This evening I rediscovered a small stack of family papers, mostly relating to my grandmother Lorna’s family. Lorna Walker, nÈe McAuley – I posted a scrap of video of Lorna a month or so ago. Each person on the family tree has notes scribbled against his or her name that suggest fascinating little stories. Lorna’s mother was Mary Maud Judge: “from New England area, went from Gira (?) to Inverell in a covered wagon as a child. Didn’t like Peter (brother-in-law)”. Lorna’s father was Patrick Phillip, who had 9 siblings. His family was Catholic and didn’t like his marrying a protestant, especially Mary Maud, who was not good enough for him. His brother Peter was a violinist who died of drink, and this was used (by Mary Maud?) as a threat against my grandmother’s brother Jim when he became a poet. William, the eldest brother, cleared out as a teenager but turned up again as an adult, although the family always doubted that he was really who he claimed to be. Patrick’s mother was a “grim type” and her brother James Lalor was (more’s the pity) not the James Lalor of the Eureka Stockade.
The jewel of the family tree crown, though, is my great great great great aunt, Catherine Elizabeth McAuley, who became Mother Mary Catherine McAuley when she founded the Sisters of Mercy. My family notes (in Lorna’s hand I think) state that she started a refuge home for girls, and that the Archbishop insisted she must become a nun to run it. So she did. They were the first walking nuns, nuns who left their convents to visit and care for the poor, a kind of early social worker, according to the this history of her. Thanks to the glory of Google I also know that her best friend and some other Sisters went to Chicago in 1846 and started a girls’ school which is still running, and is called McAuley. There are 10,000 Sisters of Mercy worldwide today. Isn’t that awesome! My great great great great auntie! In 1990 she was even declared venerable by the pope. “Venerable recognizes a person’s heroic virtue and sanctity.” If they decide she performed miracles, which I imagine would be stretching things a little, but if they did, she could become a saint.
I love finding stories.
[update: I think we’ll say that my ancestors claimed to be related to Catherine McAuley. Who knows. Perhaps my ancestors just grabbed the McAuley name and history as groovy accessories for a new life in Australia. See the comments for relentless detail.]