In 1956 Australian Dominicans responding to the call of the Church set out as missionaries for the Solomon Islands. The first small band included two friars, two lay nurses and four sisters, two of whom – Sr Amata Clarke OP and Sr Philomena Cooper OP – were members of the Cabra community in Adelaide.
In the following year, Sr Christopher Slattery OP joined them and subsequently Sisters Francesca (Anne) Hogan, Gregory (Colleen) O’Callaghan, Kieran (Frances) Gaynor and Augustine (Enid) Wood, all from Cabra, also served in the Solomon Islands. Sisters from the North Adelaide Dominican community were also part of the Solomon Island mission for a number of years.
The Australians provided primary schooling, nursing care in clinics and a range of pastoral and educational work for many years.
In the late 1960s, two young Solomonese women requested entry to the Dominican sisterhood and were followed by many others. As their numbers grew the Australian Sisters gradually withdrew and handed over to the locals.
Today there are 31 professed sisters and several novices/aspirants who are part of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of Eastern Australia and the Solomon Islands.
In Sydney for their General Chapter in October, nine of the older sisters from the Solomon Islands, all of whom knew the early missionary sisters well, took the opportunity to visit those still remaining in Adelaide, and others who had visited the Island communities over the years.
A joyful weekend of dinners, morning and afternoon teas, and just sitting and chatting passed all too quickly before the Solomon sisters returned home via Sydney.