1916 - the beginnings of San Clemente

"San Clemente," Mayfield, North Waratah

"On the Feast of All Dominican Saints, 9th November, 1916, His Lordship Dr Dwyer granted to the Community of St Mary’s, West Maitland, the option of taking up a new Convent at Mayfield, North Waratah, where a Catholic School was much needed.  After much prayer and consideration it was decided to undertake the proffered work, and on the Feast of St Joseph, 1917, an agreement was signed for the purchase of Mr Julian Windeyer’s property at Mayfield. 

"The house was immediately set in order for a Convent, temporary classrooms arranged, and on Low Sunday, the 15th April, under the kind escort of Rev V F Peters, Administrator of St John’s Cathedral, Mother M. Joseph de Lauret (Prioress), and Mother M. Philippa Byrne (Sub-Prioress) set out with the little band of Sisters – Mother M. Concepta O’Donohoe (Superior), Sister M. Bonaventure Lamond and Sister M. Winifrid Keating – who had been chosen to begin the work at “San Clemente”.  The priest in charge of the Parish, Rev H O’Laverty, warmly welcomed the Nuns on their arrival, and kind friends had the house in perfect readiness.  That same evening our good Bishop paid the Sisters a visit, and next morning His Lordship blessed the building and said the first Mass in the little Australian “San Clemente”.  Much to the joy of the Nuns it was a Votive Mass of Our Lady.    

First Nuns Small


The first community of Dominican nuns at San Clemente

M.M. Concepta O'Donohoe
S.M. Bernadine Kickham *
S.M. Bonaventure Lamond
S.M. Winifred Keating

(*S.M. Bernadine Kickham is not mentioned as part of the first community in the article above, so presumably she was visiting at the time this was taken)

Source: San Clemente Archives

"The school opened that morning, April 16th, and 50 children were in attendance.  Since then the numbers have steadily increased, and the present enrolment is 107.  Besides the children of the Parochial School, the Sisters also receive external pupils and boarders. 

"The Nuns are deeply grateful to God for His evident blessing upon their work, and they are also very thankful to the many kind friends and benefactors who smoothed their way in the first days at “San Clemente.” 

"That there is much in a name is surely now accepted as a truth.  The choice of the name for this new House was actuated by traditional feeling and love of the Order; there is, too, the knowledge that traditional names stimulate and help towards the maintenance of a noble standard. 

Car Small


"The old days in Mayfield"

M.M. Concepta O'Donohoe and
her brother Father Joseph P O'Donohoe

Source: San Clemente Archives

"The “San Clemente” of today in Rome – the Dominican Church and Novitiate from which our little Convent takes its name – dates back to the earliest years of Christianity.  The house of St Clement, Pope and Martyr, is supposed to have covered part of the actual site.  He converted his paternal home into an oratory, which was later on, probably in the reign of Constantine, enlarged to the dimensions of a church.  St Jerome mentions it in 420. 

"The relics of St Clement, with those of St Ignatius of Antioch, are enclosed in an urn under the High Altar.  This ancient Sanctuary is replete with archaeological and artistic interest.  The mosaics, rare samples of mediaeval art, are rich in mystic meaning, and there are frescoes that won the admiration of Raphael, Leonardo and Angelo.  Greater yet perhaps is the historic interest, the connection with those most venerated in early and in later Christian Rome, notably St Gregory the Great, who preached some of his renowned homilies at “San Clemente”. 

"In the year 1623, the Church was given to the Irish Dominicans by Pope Urban VIII.  King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, visited “San Clemente” in 1859, and in 1863, sent an engraving as a souvenir of his visit.  In 1899 the Duke and Duchess of Connaught visited and were much interested.  The interest of these royal personages was claimed mainly by the Stuart relics and memories in his historic Convent.  These include portraits of the Old Pretender and of Maria Clementina Sobieski, and a slab commemorative of a visit of Prince Charles Edward in 1743. 

"Amongst many honoured names connected with this time-honoured Sanctuary in our own day there is one that cannot be passed in silence – the name of one who was blessed with Erin’s gift of eloquence, and whose voice reverberated far and wide, proclaiming the mystery of the Gospel. Father Tom Burke, O.P., was for some time an inmate of San Clemente."

(Booklet of the Golden Jubilee St Mary’s Dominican Convent Maitland 1867-1917. St Mary's Dominican Convent, Maitland, 1917)