Heritage set in stone for all to see

A stroll around the gardens near the new Calvary Ryde residential care home now doubles as a walk through history with the installation of foundation stones that once adorned buildings long gone.

A heritage site for Calvary Health Care and its founders, the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, the weighty stones have become a timeline of buildings, people and times past.

The first dates from 1917 and was the foundation stone of the original Little Company of Mary Convent. There followed a hospital (Mount St Margaret); a chapel; a second, larger convent; and a nurses’ home that doubled as a School of Psychiatric Nursing – each blessed by Church leaders of the day.

Calvary’s NSW manager of mission integration and pastoral care Matt Peel said the stones were carefully stored following demolition of a variety of buildings during major redevelopments at the Sydney site in the 1990s and are once again seeing the light of day.

“The Sisters arrived in Australia in 1885 and this was the second major site they founded, after the Lewisham convent and hospital,” Mr Peel said.

“This site is part of Calvary’s DNA, so I think the installation of the foundation stones is a way of honouring and celebrating the 100-plus years of care on this site and of the women and men who went before – the Sisters, the staff, our residents and, for many decades, our patients.

Located in Sydney’s leafy north-west, the Calvary Ryde Retirement Community incorporates the new residential care home, along with retirement villas and the Dalton Residences premium retirement apartments.

It is set amid eight hectares of landscaped grounds that were once part of the historic Dalton estate. In 1892, generous benefactor Thomas Dalton gifted the land and money to the Sisters to build a two-story hospital that could be a place of care and healing for women needing psychiatric care. The first patients arrived in April 1894 but such was the need that the first of many extensions began the following year.

“Here, the Sisters cared for the vulnerable in their community at the most vulnerable times in their lives,” Mr Peel said. “The foundation stones are a reflection and I think touchstones of those Sisters – who they were and what made them tick.”

Calvary Health Care is the legacy of the Sister’s work and foresight. Now with more than 18,000 staff and volunteers nationally in 14 public and private hospitals, more than 70 residential care and retirement communities and 19 community care service centres, Calvary’s mission remains to provide quality, compassionate health care to the most vulnerable.