Ann Agnes Benbow was born in 1840. Her father, Dr Moorcroft Benbow was a surgeon in Birmingham residing at Selley Park at West Chestershire.
During her teen years she spent some time at the Ursuline College in Boulogne, France. The family emigrated to Victoria, Australia where she was professed as a Sister of Mercy in Melbourne in 1860.
At the age of 30, Sister Cecilia and Sister Xavier Butler boarded the ship "Albion" and left Melbourne on the 25th September 1873, to join the Wellington Sisters of Mercy. Sister Cecilia was elected Mother Assistant to Mother Xavier and Mistress of Novices in 1874. In 1876 she and a novice companion left for Europe to obtain the blessing of Pope Pius IX for the works of the Sisters of Mercy in Wellington and to beg through Europe for more sisters and for money.
9th June 1877
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TABLET
Sir Ś Excuse my troubling you once more, but is it true that 5,000 souls are invited to emigrate to New Zealand this year? With the invitation do they receive any advice or information? If not, those who have any idea of quitting England for the colonyŚlikewise those who have friends out there cannot do better than attend the evening devotions of Sunday at the Pro-Cathedral, Kensington, where a sermon will be preached by Monsignor Capel in aid of the poor Sisters of Wellington.
I am, Sir, yours most obediently,
SISTER MARY CECILIA BENBOW.
St. Mary's Convent of Mercy, New Zealand.
Most of the money she obtained in Europe was used to pay the passages of twenty-six sisters from Ireland and England who came to teach in the rapidly growing schools.
In addition to her duties as Assistant to Mother Xavier and Mistress of Novices, Sister Cecilia became Mistress of Schools. She seemed to have been the driving force in the administrative team. She was an accomplished musician and assisted in the preparation of school concerts both at St Mary's College, Wellington and in Blenheim. Her artistic talent can still be seen in the art work in some of the convents. During her last years she was superior at Seatoun until her death in 1922.
The Stellamaris retreat and conferance centre was opened in August 1924 and this was erected in memory of Sister Cecilia Benbow, one of those pioneer Sisters of Mercy, who had arrived in Wellington from Melbourne in 1873. For many years she lived at St. Mary's Convent in Guilford Terrace, Wellington. Her life is remembered as a gifted teacher, musician and artist as well as being an administrator in the Convent and Mistress of Schools. In her later years, she retired to Seatoun and died there on the 10th January 1922.
Please read this fascinating history of the Convent and the Stellamaris Chapel built to honour the work of Sister Cecilia Benbow.
Descendants of Thomas William Moorcroft Benbow
1 Thomas William Moorcroft Benbow Died: 1848 in Wirral Lancashire.
... 2 Thomas Moorcroft Benbow Born: 1811 Died: 1846 in Birmingham, England
....... +Lucy Young Rodway Born: 1812 in Warwick
........ 1 Ann Agnes Benbow Born: 1840
........... Died: 10 Jan 1922 in Seatoun, Wellington
........ 2 Clement Alban Benbow Born: 1841 in Birmingham, England
............ Died: 16 Feb 1920 in Liverpool Sydney
............ Married: 1871 Helen Scott in Victoria, Australia Their children:
............. 1 Lucy Mary Benbow Born: 1872 in Victoria, Australia