St Joseph's welcomes first female leader since 1994

The year 2018 marks a significant year for the community at St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar as they welcome the first female leader since 1994, Principal Patricia Hales.

As a former St Joseph’s student herself taught by the Josephite nuns, Mrs Hales has returned to create a community of learning where students, staff and families are valued and respected for their uniqueness, and students are encouraged to embrace new challenges and reach their full potential.

“I feel very privileged and humble to return to St Joseph’s as a female leader, I feel as though I am standing on the shoulders of giants – the women who taught me were overwhelmingly strong, intelligent and determined – they inspired within a desire to be the best I could be, to work hard and be considerate of others, to dream a little about possibilities,” said Mrs Hales.

Prior to the open liturgy at St Joseph’s, Mrs Hales said she felt an overwhelming sense that the spirits of the sisters who taught her were there by her side: “I could almost hear them say, we are with you!

“I truly felt a spiritual call to the College, that God was calling me to a special mission – that is was the right time for me from a career and life perspective – I felt I had the experience and wisdom to lead the College at an important time in their journey.

 “I feel that the Josephite tradition is simply part and parcel of who I am as a person - the sisters' resolve to provide an education for young women, their compassion for the less fortunate, their desire to share in and walk together in the ordinariness of life were just so evident and lived that it just seemed to be the way we should live our own lives.

“I have often thought though that these women were 'ahead of their time' and that something that resonated so strongly with me as a young woman was that these women who I met every day were confident, ready to express opinions, aware of the complexities of the world, not fazed by the norms of society, were creative and energetic and so, maybe, just maybe I could be like that too.”

Mrs Hales has worked for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle for over 30 years. She has taught at St Catherine’s Catholic College, Singleton, St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton and ASC, St Peter’s and St Mary’s Campus, Maitland, as well as enjoyed eight years at the Catholic Schools Office in a variety of roles.

St Joseph’s today is a dynamic and adaptable school environment, it has continued along a path of revolution and renewal, especially in recent years under the leadership of former Principal Paul Greaves who has introduced state-of-the-art facilities. These include the TAS and Vocational Education Trade Training Centre, the library and administration, an all-purpose hall and new music, art digital media and drama facilities.

This year, the staff at St Joseph’s has increased by 12 to cater for the increasing demand of student growth in classes as well as the arrival of the first Year 11 cohort for the College in approximately 30 years.

“It is significant that these students will now have the opportunity to complete their education at St Joseph’s in a nurturing and caring environment where everyone is known,” she said.

Mrs Hales said that she is looking forward to being part of the energy of a Year 7 to 11 school, as there is such diversity across the year groups as well as having the opportunity to share her experience and expertise with her staff.

“I truly hope that all students will grow and flourish in an environment where they are respected as young adults. I hope that they will reap the benefits of being in a place that is imbued with the Josephite tradition and that this will inspire them to be strong, open minded, compassionate and well informed.

“In collaboration with the staff and Year 11 students, I hope to establish some spaces in the College that will give the senior students the opportunity to develop their independence and form a cohesive bond that will pay dividends for their learning and future pathways.

“In conjunction with the staff I will be exploring opportunities for the students to develop their leadership through community service and witness so that by the time they leave the College they will feel there has been a richness to their senior experience that they can take into the future.

“There is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be the woman I am today had it not been for nurturing support and positive influence and belief I received from the sisters,” she said.

International Women's Day 2018

International Women's Day is celebrated on 8 March and the theme of this year is 'Press for Progress' which calls for everyone to work together to press forward and progress toward gender parity.

Click here to read more articles about other inspiring women just like Patricia Hales.

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Gabrielle Sutherland

Gabrielle Sutherland is a Marketing & Communications Officer for the Catholic Schools Office and a regular contributor to and Aurora.