Our History

Mary Potter Hospice is New Zealand’s oldest hospice and has grown through the mission of three inspirational women

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Venerable Mary Potter

Mary Potter Hospice was founded as a result of the work of the Venerable Mary Potter, an English nun and religious mystic, who lived from 1847 to 1913 and who established the Order of the Little Company of Mary in England in 1877. Mary Potter suffered ill health all her life which gave her a great sense of compassion for the terminally ill.

One of her last acts before she died was to give approval for the Order of the Little Company of Mary to go to New Zealand. The Little Company of Mary arrived in Christchurch in 1914. In Wellington, the Company established hospice services at Calvary Hospital in Newtown. In the early 1970s, the Sisters reserved five beds within the hospital to care for the terminally ill. This was later expanded to the whole ward, and Mary Potter Hospice was formally opened in 1979 as an independent Trust by the Little Company of Mary.

The Trust was gifted to the people of Wellington to serve the community of Wellington. Mary Potter Hospice moved to its current Newtown base, with a new In-Patient Unit, in 1990.

Sister Margaret Lancaster (Little Company of Mary)

Sr-Margaret-Lancaster_webSister Margaret Lancaster was one of the key drivers behind Mary Potter Hospice. She began working in the Mary Potter ward of Wellington’s Calvary Hospital in 1974 that at the time specialised in geriatric care. Sister Margaret became aware of the writings of Dame Cicely Saunders and Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who were advocating better treatment for the terminally ill through holistic care.

She lobbied for palliative care beds to be offered to the terminally ill in Calvary Hospital. This resulted in five beds being designated for palliative care. She followed this by advocating for the establishment of a centre to care for the dying. This led to the development of a hospice ward designed to cater for the needs of the dying and the provision of holistic care involving the patients, family and friends. The Mary Potter Hospice ward at Calvary Hospital was officially opened by Minister of Health in July 1979.

Sister Margaret raised awareness of modern hospice care by undertaking an extensive programme of speaking engagements to medical practitioners and health professionals. Her deep knowledge of modern hospices has been an inspiration for those working in the New Zealand palliative care sector.

Sister Mary Scanlon (Little Company of Mary)


Sister Mary Scanlon has been the longest serving member of the Hospice’s Board of Trustees. She served on the Board for seventeen years providing advice and counsel to the Board to ensure that the values derived from the work of Mary Potter were upheld and used as a measure when Board decisions were difficult.

During this time Sister Mary participated in staff orientations with a special focus on the values and the history of Mary Potter Hospice. She was also frequently a guest at the Hospice’s training workshops on spirituality and participated in the Remembrance services run at the Newtown Chapel for family and friends of patients.

Sister Mary specialised in general nursing, midwifery and mental health nursing. When she came to Calvary Hospital in Wellington she was the first ‘nurse educator’ in the Hospice. Sister Mary retired in 2012 and she leaves a legacy and spirit that will continue to guide our Hospice into the future.

Purchase your copy of With You: the Mary Potter Hospice Story

Commissioned by, and gifted to, Mary Potter Hospice by the Little Company of Mary, With You: the Mary Potter Hospice Story by Bee Dawson, marks 35 years of the Hospice.book

It tells the stories of the inspirational people who have been associated with Mary Potter Hospice over the years – the decision makers, the clinical teams, the patients and their carers, staff and volunteers: their determination, their struggles and the fundraising that made the dream a reality.

It is is available for a donation plus $10 p&p.

Available from Mary Potter Hospice offices in Newtown, Porirua and Paraparaumu, as well as any of the eight Hospice shops, or email: vashi.wood@marypotter.org.nz