Schools unite to celebrate Australia’s only saint

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Home > Media > News > Schools unite to celebrate Australia’s only saint
Schools unite to celebrate Australia’s only saint

A shared heritage has brought the Huon Valley’s two Catholic schools together to celebrate Australia’s only canonised saint.

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop co-founded a congregation of religious Sisters – the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, also known as the ‘Josephites’ – who had an emphasis on educating the poor, particularly in rural areas.

Both Sacred Heart Catholic School, in Geeveston, and St James Catholic College, in Cygnet, were begun by the Sisters.

Now the schools celebrate their connection to Australia’s only saint by an annual celebration on her August 8 feast day, with the schools taking turns to host the feast day event each year.

This year, it was the turn of Sacred Heart Catholic School in Geeveston.

To begin last week’s feast day celebrations, around 300 students from both schools gathered for Mass at St Joseph’s Church in Geeveston, featuring special songs and a homily about the saint, whose love for God was the inspiration for her many works of charity.

Principal Luch Brighella of Sacred Heart Catholic School said that learning about St Mary of the Cross and co-founder Fr Julian Tenison-Woods was important for the students.

“They went out to remote areas, areas where there weren’t schools – to provide Catholic education. But with that went compassion, understanding, hospitality and help. They helped with shelter, and food, and clothing. They were prepared to go out of town – and we’re out of town.

“We say to the kids: the Sisters carried on the vision of Mary and they came down to the Huon Valley and they saw a need to start a couple of small schools – at Cygnet and at Geeveston – and with that came their strong values of love [and] compassion.”

The schools are no longer run by the Sisters, but Sr Joan Cowmeadow – a Josephite Sister from Cygnet – attended the celebrations.

Jeorge Wigan, the Religious Education Co-ordinator for St James Catholic College’s primary students, says that St Mary of the Cross is a role model for how an Australian person has been able to live their life and make a difference throughout Australia and the world.

“That faith that everything is in God’s hands and that He has a plan for us all, and that life is gift … so it’s important to use that gift to help others, not just ourselves.”

Following the Mass, the rest of the day was spent in outdoor activities like bike riding, a platypus walk, playing in the bush, STEM activities, craft, and exploring the Geeveston school’s regenerated area for frogs, the ‘Frog Bog’, with Geeveston classes hosting their Cygnet peers.

“It was just fun activities to celebrate the day [and] shared lunch,” Mr Brighella said.

For some students, it was an opportunity to mix with others they will meet with for the parish’s sacramental program, while others will go on to attend Years 7 to 10 at St James Catholic College together.

“It’s just nice to come together … and get to know each other,” Mr Brighella said.