Woman McLaughlin, Clara Jane

Educationist and Religious Sister
Alternative Names
  • Mother Mary Berchmans

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Mother Mary Berchmans McLaughlin was born in rural New South Wales in 1856, the sixth daughter of innkeeper, John McLaughlin and his wife Mary. Educated by the Sisters of Mercy at Bathurst she entered the Good Samaritans order in 1876. She was professed in 1879 and embarked on a career in teaching.

As the first Australian-born Superior General of the congregation from 1898 to 1916 she oversaw an era of great expansion for the congregation, establishing thirty new foundations in four states. Described as a woman of 'advanced feminist tendencies (Godden, p. 49) she valued the autonomy of religious life, and, like her contemporary and colleague Mother Mary MacKillop, fought to preserve the principle of central government against bishops who wanted to bring the sisters under diocesan control. 'Resourceful [and] quick in judgement' (Sisters of the Good Samaritan, p. 78) she was a skilled administrator, credited with having 'a large heart and a great fund of common sense, which allied to a remarkable skill in administration, spelt success for everything she touched' (Pullen).

Mother Berchmans died in 1931.

Published Resources

Journal Articles

  • Godden, Judith, 'British models and colonial experience: Women's philanthropy in late nineteenth century Sydney', The Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 10, no. 19, 1986, pp. 40-55. Details
  • Sisters of the Good Samaritan, 'Story of the Institute of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan', Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society, vol. 4, no. 1, 1972, pp. 58-79. Details

Online Resources

See also