Joy as school marks 150 years of faith and education

By Wendy Shaw

The faith and sacrifices of the founding Presentation Sisters were recalled as one of the oldest Catholic schools in Tasmania marked 150 years.

Students and teachers donned olden day garb as they gave thanks for a sesquicentenary of Catholic education at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Launceston.

They packed the pews at the neighbouring Church of the Apostles on 16 June, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as Archbishop Julian told them it was a day of great joy and celebration for the school, the parish and the wider community.

Scaling great heights: Students from Sacred Heart Catholic School, Launceston, celebrate a key milestone at one of the oldest Catholic schools in the state. Photo: Wendy Shaw

“Today at this Mass we give thanks for the Presentation Sisters who established this school,” Archbishop Julian said.

“They were women of great faith and generosity of spirit. Their courageous efforts enabled this school to grow and develop and so help thousands of students have a good education and come to know the love of God.

“And today we celebrate the great love that is in the heart of Jesus and we remember His words to St Margaret Mary: ‘See this heart which loves so much and receives so little love in return’. May the students of Sacred Heart Catholic School, Launceston, love Jesus and stay close to Him all their lives.”

Halo, 11, Leo 7, and Lucy, also 7, take a step back in time at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School. Photo: Wendy Shaw

The Sisters established two schools on the site – Sacred Heart College for fee-paying students, and St Mary’s School for poor students. Over the years, Sacred Heart has expanded and evolved to the 462-pupil kinder to grade 6 school it is today.

Sr Elizabeth Vagg, of Launceston, is a Presentation Sister who taught at Sacred Heart College in the 1960s and at Marian College (the amalgamated girls’ secondary college on the same site) in the early 1980s.

Sr Elizabeth attended the parish Mass on 18 June to mark the school’s 150 years, with Sr Majella Kelly, Sr Marilyn Fryett, Sr Marie Connelly and Sr Monica Shelverton.

A bridge to the past: Georgiana, 11, Trixie, 12, and Heidi, Poppy and Grace, all 11, at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School. Photo: Wendy Shaw

“It is important to recall the story, the sacrifices, the hard work and the faith of the people who have contributed through 150 years to provide a practical quality education to the young people of Launceston and surrounding areas, but more importantly an education in the faith, a developing relationship with God and a loving concern for their neighbour,” Sr Elizabeth said afterwards.

“The Sisters responded to God’s call, started their ministry among the people of Launceston and its surrounds and saw its development.

“Others joined them in this work and contributed to it in whatever way they could; young men and women came to teach in the schools, parents collaborated in support of the school community, raised funds or held working bees…

Principal Brent Wilson and Archbishop Julian greet Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School students as they leave Mass at the Church of the Apostles, Launceston. Photo: Wendy Shaw

“One hundred and fifty years ago, the Sisters responded to the call of God and the needs of the time. Today, it is the people of God, the laity, who are hearing that call and responding through their lives and circumstances, to bring the love of God to our world.”

This was a theme echoed by Anna Davie, the school’s religious education co-ordinator, herself a former Sacred Heart student, as her grandmother was before her.

“She explained to me that the Sisters who taught her nurtured her through difficult times, gave her hope, an education and values,” Mrs Davie said. “Here we are, 150 years after our school was opened, still learning, growing in faith and establishing those same values that will lead us through life.”

Historic day: Prep Green at Launceston’s Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, with class teacher Brooke McDonald, left, and teacher assistant Jennifer Murfet, right. Photo: Wendy Shaw

For Principal Brent Wilson and the organising committee, the celebrations were the result of 18 months of planning and hard work. He was delighted that nearly all students had worn olden day costumes, scouring charity shops and supporting the needy in the process.

Highlights included: having Archbishop Julian celebrate Mass, underlining the centrality of faith to the school community; the fun and frivolity of a school talent show; a civic reception; all involved in the Sunday parish Mass; and the fine efforts of students who then led tours of the school.

Former Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School students now at St Patrick’s College, Launceston, from left, Xavier Duffy, Emma Wright, Grace Campbell, Samuel Cowley, Alexander Luttrell, and Kaleb Watts with Archbishop Julian outside the Church of the Apostles, Launceston, following Mass to mark Sacred Heart’s 150th anniversary. Photo: Wendy Shaw

“It was special to see the passion our students have in our school,” Mr Wilson added.

“I hope our school is as much loved in future as it is now and that people are as passionate going forward as they have been in the past.

“We don’t stand still. We look to the future, to continue to grow and flourish.”

Tags: Launceston, News