A push to have a second Australian elevated to sainthood has moved a step forward after doctor and humanitarian Sr Mary Glowrey was exhumed from her grave in Bangalore, India.
The exhumation is seen as a critical path to canonisation of one of Victoria’s early female doctors, held in high regard by both the Church and the medical profession.
Sr Mary graduated from the University of Melbourne with a bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery in 1910. As an undergraduate she started her service of the marginalised and vulnerable, visiting slums in Fitzroy, Collingwood, and Richmond to care for women and their babies.
“Her sisters, Lucy and Eliza, had to keep replenishing Mary’s blankets and clothes as she was always giving them to someone more needy,” Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga spokeswoman Robyn Fahy said.
The Church started the process for Sr Mary Glowrey’s sainthood three years ago. The legacy of her efforts between 1920 and 1956 live on.
In 1943 she established the Catholic Health Association of India, which has grown into India’s biggest healthcare network, supporting more than 3500 institutions and providing care for more than 21 million people each year.
She was the first woman to be granted a medical residency in New Zealand as no positions were available for women who graduated in Australia.
Despite her religion, she considered herself a doctor first and maintained a strong link to the University of Melbourne.
Ms Fahy said Mary, who was born at Birregurra, left her thriving medical career in Victoria in 1920 to join the Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The doctor was prompted into mission work after reading a pamphlet about the appalling death rate of babies in India.
She received a special dispensation from Pope Pius XI to practice medicine and became the first nun-doctor missionary.