Mother M. Xavier Flood (Marianne) was born in Ireland in 1851 and joined the Convent of Mercy, Ballyjamesduff, Ireland. She travelled to Australia while still a novice in 1872, as one of the foundation members in Warrnambool assisting in the establishment of St Anne’s College. She was recognised as a charming woman with a remarkable ability in education and administration. Mother M. Xavier moved to Ballarat East in 1881 with the founding Sisters and during the early years they worked in great poverty but in spite of this the community grew. On 30th June 1890, Mother M. Xavier was elected superior of the community and under her guidance the Congregation began to make a significant contribution to local education.
The Registration of Teachers and Schools Act, 1905, which required all persons employed as teachers other than in State Schools to be registered set in motion a new significant project for the Sisters. In 1909 the Sisters of Mercy Ballarat East running non-government schools submitted their teacher training scheme to the Board of the Education Department to run their own training College in Ballarat East. This application was approved for the training of primary and secondary teachers to start after the 1st of January 1910. With this approval Mother M. Xavier established the Aquin Training College (now the Australian Catholic University) and teachers who had not already registered with the State by virtue of their years of experience received a two year course of training there.
Mother Xavier, or ‘Gran’ as she was affectionately known thanks to a young orphan placed at SHC in the early days, was a great educationalist. Beginning in the early days with the youngest students at St. Alipius, Mother Xavier used only the most modern methods of teaching, even travelling to Europe to bring back 48 sets of Froebel Gifts, an early childhood education method created by Friedrich Froebel. She was one of the first in the area to establish a complete Froebel Kindergarten in 1917. It was Mother Xavier who was eventually able to obtain approval for the school from the Board of Education and as such, is recognised as the first Principal of SHC.
Mother Xavier Flood contracted the flu during the pandemic of 1919 and sadly passed away after a short illness. Today, Xavier House at Damascus College proudly carries her name and strives to embody her remarkable spirit.
Mother Xavier is buried at the Ballarat New Cemetery Roman Catholic A Section 3 Row 3 Grave 3.
“The ideal woman whom the Sisters of Mercy set before the students today is the woman that Mother Xavier strove to be.” Sacred Heart College Annual, 1925.