The St Mary’s Catholic College community came together in Gateshead earlier today, as the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s Administrator, Fr Greg Barker, celebrated the blessing of its newest buildings.
Following the blessing ceremony, which included an Acknowledgement of Country and performances by students, guests were provided with a tour of the College. New features include its refurbished Computer Technology, Visual Arts and Learning Support classrooms, along with new student learning facilities, a social hub, toilets, an amphitheater, and new VET Hospitality and VET Construction course areas that include a state-of-the-art Hospitality kitchen, café, food preparation room and cafeteria, as well as a refurbished wood workshop, STEM workshop, and a new-state-of-the-art VET Construction workshop.
Also officially unveiled was the college’s new Administration and Staff building, which the Chief Executive Officer of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Sean Scanlon said was a powerful visual representation of the welcoming college community.
“The redesign of the college, which now extends towards the Pacific Highway, creates a wonderful presence in the local community,” Mr Scanlon said.
“Whenever I visit St Mary’s Catholic College, I always feel welcome by the wonderful community that exists here, and now you have a streetscape that really evokes that same feeling.”
The multi-million-dollar development was first announced in 2016, when it was also announced that in 2018 the school would change its name from St Mary’s High School to St Mary’s Catholic College and extend from a Years 7-10 school to a Years 7-12 school.
Mr Scanlon said that the Diocese had sought to make Catholic secondary education more accessible to families living at the southern end of the Diocese, particularly in areas around Belmont, Swansea, Catherine Hill Bay and Caves Beach.
“Ultimately, we felt that by providing more localised learning opportunities it would strengthen the Lake Macquarie community and support students' learning and social framework.
“When we made that announcement to extend the school’s curriculum to Year 12, we also committed to a series of works to expand St Mary’s facilities and accommodate a growing school population.”
Since then, the population of St Mary’s has grown from 620 students to 908 today.
St Mary’s Catholic College Principal, Larry Keating, said the construction that has occurred at the College over the past several years has been its greatest physical transformation in its almost 60-year history.
“Today, we gather to celebrate “the harvest” with the Official Opening and Blessing of our new buildings,” he said as he addressed the assembled crowd comprising of Diocesan leaders, Josephites, students, staff and building contractors.
“As members of the diocesan community, we pause in the busyness of our daily lives to express our collective gratitude and thanks to those who have shared in gifting our diocesan and college community with such impressive facilities.
“They stand as symbols of architectural and construction excellence. They also speak to an outstanding level of collaboration and cooperation between all stakeholders involved in the design and construction process.
“So often, it is a long journey to the construction of buildings which stand as symbols of progress. This has been our reality. It requires a vision and it takes initiative, creativity, boldness, courage, audacity, collaboration, cooperation, persistence and commitment to self-effacing service,” Mr Keating said.
Mr Keating also acknowledged the Sisters of St Joseph, Lochinvar who founded the school in 1964.
“The Sisters toiled relentlessly and with complete fidelity, immense generosity and at great personal cost to realise their vision for Catholic secondary education at Gateshead. They ‘planted and nurtured the seeds’ that grew into the Christ centred community we are so fortunate to have today.
The Director of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Gerard Mowbray, echoed Mr Keatings remarks as he shared his fond memories of the Josephites tradition so deeply embedded at St Mary’s.
“My first ever teaching job was at St Mary’s,” Mr Mowbray said. “I was 22 years-of-age at the time, and along with two other male colleagues, we were the very first men to ever work at the school, which at that time was still an all-girls school,” he said with a sense of nostalgia.
“Here, I worked alongside many Sisters of St Joseph, and their charisms of compassion, love, justice, acceptance, service, inclusion, forgiveness, mercy, and a preparedness, like Jesus, to challenge the falsities and injustices in our world created a wonderful sense of community that still exists here today.”
Mr Mowbray also acknowledged those who had supported the most recent physical transformation of the College.
“We are grateful to the NSW Government who provided $2.4 million towards Stage 2 of the project, distributed via the Catholic Block Grant Authority,” Mr Mowbray said.
“We are also very appreciative of the contributions made by families across the Diocese, who through their generous support enable us to create contemporary learning environments that enrich students' learning experience and wellbeing,” Mr Mowbray said.
Mr Mowbray said that as the College community comprising of students, their family and staff prepare to support the fourth St Mary’s Year 12 cohort undertake their HSC exams, the college continues to grow from strength to strength.
“Today is much more than just celebrating buildings, it is acknowledging a shared commitment to providing the greatest environment possible for students to be their very best,” Mr Mowbray said.