Heroes of the Faith

July 2018: Mary Glowrey

By Michael McGirr

July 5 2018Mary Glowrey is not well known in her homeland, but this pioneering Australian woman – an eye specialist who for nearly 40 years provided health services to the poor in India, and trained local women to be midwives and nurses – is being considered for sainthood. Michael McGirr reflects on a deeply spiritual woman whose remarkable life provides “a witness for which Australia is hungry”.

It would be interesting to read a modern history of Fitzroy, said to be Melbourne’s first suburb. Doubtless, it would have a lot to say about coffee. It might also have a bit to say about a popular idol, Property Values. Yet if the writer were prepared to open their eyes a bit wider, they would notice the tension between poverty and wealth which chafe against each other more painfully in Fitzroy than in more homogeneous parts of Melbourne. Each morning at 8am, well-dressed business people ease their way past the long queue that waits patiently for breakfast outside St Mary’s House of Welcome in Brunswick Street.

It would take a truly wide-eyed person to notice something else. Fitzroy has played host to as many saints as any medieval Italian city. I can recall helping at the House of Welcome in late 1980 when news arrived of the death of Dorothy Day; it made more impact in that community than the death of John Lennon 10 days later. Day’s visit to the area in 1970 had set people alight. The name of the House of Welcome resonated with the House of Hospitality, which Day helped to found in New York.

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