St Peter Chanel celebrates 40 years with Mass and shared memories

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Home > Media > News > St Peter Chanel celebrates 40 years with Mass and shared memories
St Peter Chanel celebrates 40 years with Mass and shared memories
Photo: Debbie Holland

St Peter Chanel Catholic School at Smithton is a monument of gratitude, a declaration of love, a concrete representation of the Josephite spirit that unites generations of families and a sign of educational workers’ commitment to carry on the tradition of Josephite education.

That is the view of the current principal, Christina Gretton, as she reflected on the Circular Head school’s legacy at 40th anniversary celebrations on Sunday, June 9.

More than 70 people - including priests, Josephite sisters, past and present staff and students, and their families - travelled to the north-west coast to mark the occasion with Mass, lunch, a history display and shared memories. 

“It was a fantastic day,” Mrs Gretton said.

“St Peter Chanel Catholic School carries on the Catholic education tradition which began over 100 years ago in the Circular Head region, with the first Catholic school starting in Smithton in 1951 called St Attracta's. 

“We provide Catholic Education for 165 students. We work in conjunction with the Catholic Parish of Circular Head and parish administrator Fr Alex Obiorah to deliver a religious education curriculum that develops each student's relationship with Christ.

“Our hopes for the future are to carry on the Josephite spirit and charism: serving God in others, hospitality, humility and compassion.”

Among those who attended the 40th anniversary celebrations were Fr Frank Gibson and Sr Carmel Jones. Fr Frank was parish priest and Sr Carmel was principal when the school opened in 1979.

Former parish priest Fr Phil McCormack, current parish administrator Fr Obiorah and former principals including Sr Colleen Power, Greg Nelson and Peter McBain, were also present.

Fr Obiorah paid tribute to those who were part of the story of the school and who have since died, in a prayer of remembrance.

Sr Carmel was at Smithton from 1977 to 1983, and was the transition principal from St Attracta’s to St Peter Chanel.

“I remember much hard work planning and getting the new school up and running but most of my memories are about the wonderful people I was privileged to work with,” Sr Carmel said.

“I also remember that whatever happened, the focus was always student-centred.” 

She also recalled the rain – more than 1100mm falls annually in the lush north-west corner of the state. This influenced the design of the new school, which incorporated a central assembly area where staff and students could gather for activities regardless of the weather, and even ensured that gumboots were a standard part of the school uniform for a time.

Sr Carmel said the Josephite charism was alive and well in the school today.

“The values of responding to needs with compassion and care and living justly and fairly are evident throughout the school environment as well as in the daily attitude of staff and students,” Sr Carmel said.

“Some 68 years after the Sisters of Saint Joseph first came to Smithton, Catholic Education seems to be thriving in Smithton.  A lot has happened since 1979 when St Attracta’s School became St Peter Chanel School and the students are very fortunate that their facilities have continued to be enhanced.”

Sr Colleen was ‘missioned’ to Smithton three times: as teacher, principal and in the parish. 

“The highlight for me was meeting up with so many Circular Head people and that feeling of being 'at home’ with them,” Sr Colleen said.

“They are a very warm and welcoming group of beautiful people.”