Celebration at St Mary's College Gateshead
Sr Jan Tranter writes of a special celebration held recently at the College to mark its new beginning as a Year 7 to Year 12 College. She recalls its early days and marvels at its growth today.
The 25th March this year was a special celebration at St Mary’s Catholic College, Gateshead. In the founding year of 1964, the school founders, the Lochinvar Sisters of St Joseph, chose the Annunciation as the school feast day. This year, fifty-five years later, for the first time the newly named St Mary’s College includes Year 12. To mark this first feast day as a Year 7-12 College, the Principal, Mr Larry Keating, and staff invited Fr Tony Potts PP, the Sisters of St Joseph and parents to join the celebration.
Sixteen Sisters attended including Sr Lynette Pearce from the original staff. Mr Larry Keating welcomed us warmly, leading us with friendly commentary through the large, growing school complex. With Stage 1 extensions completed, Stages 2 and 3 are set to begin in the near future. The modern buildings added since 1964 were eye-openers. We were just in time to visit before the original front section is to be demolished to make way for a new construction.
Along the pathways we met smiling teachers and students. Some of the students had a quizzical expression, their smile seeming to say, So this is what Sisters look like! Some had possibly never met, let alone been taught by Sisters. One Sister present had been at Windale in 1964 and was among those who helped prepare the convent - now demolished - for the Sisters. The Sisters, parents and students of the surrounding area had worked in a great community effort. The same spirit continues, with the students from Windale, Swansea, Charlestown, Belmont, and Gateshead and beyond. The enrolment is over 850 and growing, with over seventy teachers and over one hundred in the total staff.
The celebration began with all staff, students and visitors under a covered open area. From the opening greeting there was engaged listening and participation of the student body. Beginning with Acknowledgment of Country we were led in a moving, varied and instructive liturgy, prepared by De-Anna Addicoat, Ministries Coordinator.
The theme of the Liturgy was Called to Serve. It was also displayed on the school banner carried in the entrance procession accompanied by the moving singing of Standing on the Shoulders for the Sisters. We listened to St Luke’s Gospel of the Annunciation. The students then led a reflection on the Yes of Mary, ready to serve God, and the Yes of Fr Julian Tenison Woods and St Mary MacKillop, ready to serve God in children, young families and in founding the religious order for this work.
The students spoke of the young women who followed as Sisters and of the lay teachers and staff who continue to say Yes to this call today. Finally addressing his fellow students, Liam one of the school Leaders called on them to embrace a life of service. The student leaders were invited to the stage to receive their badges, presented by Sr Lynette, from the founding staff. When Mr Keating called all the students to a life of service, they responded with a hearty, We are! We do!
The assembly enjoyed lively musical items, led by gifted soloists, the choir and band members composed of staff and students. The harmony of the choir and energy of the musicians were uplifting. It was a joy to experience the Sisters’ tradition of music continuing in the College. Sr Lauretta Baker, Congregational Leader, addressed the assembly, offering thanks for the most inspiring celebration and encouragement to continue to respond to their Call to Serve.
Following the ceremony Fr Tony Potts and the Sisters were hosted to a delicious celebratory meal prepared and presented with finesse by the Year 12 Hospitality class (chefs of the future) under the guidance of their teacher. The staff and students continued the day with a talent quest, St Mary’s Got Talent with all proceeds going to Project Compassion.
The Sisters left, moved by the warmth and generosity shown to them, and the humbling joy and gratitude in seeing the rich fruit of what they had begun. The whole event breathed the Josephite spirit and tradition, infused by the Principal, inspiring it in the staff. The dedication of the Principal and staff shone.