Ursula Frayne (1816-1885), mother superior, was born on 5 October 1816 in Dublin, Ireland, daughter of Robert Frayne, a prosperous businessman, and his wife Bridget. In 1834 she entered the Institute of Mercy, founded in 1832 in Dublin by Mother Catherine McAuley, and took the name Ursula in place of her baptismal name Clara. In 1842 she was appointed Superior of the institute’s first foreign mission foundation in Newfoundland and in 1845 went on foundation to Perth, Western Australia, at the request of the newly consecrated Bishop John Brady for Sisters to staff his proposed schools. She and her companions arrived in Perth on 8 January 1846.
By 1856, despite the impending withdrawal of government aid, the schools of the Sisters of Mercy in Western Australia were flourishing. Probably with some relief, having experienced the bitter Brady-Serradispute over ecclesiastical jurisdiction and seen her countrymen recalled to Rome, Ursula Frayne responded to a request from Bishop James Goold for a Victorian foundation. A similar request came from Bishop Francis Murphy in Adelaide but she was already committed.
She arrived in Melbourne in March 1857 and within six weeks had raised loans to pay off the mortgage on her convent in Nicholson Street, Fitzroy.
The majority of biographies of ‘women religious’ depict the lives of saints or foundresses of religious orders. Not so for Ursula [born Clara Mary] Frayne, a great educationalist, who travelled 55,000 miles, taught in Newfoundland and Australia, worked tirelessly for a better situation for Aborigines, immigrant Irish orphan girls, the poor and needy. 320 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 22 cm.Illustrated #0516R/0720.0121D