On 4 September, a beautiful day in early spring, enthusiastic students, faithful friends and grateful Sisters came together to make this year’s Foundation Day, a day to remember.
All came to celebrate 140 years of the life and ministry of the Sisters of St Joseph in the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and as a consequence, 140 years of the life St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar. Among the guests were Srs Mary Ellen O’Donoghue and Therese McGarry from the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Mr Michael Healy, past principal and former deputy principals.
It was on 2 September 1883 when the people of Lochinvar welcomed four Sisters of St Joseph who had travelled from their home in Perthville near Bathurst to begin a new foundation at the invitation of James Murray, Bishop of Maitland.
Though very new to religious life, those four young women were determined to fulfill their mission in the diocese. It was to educate poor children in the spirit of their founders, Fr Tenison Woods and St Mary MacKillop:
Give us children to educate and instruct and if we have to live in a shed and sleep on the ground with scanty food and poor raiment, these inconveniences should make our courage rise. (Father Tenison Woods).
With no time lost, they started school the very next day, in a converted inn. So began the Josephite chapter of education in this diocese and in places beyond its boundaries.
What a surprise we Sisters had on entering the chapel! On the end of the pews were handmade Josephite crosses with the names and dates of our 276 deceased Sisters inscribed on them. In this way, all our Sisters who had been part of those 140 years were lovingly remembered.
All present participated wholeheartedly in the Mass at which Most Rev Brian Mascord, Bishop of Wollongong, a life-long friend of the Sisters, presided.
The wonderful voices of the College choir led the singing with former Lochinvar student and teacher Anne Millard at the pipe organ.
The Acknowledgement of Country was delivered by a staff member, Mel Hawke, of Aboriginal descent and her son, a student of the College.
Sr Lauretta Baker, Congregational Leader, then welcomed everyone and put the day’s celebration in the context of the times, displaying the 1883 illuminated Words of Welcome to the Sisters on behalf of the parishioners.
Students, teachers as well as Sisters were involved in the liturgical ministries.
All were moved by Sr Ruth Long’s proclamation from the reading from the First Letter of St Peter (3:8-15a), the text chosen by Father Woods to be the ‘Epistle of the Institute’ of the Sisters of St Joseph
In his homily, Bishop Brian expressed his gratitude for the Josephite education he had received and encouraged today’s students to live the Gospel values of justice, compassion, reverence for creation and strength in difficulties, and to pass them on to those following them.
The choir followed up with a rousing rendition of the song, We are standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before us, with the last line echoing Bishop Brian’s words: Our shoulders will be there to hold the ones who follow us.
As we left the chapel we heard the bell tolling 276 times , one for each Sister who had died since 1883 and who is buried in the Sisters’ section of the parish cemetery across the road.
At the College hall named in honour of Mary MacKillop, students from Years 10 and 11 under the helpful gaze of their teachers treated all the guests, including the senior student leaders to a hot dinner that they had prepared, cooked and served.
During the meal, music students entertained us with their singing and playing of the keyboard and guitar during the meal.
Before the close of the celebration Mrs. Hales, the College principal spoke in appreciation of the legacy the Sisters have left and of their continuing support before presenting Sr Lauretta with gifts to mark the occasion.
Finally, Sr Lauretta, Mrs. Hales and two student leaders cut the customary cake to loud applause.
Photo: Bishop Brian Mascord with Sr Lauretta Baker, Mrs Patricia Hales and Assistant Principals, Mr Paul Dart and Mrs Elizabeth Stokes