Happy 100th birthday San Clemente High School!

“Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?”

This question from Georgia, a student of San Clemente High School, Mayfield, encapsulated for me the spirit and sense of community that pervaded the ‘Open Day’ to celebrate the school’s centenary on Sunday, 27 August.

The day began with Mass in St Columban’s Hall, a venue that would have been familiar to generations of teachers, students and families of the school.

Fr Bill Burston, a great friend of the school, presided and the liturgy was enhanced by student and staff vocalists and instrumentalists. Many Dominican Sisters attended, including Sisters who had belonged to the San Clemente community at different times.

Fr Bill had another duty after Mass, that of blessing the four pillars, sculptured from industrial metal and timber to mark the centenary. The pillars of Prayer, Service, Study and Community will inspire current and future students – and they will also light up at night! I look forward to a drive-by…

A magnificent cake featuring the school centenary logo was cut and shared, and several generations of former students (as opposed to ‘old girls’) dispersed to enjoy all that was on offer.

Where to begin?

The Veritas IV exhibition, featuring student and staff artwork as well as items from Kopanang, brought by Sr Sheila Flynn OP, was gallery standard. Outside the exhibition was a newly installed statue of St Dominic, sculpted by Religious Education Co-ordinator and artist, Rose McAllister.

There was live music performed by students to delight the ears and photographs, a creative time line and a display of uniforms through the years sparked countless memories.

St Dominic Guzman was Spanish and so paella was a very appropriate lunchtime offering.

Classrooms were open and there were exhibits and demonstrations aplenty: garden furniture being made by wood and metal work students; robotics, CAD and 3D printing; the agriculture plot; cross-curriculum student work samples and an invitation to visit the Sister Karen Feldt Learning Centre, regarded as the heart of the school.

Everywhere there were students, proudly wearing their uniforms, ready to direct visitors, answer questions, share their experience and learn about days gone by.  In the hospitality room, which serves Pillars Café, student baristas were making endless cups of coffee for an appreciative crowd.

Principal, Scott Donohoe, expressed his pride in the school he leads and reminded the congregation of the story.

“150 years ago, on June 8, 1867, eight courageous young Dominican women left Ireland, knowing they would never return. Their mission was to provide Catholic education in ‘the colony’. After a three-month journey, without touching land, on the tiny sailing boat, the “Martha Birnie”, they arrived at Morpeth in the Hunter Valley on September 10, 1867.

“Today, we cherish and give thanks to God for our Dominican tradition with its deep history − its search for truth − and we celebrate that in the weaving of the story of a group of brave and visionary Dominican Sisters who, 100 years ago, during the First World War, founded San Clemente in a weatherboard building in Kerr Street, Mayfield. The school opened with 50 girls. We now have 745 students. In 1919 the school was moved to its current site. We have an obligation and a duty to uphold the values of those Dominican Sisters who began the school and the many, many students and staff who have walked before us during the past 100 years. We are unique as Dominican schools. Our Dominican charism separates us from others. We need to listen to this, celebrate it, and bring it to life.

“Once again, welcome, and thank you for coming along today to share our story.”

Thank you Georgia for the flat white, no sugar, served with a smile in beautiful china – with teddy bear biscuits!

Please visit www.kopanang.org, www.opeast.org.au and www.mayfieldsanc.catholic.edu.au.

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.