The strength and spirit of Mother Bonaventure is evident throughout Ballarat. Known as ‘The Builder’, where Mother Bonaventure saw a need, she found a way to build a solution.
Eileen Mary Healy (1888-1966), best known as Mother Bonaventure, Sister of Mercy, was born on 22 September 1888 at Ballarat East, Victoria, second of five children of Victorian-born parents Michael John Healy, railwayman, and his wife Mary Helena, née Costello, a teacher. Eileen was educated at St Alipius’s Primary School and Sacred Heart College, Ballarat East, and at the University of Melbourne (Dip.Mus., 1909; Dip.Ed., 1916).
At the age of 20 Eileen entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy, Ballarat East, where she was professed three years later as Sister Bonaventure. Working under the noted educationist Mother Mary Xavier Flood, founder of the Aquin (later Aquinas) Training College for Teachers, she helped with the pioneering work in this field. In 1928 she was appointed assistant-superior. As mistress of method (1951-66) Mother Bonaventure prepared hundreds of nuns and other trainees for the apostolate of teaching. From 1952 to 1966 she was also principal of Sacred Heart College, Ballarat East, which offered a full curriculum of humanities, science and commerce. She became mother general in 1956 and a member of the Australian College of Education in 1963.
The establishment of Patrician House (a hostel for undergraduates of the training college), as well as the construction of an increasing number of buildings at Sacred Heart College, four large primary schools in Ballarat, and convents and schools in thirteen Victorian country towns, brought Mother Bonaventure the sobriquet of ‘The Builder’. No aspect of school life was overlooked in her endeavours. To expand sporting facilities at Sacred Heart College, she planned a nine-hole golf course on an unused piece of convent property at Mount Xavier—said to be the first public golf course built and owned by a convent—which was opened in 1949. Perhaps the most well-known to us of Mother Bonaventure’s projects is the beautiful piece of land upon which Damascus College currently resides. By 1959, Sacred Heart College was bursting at the seams and Mother Bonaventure was dreaming of a spacious, modern senior school to meet the challenge of over-crowding. Land bequeathed to the Sisters in 1960 enabled this dream to become a reality, and Mother Bonaventure was involved in everything from planning to turning the first sod and laying the foundation stone. Her fervent prayers to St. Martin de Porres for the successful completion of the new school are reflected in the beautiful statue which now stands in the St. Martin’s Resource Centre. Sadly Mother Bonaventure died on the 26th May 1966 before seeing the first students arrive at the Senior College, however she leaves us this wonderful place of beauty and learning.
As a Sister of Mercy, Mother Bonaventure vowed her life to the service of the poor, the sick and the ignorant. In responding to the social needs of Ballarat, she rearranged and systematized the traditional visitation of the poor by the Sisters and inaugurated the Mercy Home Care and Nursing Service. She was a foundation member of the Australian Federation of the Sisters of Mercy.
Mother Bonaventure is buried at the Ballarat New Cemetery, Roman Catholic D Section 1 Grave 1