History of CHN

The beginnings of CHN go back to 1888.


Sisters Esther, Ellen and Christina circa 1889.

early beginnings

The Community of the Holy Name was founded in 1888 by Sister Esther. While a novice of the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage, England, she suffered an accident which led her to come to Australia to recuperate. In Melbourne she was asked to help establish the Anglican welfare mission known as the Diocesan Mission to the Streets and Lanes. Sister Esther realized that, within this mission, God was calling her to form a new Community.


First mission hall in Little Lonsdale St. circa 1888.


The Sisters worked with the women and children of the backstreets of the inner City. At first they lived in an old bakery in Little Lonsdale Street. Later, the Sisters moved to their Mission House in Spring Street. They ministered by providing both material and spiritual help. There were Sunday services, including one in the evening for derelict people. They ran Sunday schools for children and small day schools. There were soup kitchens, youth clubs and mothers' clubs.


Girls with a Sister at the House of Mercy


They founded children's homes, a babies' home and hospitals. Their work in the courts and prisons led to the founding of a reformatory for girls, the House of Mercy, at Cheltenham. This later became the Retreat House which was operated by the Sisters until 2000.


Sister Felicity at the Royal Children's Hospital.

new ministries

Later, we moved into ministries such as hospital chaplaincy, prison chaplaincy and retreat work. Nowadays, our main ministry is that of hospitality,

We thank God for our Foundress, sister Esther, for the life and ministry of CHN since 1888, for the courage and perseverance of the pioneer Sisters, for their initiatives, especially in the care of women and children, the poor and marginalised, the neglected and abandoned and those who knew nothing of God’s love, for all who supported and enabled them.
— Sisters of the Community of the Holy Name