St Mary Star of the Sea College celebrates 150th Anniversary

This year, St Mary Star of the Sea College celebrates 150 years of educating young women in the Good Samaritan tradition.

The 150th Anniversary Mass, which took place at the WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong on February 15, launched this significant milestone. The gathering of more than 3500 guests included a large number of Good Samaritan Sisters and numerous special guests.

Feelings of joy, pride and gratitude were palpable as the celebration began with a procession of all the feeder Catholic primary school student representatives alongside St Mary’s student leadership.

This was followed by a poignant dramatisation of the history of the College by drama students, which led to the Entrance Procession. Father Sean Cullen was the principal celebrant for the Mass, which was concelebrated by Father Patrick Faherty and Father James Arblaster.

Image: Giovanni Portelli Photography.

When Good Samaritan Sister Rita Fitt left the College in 2019 after 15 years, she was ‘the last Good Sam standing’. Rita said it was a real joy to reconnect with so many people at the celebration. “Many precious memories have been rekindled and I have new memories to treasure. It was a celebration of great joy and deep gratitude to God,” she said.

This extract is from a speech by the Principal, Tony Fitzgerald, at the conclusion of the Mass:

“The history of St Mary Star of the Sea College is as much a history of the great city of Wollongong and of the emerging colony of New South Wales as it is of our College. Woven into a tapestry of two world wars, depressions, plagues, federation, prosperity, cultural, technological and educational change and even pandemics, the 150 years that have unfolded since Mother de Sales and her Sisters disembarked in the harbour have seen successive generations of Sisters, lay teachers and parents working together to provide life- giving opportunities for St Mary’s girls and in so doing, forging a reputation for comprehensive excellence that continues to flourish today.

Image: Giovanni Portelli Photography.

“From its very first days in 1873, the evolution of St Mary’s is inextricably entwined with the formative presence and example of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan who, inspired by the Rule of Benedict and impelled by the Parable of the Good Samaritan, pioneered the foundations and subsequent growth of the College on the foundational values of Love of God, Love of Learning, Hospitality, Peace and Stewardship.

“Under the stewardship of the Sisters through the decades of the 20th Century, St Mary’s emerged as an outstanding Catholic school for girls with a fine reputation in the community; a leader in a contemporary and innovative comprehensive education, whether it be in the creative and performing arts, sport, vocational education, the academic curriculum and, of course, an invitation to the development of the girls’ faith.

“In all of these endeavours and through all of that time, the Sisters were committed to ensure that Benedict’s Rule that ‘the strong have something to strive for and the weak nothing to run from’ had meaningful and practical expression in the education of the students. It was a commitment that no girl should be left behind and that every girl be challenged to strive to be and to achieve her best. That commitment continues to drive our efforts today.

Image: Giovanni Portelli Photography.

“The story of a College like St Mary Star of the Sea, however, is not captured in a timeline of achievements, of the development of buildings, of the implementation of modern curricula, of changes in leadership. Rather, the kernel of the story is captured in the values deeply embedded in the community and the relationships between Sisters, lay staff and students that animate those values in the daily life of the College.

“Just as it was for Mother De Sales and the earliest communities way back in 1873, so it is for those of us today, privileged with the opportunity and the responsibility to work and lead in this amazing community, to contribute to the story, to be ambassadors and good stewards for the legacy endowed to us from previous generations of communities.”

This was the first of a number of significant events to mark the College’s 150th anniversary. There will be a gala ball in May where a specially commissioned social history of the College, Saltwater Hearts, will be launched, the erection of a statue of St Mary Star of the Sea, and a grand reunion for College alumnae in August.

St Mary Star of the Sea College belongs to the community of 10 schools across Australia called Good Samaritan Education. For more information about the 150th Anniversary celebrations, visit

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography.

Image: Giovanni Portelli Photography.