‘Glorious’ twin celebrations on historic day

By Wendy Shaw

The dedication and sacrifices of the early Sisters were recalled as St Joseph’s Catholic School at Queenstown marked its 125th anniversary.

It took place on St Joseph’s Feast Day, 19 March.

Principal Teresa McLeod said the school, parish and wider community joined together for a memorable day of celebrations that included a school Mass, morning tea and school tours.

Students and staff donned red, the colour associated with St Joseph, for what Mrs McLeod described as “a really great day”.

Students were reminded of the early years of the school, which was founded in 1899 by the Presentation Sisters. The school closed in 1906 due to declining student numbers and the death of Mother Alacoque but reopened the following year under the auspices of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

Giving thanks: Students, staff and community members gather for a whole school Mass at St Joseph’s Church, Queenstown, at the start of a day of celebrations for the 125th anniversary of St Joseph’s Catholic School. Photo supplied by St Joseph’s Catholic School. Photo: Wendy Shaw

Mrs McLeod explained: “We focussed on how the school opened, then closed, then reopened and how hard the journey would have been back in the day. The Presentation Sisters, who were already in Tasmania, opened the school.

“It closed, but then reopened in 1907 with a group of Sisters who came from England and landed in Macquarie Harbour, and then made their way to here. The six sisters arrived to one bed and one chair at the convent, and within three years, the school had 188 students.

“They had an impressive impact on the community in a very short time.

“Our students were also fascinated to learn that the school started in two tiny rooms at the back of the church. To think there were 188 students in two tiny rooms is mind-boggling.”

As part of the celebrations, the old school bell was rung to mark the end of playtime. In the afternoon, students rotated through music, Godly Play looking at story of St Joseph, a history trail, and a session on mission.

Ringing the changes: Former student and current teacher Ms Carmen Holmes rings the old school bell at St Joseph’s Catholic School, Queenstown. Photo: Supplied.

Mrs McLeod said Fr Arokia Aruldas CPPS, Administrator of the West Coast Parish, spoke beautifully about St Joseph as a man of faith, family and hard work at the Mass.

Fr Arokia described the day as a glorious twin celebration of both the Solemnity of St Joseph and the quasquicentennial celebration of St Joseph’s Catholic School.

He spoke of the school’s humble beginnings, the challenges faced, and the inspiring benefits of an institution imparting Catholic educational wisdom over 125 years.

“I praise God and plead His showers of blessings on our teachers, staff, students, parents, well-wishers, today and forever,” Fr Arokia said.

“God bless St Joseph’s Catholic School and St Joseph, our patron, protect and lead us forward into another legacy.”

Mrs McLeod added that the school has 69 students this year and that St Joseph’s is a special, warm and welcoming community.

Reflecting back on the celebrations, she said: “It was a beautiful day. We all left feeling excited and proud to be part of it.”

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