The contribution of Good Samaritan Sisters to Catholic education in Australia was acknowledged at two separate events recently – one in New South Wales, the other in Victoria.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary since the Good Samaritan Sisters established Mater Maria Catholic College, Warriewood, on Sydney’s northern beaches, initially as a girls’ school.
From 1962 until 1990, 25 Good Samaritan Sisters served at the College. In 1979 the College became co-educational, and in 1990, when the first lay principal was appointed, the sisters handed over responsibility for the College to the Diocese of Broken Bay. Now in 2012, 890 students are enrolled at the College.
“Looking back in 2012 we can only wonder at the amazing foresight and trust in God of those early pioneers of the Good Samaritan order who decided to establish a new school in the Warriewood Valley,” Mater Maria College Principal, Julie Terry, told The Good Oil.
“In 2012 the College owes its foundation and the continuing inspiration of the Benedictine ideals to the sisters. It really is a remarkable gift that they have left us here at Warriewood.
“My hope is the message of the Samaritan parable will continue to challenge each one of us and form young men and women of the northern beaches in Catholic discipleship,” she said.
As part of the College’s year-long celebrations, a Golden Jubilee Mass was held at the campus on May 24, the Feast of Mary Help of Christians.
“It was an outstanding celebration and acknowledgement of all who have contributed to the community of Mater Maria,” said Julie.
Among the 1,000 people at the Mass were six of the nine past College principals, including Good Samaritan Sisters, Therese Marie Fleming (Principal, 1978-1984) and Marie Julie Duffy (Principal, 1985-1989).
“In the early days when parents came to enrol their children at Mater Maria they agreed to accept the place that Christ held in the College,” said Sister Therese Marie Fleming.
“Sharing in the [Golden Jubilee] Mass with students so reverent and peaceful, I knew that the story had gone on. Christ and community were still foundational at Mater Maria. This was reinforced during the Gospel procession as the Book of the Word passed through the hands of successive principals moving up to the lectern.
“Mater Maria still has a spirit of freshness, innovation, community, and wonder which fits so well with its beautiful bushland setting,” she said.
On August 4, the Mater Maria community will gather again at a dinner dance for past students, parents, staff and friends of the College. The College’s fiftieth anniversary magazine – Golden Memories, Mater Maria at 50! – edited by former teacher, Pauline Byrne, is also on sale.
Meanwhile, in the Diocese of Sandhurst also on May 24, another gathering of Catholic educators took place. A special Mass at Bendigo’s Sacred Heart Cathedral to launch a two-day conference for 2,000-plus teachers also paid tribute to the 15 religious congregations who had previously served in the diocese as educators.
Sandhurst Director of Catholic Education, Phil Billington, said the theme for the conference – “Re-imagining the Mission: A Pilgrimage of Faith” – was inspired by the fiftieth anniversary of the commencement of the Second Vatican Council and the Goulburn Strike, which changed the face of funding for Catholic schools in Australia.
“The theme of a ‘pilgrimage of faith’ captures the essence of this milestone. ‘Re-imagining the mission’ reminds everyone that as the stewards of Catholic education we are challenged to build on and enhance the work of those who have gone before us,” she said.
“In doing so, we acknowledge all the religious orders that have served in the diocese.”
Representing the Sisters of the Good Samaritan at the Mass were Melbourne-based Sisters, Zita Duffy and Stella Gleeson, both past principals of St Mary’s Primary School, Cohuna.
Zita described the experience as a “memorable celebration”. Both she and Stella were grateful to be remembered as “some of the past ‘builders’ of Catholic education”.
“[We] felt very privileged to be called forth by name” to receive a gift from the diocese – “a watercolour painting of the cathedral – beautifully framed and inscribed, thanking the Sisters of the Good Samaritan for their past dedication and contribution to Catholic education in both Kerang and Cohuna”, she said.
“We left Bendigo, confident that the future of Catholic education in Sandhurst was soaring to new heights, realising also that our struggles of the past were not devoid of blessings for future generations.”
Nearly 200 Good Samaritan Sisters ministered in the rural Victorian towns of Kerang and Cohuna. They first arrived in Kerang in 1912 and remained there until 2009. In Cohuna, Good Samaritan Sisters ministered to the community from 1926 until 1992.