Sister Mary Bernard Dickson (1810 – 1895)

By Sister M. de Porres R S M

Julia Diana (Sister Mary Bernard) Dickson, of Ipswich, Suffolk, England converted to Catholicism in Edinburgh at the age of 35 in 1845 and in 1847, entered the Mercy Convent at Bermondsey. After her profession in 1850, she moved to Chelsea Convent and gained valuable nursing experience at St. George’s Hospital, London.

Bernard volunteered with a group of fourteen Irish Sisters of Mercy led by Mother M. Frances Bridgeman to the Crimean War in 1854.  Bernard was assigned to serve under Florence Nightingale with four Mercy companions at Scutari.  She fell ill with typhoid fever and was invalided home in 1855 where eventually she made a full recovery.

Sister Bernard then volunteered with five Irish Sisters of Mercy, for a mission in far-flung Auckland, New Zealand. Having travelled half way around the world to respond to that call, they arrived on 5th August 1857 after many months of hazardous living on board ‘The Dinapore.’

Four years later came another cry came for help – this time from Wellington. Again Bernard volunteered most willingly and arrived as superior with two companions on 14th June 1861. Here she laboured for years using her many talents.

Eventually, Bernard returned to Bermondsey but did not stay. She went back to Auckland, rejoined the community there and died on 5th August 1895, having served the New Zealand people for thirty-eight years. She is buried in the cemetery in Auckland’s St. Mary’s Convent grounds.