April 2015

St Pat’s celebrating 175 years of education

St Patrick’s College, Campbelltown in NSW, the oldest Catholic independent school in Australia, which also has a long and strong connection with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, is this year celebrating its 175th anniversary.

To mark this historic milestone, the College community held two major events last month: a Eucharistic celebration at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, and a ball at the Campbelltown Catholic Club.

About 1,000 people gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral on March 13 for a special Mass of thanksgiving with principal celebrant, the Most Reverend Peter Ingham, Bishop of Wollongong.

Earlier that morning all students and staff had made the trek from Campbelltown to the city on a specially chartered train to join with family, friends and colleagues, past and present.

“This was a very special day,” said St Patrick’s College Principal, Sue Lennox.

“There had been considerable planning leading to the day and many staff and students had key responsibilities and roles to play in the ceremony. Many things about the Mass were beautiful.

“The Aboriginal dancers who started our ceremony and the liturgical dancers who brought in the Gospel and the gifts at the offertory were wonderful. The choir was outstanding. The girls who read did so with confidence and clarity. The Eucharistic ministers and altar servers were very prayerful and reverent in carrying out their duties. The girls sang beautifully and responded throughout the celebration with conviction.”

In her words of welcome, Sue acknowledged the courage and conviction of the Irish settlers who established the College and the Good Samaritan Sisters who later took responsibility for it.

“When the Irish settlers established St Patrick’s in 1840, they knew they were investing in the future of their children, their community and the fledgling country that would grow into a nation,” she said.

“In 1887, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan took responsibility for St Patrick’s… They embarked on a path that the College has continued along to this day. They took the extraordinary step to invest in the education of the girls. They provided girls with opportunities to think critically and offered experiences that would broaden their horizons.

“They have left an indelible legacy: strong, wise women mentoring and nurturing the development of girls into compassionate, competent and educated young women.”

Among the guests attending the celebration was former St Patrick’s student and now NSW Senator, Deborah O’Neill, who spoke about the role the College played in her life and development.

“It was wonderful for the girls to see such an inspiring female role model and to hear the wisdom that she shared that day,” said Sue.

For Sister Julie O’Regan, the last Good Samaritan Sister to teach at St Pat’s and who now has a support role at the College among the cohort of Pacific nation students, the Mass was “a beautiful celebration” which expressed “joy and thanksgiving”. She said one of the highlights of the celebration was Deborah O’Neill’s address.

“[Deborah] spoke lovingly of her years at St Patrick’s and was able to articulate what the Good Samaritan Benedictine charism has taught her. She said it was the values that had formed her at school that continued to inform her approach to her parliamentary role, as one of service.”

The day after the Mass, the St Patrick’s College community gathered again to celebrate the 175th anniversary, this time at the Campbelltown Catholic Club.

Sue Lennox said the Emerald Gala Ball was “a great success”. Significantly, it also raised funds for needs-based student scholarships “which will directly benefit several families over the years”.

“It is very humbling for families to ask for assistance but this [scholarship] fund provides those families with dignity and security that their daughter will not be disadvantaged,” Sue told those gathered at the ball.

“In our College community, every girl is equal. No one knows who these scholarship girls are. They hold their head high along with all the others. They don’t have to pick and choose their activities or excursions based on their financial capacity because they have access to all. In this way, they can access the full educational experience St Patrick’s has to offer.”

St Patrick’s College was run by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan from 1887 until 2011. In that time some 82 Good Samaritan Sisters ministered at the College. In 1984, the Sisters took the step of incorporating the College as a company limited by guarantee, and managed by a Board of Directors.

In 2011, the College came under the auspices of Good Samaritan Education, the ecclesial community established to oversee the ethos, mission and stewardship of the ten incorporated Good Samaritan Colleges.

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