider the process of the canonisation of an Australian and will reflect on this in the inaugural Mary Glowrey Lecture.

Robyn Fahy will give an introduction on the life and legacy of Dr Sr Mary Glowrey, the world’s first nun doctor and the second Australian on the official path to canonisation.

You can find a lot more about the Mary Glowrey’s life and Cause for canonisation on the Catholic Women’s League Vic Wagga Wagga site here:


Dr Sr Mary Glowrey JMJ  (June, 1887 - 5 May, 1957)

educational overview

  • came to Melbourne to live and study  in 1901 after being offered one of the first government education scholarships
  • undertook her secondary education at South Melbourne College
  • matriculated in 1901, aged 14, but was too young to go to university
  • studied other subjects succeeding three years
  • won an Exhibition to the University of Melbourne
  • began studying for a Bachelor of Arts in 1905
  • transferred  to study medicine in 1906
  • graduated from University of Melbourne in 1910 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
  • undertook her residential year in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1911
  • while working, studied for a higher medical degree, with a particular emphasis on obstetrics, gynaecology and ophthalmology and was conferred as a Doctor of Medicine in 1919 at University of Melbourne.

Medical career and adult life in Melbourne

Mary Glowrey:

  • was appointed to the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and as Honorary Physician to Outpatients at St Vincent’s Hospital
  • had a private practice in Collins Street
  • was the inaugural president of the Catholic Women’s Social Guild (now known as the Catholic Women’s League Victoria and Wagga Wagga)
  • addressed, through lectures, articles, practical service and skilled work, the economic and social inequities that women faced.

Vocation and life in India

In 1915, while working as a doctor in Melbourne, Mary read a pamphlet about the death rate of babies in India and the need for medical missionaries. She felt called to serve as a religious sister in that country.

Mary received permission from the Vatican to practice medicine as a member of a religious order.

In January 1920 she sailed from Melbourne to India and joined the Congregation of the Society of Jesus Mary Joseph. She was known as Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart JMJ.

The small dispensary where Mary began her medical mission grew into St Joseph’s Hospital. It was also the driving force in a plan to train local women to be doctors, nurses, pharmacists, compounders (dispensers) and midwives. She worked extensively with the poor and with incurable patients and demonstrated deep respect for the people of India and their culture.

From 1925-1944, Mary Glowrey worked to secure Government accreditation for training courses in Telugu (the language of the people of Andhra Pradesh).

In 1943, Mary Glowrey founded the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) which has grown to become one of the world’s largest non-government organisations in the health care sector. Today, CHAI auspices more than 3,400 member institutions providing care for 21 million people each year.

Mary Glowrey died at 69 years of age after suffering greatly for the last two years of her life. Her only regret, in her own words: ‘I have not done enough. I could have done more.’