This is the second new school name of 2016, following the announcement of St Bede’s Catholic College, Chisholm, in May. The first cohort to commence studies at Catherine McAuley will include students from feeder primary schools: St Brigid’s, Raymond Terrace, St Michael’s, Nelson Bay and St Joseph’s, Bulahdelah.
The construction of the new school is among 12 recommendations to emerge from the 2013 study into the Provision of Secondary Education in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, ensuring the diocese will be able to meet the future needs of students in Catholic secondary schools, including the demand for Catholic education in Port Stephens.
The name “Catherine McAuley College” was chosen because McAuley is a strong identity who can speak vigorously to contemporary adolescents and young adults in secondary schools. Further, and importantly, Catherine presents a strong and relevant female face of the Catholic Church. In the Year of Mercy, Catherine McAuley is an appropriate gift of Mercy to the diocesan school system.
To understand this special link, we must first understand the great person she was. Dublin-based Catherine McAuley inherited a considerable fortune and chose to use it to build a house where she and other compassionate women could take in homeless women and children, providing care and education. In 1827, on the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, McAuley began managing an institution for destitute women and orphans, as well as schools for the poor. Four years later, she founded a congregation, the Sisters of Mercy, in Dublin. The distinctive feature of this band of spirited women would be works of mercy. Today, 10,000 women worldwide carry on the McAuley tradition.
In 1978, the cause for recognition of Catherine as a saint of the church was begun by Pope Paul VI. In 1990, in recognition of her heroic virtues, Pope John Paul II declared her “Venerable”.
The Sisters of Mercy have a strong historical connection to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, being one of the foundation congregations ministering in Catholic schools and providing health care. People of the region will be familiar with St Catherine’s Catholic College, Singleton, and the Mater Hospital, Waratah, as Mercy icons. The Mercy name is strong in the Port Stephens region with feeder schools St Brigid’s and St Michael’s having been established by the Sisters of Mercy.
Catherine McAuley Catholic College will be grounded in the Mercy traditions of mercy, justice, excellence, integrity, courage and hospitality. Students attending the secondary college will be nurtured to be courageous young men and women who act compassionately to build community and who are alive with the mercy and justice of God. They will be supported and challenged to be open to new ideas and have the ability to make wise choices, as well as build lives centred on contemplation and action, prayer and service.
The school will be dedicated to fostering a commitment to excellence and lifelong learning in the lives of all students and will honour the magnificent contribution of the Sisters of Mercy to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
The principals of the three feeder Catholic primary schools are eagerly anticipating the opening of Catherine McAuley Catholic College. “The students and parents are excited that there is now the prospect of K to 12 Catholic schooling on the Port Stephens Peninsula,” says St Michael’s principal, Helen Bourne.
St Joseph’s principal, Joanne Trotter, also shares the excitement of a more accessible Catholic secondary school. “Our families have often felt disadvantaged by geography, so the new high school at Medowie will provide families the opportunity to ensure their children are able to benefit from a Catholic education close to home,” she said.
“The new secondary college will be of great benefit to our local community as our families greatly value being a part of a Catholic school community with supportive education and Christian values at the core,” says St Brigid’s principal, David Palmer.
The school will eventually cater for 1,200 students from Years 7 to 12 and will feature state of the art facilities and recreation areas.
Gerard Mowbray is Assistant Director, Catholic Schools Office. Initial expressions of interest for enrolment in 2020 or enquiries can be made by contacting Karen Millsteed, P 4979 1223 or by visiting www.mn.catholic.edu.au.