St Mary’s celebrates 150 years with a garden party

The garden party held at St Mary’s Campus, All Saints College, on Sunday, 10 September, to mark the sesquicentenary of the arrival of the Dominican Sisters in Maitland, was not the first such occasion to take place in the beautiful grounds, and hopefully it will not be the last.

The Sisters celebrated their golden and diamond anniversaries of foundation similarly, and also the centenary in 1967.

This time however, it was the initiative of a group of St Mary’s staff who felt it important to celebrate on Foundation Day itself. Almost fifty Sisters, as well as staff and former staff, students and former students, gathered in the garden and then repaired to the chapel to be welcomed and to hear congratulatory messages from Pope Francis, Papal Nuncio, Adolfo Tito Yllana, Archbishops Anthony Fisher, Denis Hart and Philip Wilson and of course Bishop Bill Wright.  

Vicar General, Brian Mascord, representing Bishop Bill, sang a blessing over the assembled Sisters and there were spirited renditions of the St Mary’s school song, “Veritas” and the hymn, “Sound the great St Dominic’s praises”.

Congregational leader, Sr Judith Lawson OP, responded on behalf of the Sisters, expressing gratitude for the warm welcome and the many ways in which the Dominican spirit was being honoured.

When guests were invited to ring the school bell, they were delighted to accept and so 150 individuals, mostly ex-students, tolled the bell in turn.

There was a symbolic ‘re-entry’ of the Sisters into St Mary’s to be received by Fr Brian.

Two celebratory cakes were cut by revered guests, Sr M Germaine Innes OP and Mrs Audrey Watters, a former student about to turn 99!

After the formalities there were delicious refreshments, served on china, to provide sustenance for the endless conversations, photos, ‘remember whens’ and viewing of the items in the ‘pop up’ museum.        

Underlying the occasion was deep gratitude for the eight Sisters who sailed from Dun Laoghaire on the “Martha Birnie”, who offered education in the Dominican way almost immediately and whose charism continues in several diocesan schools: San Clemente and St Columban’s, Mayfield (both celebrating centenaries this year); Corpus Christi, Waratah; St Dominic’s Centre, Mayfield; St John’s, Maitland and of course, St Mary’s Maitland.  

As the St Mary’s song proclaims,

…though we’re sure to scatter, and many a barrier pass,

Deep in our hearts we’ll cherish, that one word,

VERITAS!

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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.