Holy Spirit Convent and Rest Centre

Raff family farmhouse

Brisbane City

736 Beams Road, Carseldine 4034

In 1945, a farmhouse in rural Carseldine was utilised by the Catholic Church as a rest and recuperation retreat for the 38 Holy Spirit nuns who had survived two years of imprisonment in New Guinea by the Japanese forces. The Carseldine site was the first property established for this missionary Order and it was the beginning of their charitable work in Brisbane. In 1946, the nuns established the Holy Spirit Hospital in Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill and a second hospital was later established at Chermside.


The Holy Spirit Convent was based around a farmhouse built at rural Carseldine for James Raff in 1918. On 8 August 1945, the Corporation of the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane obtained Raff’s farm. The Archdiocese transferred the farm to the Catholic Order of the Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Ghost. (commonly known as the Sisters of the Holy Spirit) as a rest and recuperation site for the Holy Spirit nuns who had survived Japanese internment.

Founded in 1889 in Steyl, Holland by Germans Hendrina Stenmanns, Helena Stollenwek and priest Arnold Janssen, the Order conducted missionary work, sending four nuns from Germany to German New Guinea in 1899. After World War One, New Guinea became a League of Nations mandated territory ceded to Australia and all German nationals were deported. During this period, Australian, American and other European nuns joined the order to continue the New Guinea missions.

With the advent of the Pacific War in December 1941, the Australian government evacuated most expatriate women and children. Given the option to leave, the nuns preferred to stay at their missions. The invading Japanese captured them. Missionaries from New Guinea’s East Sepik region were the first among 62 prisoners to be executed on the Japanese destroyer Akikaze on 17 March 1943 while en route from Kavieng to Rabaul. Among the victims were 18 Holy Spirit Sisters. On 6 February 1944, US aircraft strafed the Japanese ship Yorishime Maru carrying prisoners between Madang and Wewak. Another 37 Holy Spirit nuns died in this attack. The Japanese later transferred the surviving nuns along with other captured missionaries to Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea, where the enemy constructed a major logistical base in 1944.

On 222 April 1944, US forces aided by a small Dutch detachment invaded Hollandia. The Allies liberated 125 missionaries who placed under the care of Major David Schermer of the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration (NICA). The Netherlands Indies Forces Intelligence Service interviewed the missionaries and hey provided valuable intelligence on the attitudes of the natives in their former parishes. The nuns and other missionaries were transported to the Dutch hospital ship Maetsuycker for medical treatment before being evacuated to Australia. Of the 92 Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters stationed in New Guinea, 54 died during the war.

Following their evacuation, some of the Holy Spirit Sisters recuperated at the quiet rural retreat of James Raff’s former farm at Carseldine. This prompted the Catholic Church to purchase the property as a convent site for the nuns just 26 days prior to the Japanese Surrender in Tokyo Bay on 3 September 1945.


BCC Heritage Unit.