From acorn to oak
The first Presentation Sisters arrived at Geraldton on 6 July 1891 in response to a call from Bishop Gibney. Nine members of the Presentation party, accompanied by Father Patrick Horgan, sailed from Cork on 21 May 1891 and took up residence in the Mercy and Josephite Convents that had already been established. Branch houses were soon established over a wide area of the North West of Western Australia with the sisters answering calls of assistance from many isolated communities. Between 1902 and 1970, twenty branch houses had been opened in the mining and pastoral regions of the North West.
In 1900, five sisters answered a call to come to the South West of Western Australia from Hay in New South Wales. These sisters came to Southern Cross in 1900, Collie in 1902, Cottesloe in 1905 and to Mosman Park in 1907. Bishop Gibney, who was the Religious leader for Perth remarked that the site in Mosman Park, situated on a rise with the Swan River on one side and the ocean on the other, reminded him of the isle of Iona, and he hoped that this, too, would become a centre of learning and a centre from which the Gospel would be spread. One of the founding sisters, Sister Columba, therefore decided an appropriate name for the College would be Iona.
Mother Angela Treacey, much loved by her community, was appointed head of the new foundation, and on the day the Sisters took up residence at Iona, the Bishop signed a statement authorizing Iona as the Mother House for the Presentation Sisters.
The story of Presentation Sisters has often been described as “from acorn to oak” – a small seed growing to a large leafy tree whose leaves provide shade and shelter and which, in time, bears fruit. It has been a Presentation tradition to plant a seed at the start of a new foundation.
Let us pause for a moment to examine the context into which those pioneer sisters had arrived.