A blessing of the refurbished Sister Martin Kelly Centre at our Wembley site was held earlier this month.
So, who was Sister Martin Kelly?
She grew up as Margaret Frances in Victoria Park before she entered the Mercy convent in 1947, taking the name Sister Martin.
It was under this name that she led the congregation to take a more individualised approach towards helping disadvantaged young people.
After spending much of the 1950s and 60s teaching at Catholic schools across Western Australia, she was appointed to the St Joseph’s Girls Orphanage in Wembley in 1969.
In 1970 she became the Sister in Charge and soon after was appointed administrator of the Catherine McAuley Centre, the new entity formed in place of the orphanage, created in response to changing community expectations.
Under her guidance, the Centre adopted a family care model, which recognised that family breakdown could be detrimental to the psychological wellbeing of children and teenagers; a concept not previously taken into consideration.
Sister Kelly reformed the living conditions of children who were wards of the State, and others who were privately placed in care due to family breakdown or crisis.
She ensured that siblings were able to remain together.
Sister Martin also introduced help for children with special needs including occupational and speech therapy and psychological care.
She recognised the need to provide a specific type of care for homeless and at-risk teenagers and working with them to transition towards independent living.
In many ways, this period marked the early beginnings of what would become MercyCare.
There were not only changes to how the Sisters operated but also to the Wembley site itself with the demolition of old several buildings and a massive building program undertaken to create group homes, a short-term crisis centre and a refuge for troubled teenagers.
Sister Martin passed away in 1987 and in 1989, as recognition of all her work, the old schoolhouse and occasional chapel was renamed the “Sister Martin Kelly Centre” in her honour.
She received an MBE in 1979 and was posthumously inducted into WA Women’s Hall of Fame in 2016.
Sister Martin was fondly remembered at a Blessing event conducted by Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe at the newly refurbished Sister Martin Kelly Centre in June.