Celebrations in Forster
The Holy Name parish of Forster Tuncurry recently celebrated sixty years of Catholic education in the parish. Sr Florence Tobin who was one of the original community of Josephite Sisters is pictured here with Michael Amato, one of the first students at the school. Sr Brigid gives an account the celebration.
In January 1959, Sisters Francesca, Florence, Hilda and Regis made history by becoming the first Sisters to live in the newly formed parish of Forster Tuncurry. On August 11th of this year, there was a celebration to acknowledge sixty years of Josephite presence in the parish. Fourteen of us were present at the Mass celebrated in Holy Name Church Forster. On arrival, we walked into an atmosphere of excitement as parishioners warmly welcomed friends with hugs and happy chatter.
Mass commenced with a warm welcome from Father Greg Barker who concelebrated with Father Denis Rochford MSC. Father Greg, in his homily recalled bring taught by the Sisters of St Joseph in Tasmania, making special reference to Sr Anna Dirken who inspired him by her dedication and dynamism. It was fitting that Sr Florence, one of the original four Sisters and Sr Louise McDonell, one of two last Sisters to minister in the parish took up the gifts.
Following the Mass, we were invited to lunch and speeches in the newly refurbished parish hall where photos were shown of the many Sisters who ministered in the parish. Sr Lauretta, Congregational Leader, addressed the group by acknowledging that it was through the ongoing support and friendship of parishioners during the sixty years, the Sisters were enabled to carry out their ministry.
Sr Lauretta also acknowledged the role of my uncle, Fr Dan Linehan who in 1956 became the first Parish Priest of the newly-formed parish. Sr Lauretta recalled how Fr Dan, keen to have a Catholic school went to Lochinvar with a request for Sisters to teach the children. Sr Florence recalls with gratitude how Mother Aquin, Sr Martin & Sr Gregory travelled to Tuncurry to prepare the convent for the Sisters who were coming to live there.
By 1959 when the Sisters arrived, the bridge linking the towns of Forster and Tuncurry had not been built, so they travelled from the convent in Tuncurry to the school in Forster by boat. The first classrooms were in the Church hall where Sr Hilda taught the Infants classes from kindergarten to Year 2 in one section and Sr Francesca taught Years 3 to 6 in the other section - with a curtain in the middle. The Church hall was also the venue for Mass on Sundays and Housie a couple of nights a week.
In 1961, the new Holy Name School was blessed and opened in readiness for the start of the school year. What a delight it must have been for teachers and students to move to their new premises where they had their own space and could operate in a ‘real’ school.
Michael Amato, one of the first student spoke proudly of his days as a pupil at Holy Name School making particular reference to Sr Florence. Mrs Brooke Stephens, now the principal of Holy Name School shared memories of the Sisters in primary school at Forster, in secondary school at St Clare’s Taree and at university. Naming several individuals, Brooke spoke warmly about how they inspired by their lives of dedication, courageous leadership, the importance of building relationships, reaching out to those who struggled, speaking out for justice and in the words of our founder ‘never see a need without doing something about it.’
At the conclusion of the celebrations Sr Florence on behalf of the Sisters presented to the school a Josephite Cross which will be placed in the foyer. The gathered community then prayed the following blessing prepared by Sr Louise Gannon rsj.
Together we are sent to live:
in the light of Christ,
attuned to the Word of God,
claimed by the cross of Christ,
in the spirit of St Joseph,
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen