A step back in time

Former students of St Joseph’s Girls High School, Merewether, came together for a whole school reunion organised by T’ese Butler, Pauline Boyce, Cathy Doyle and Margie Harris.

St Joseph’s Girls High School operated from 1932 to 1984 alongside the neighbouring primary school, St Joseph’s Primary School, Merewether.

The 291 guests who attended the reunion spent the morning exploring the old school grounds, which still house St Joseph’s Primary, before heading to lunch at South Newcastle Rugby League Club.

Attending the high school from 1968 to 1971, T’ese Butler enjoyed the opportunity to take a walk down memory lane.

“I adored having the opportunity to relive and share some of those memories, particularly with other girls and teachers who shared the same path in life, said T’ese.

“You cannot live in the past but it is always wonderful to take time to revisit ‘old times’, especially when you remember them with great affection.”

There were two speakers on the day, Sister Ellen Royan rsj and Gabi Hollows.

Sister Ellen was at St Joseph’s from 1963 to 1972, teaching a range of subjects including Art, History, Geography, Commerce and Religious Education, and was also known to join the girls at sport.

Sister Ellen spoke of the strong community spirit which existed within the school and the differences in education today.

As a decade emerging from hard times, Sister Ellen remembered a system with fewer teaching aids, no funding from the Government and very few textbooks on hand. Sister Ellen reminisced on collecting poems from the ABC sheets and making her own books to share with the students, before reciting a few of her favourites to guests.

“There were many parts of the reunion that I thoroughly enjoyed but the highlight for me was listening to Sr Ellen speak and seeing the smiles and joy on the girls' faces as they listened,” said T’ese.

“She literally lit up the room just as she had done during her lessons, on the sports field, in the playground or wherever we encountered her at school all those years ago. 

“Listening to Sr Ellen brought me a waterfall of emotions and memories that I will always cherish.  The Sisters were wonderful and supportive role models who taught me to believe in myself and to be true to myself.” 

A former student of St Joseph’s and founding director of the Fred Hollows Foundation, Gabi Hollows shared the fond and funny memories of her school days.

“Apart from Sr Ellen, it was great just seeing so many happy faces, so many hugs, hearing the laughter and giggles – just like old times,” said T’ese.

“As you get older and experience more of life you come to realise the value of some of the things you learnt or lived earlier in your life. I always liked school but it was not until I was older that I realised that not everyone had been as fortunate as I had been.  I look back and can see just how magical my time at school was and how valuable the lessons I learnt were. 

“The Committee would like to thank Sr Carmel Moore, Sr Marie Hughes of St Joseph’s Congregational Office, Warners Bay, Sr Ellen Royan, Gabi Hollows, Peter Treloar, Principal of St Joseph’s Primary School, Merewether and his staff; Margaret Cox from the City Region Catholic Centre; Brooke Robinson from the Diocesan Communications office; Tracey Edstein from Aurora; Amanda Skehan from the CSO, the beautiful staff at the St Joseph’s Congregational Office at Warners Bay and the volunteers who assisted us on the day who all helped to make our reunion such a wonderful success. We also want to thank Jennifer Palmer who organised for Emily Goldman from EMG Photography to capture our day.”

Photos courtesy of EMG Photography.