1978 Parish History Ch. 11

THE SISTERS OF MERCY AND EDUCATION

[Featured photo is a portion of St Mary’s children in 1978; complete photo is at end of chapter.]

MERCY BEGINNINGS

In 1859 Mother Ignatius Murphy with her little community of six left their Convent home in West Point, County Mayo, Ireland, and founded the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy in Goulburn, at the request of the Most rev Archbishop Polding.

On July 22, 1868, Mother Ignatius accompanied by Mother de Sales and Sisters Camillus, Xavier, Joseph, Brigid and Gertrude, arrived in Albury to establish a community in that town.

ARRIVAL IN COROWA

On January 17, 1887 Mother Camillus and Sisters Angela, Evangelista and Celestine stepped from the train at Wahgunyah terminus on their way to take charge of St Mary’s school in Corowa.

Before proceeding further, it might be well to look at the matter of Education in this country before these dates.

EDUCATION IN AUSTRALIA TO 1880s

The first schools in Australia were Anglican schools and they were the only schools until the arrival of Father Therry. Up to the year 1850, the majority of the schools in the state were denominational schools; that is the school was owned by the church and was under the immediate control of the local pastor. Presbyterian and Wesleyan schools were also gradually established along with Anglican and Catholic schools.

Each child paid a small stipend, but the bulk of the finance came from the government and this extended to grants of land, a large part of the building costs, teachers’ salaries and equipment The appointment and dismissal of teachers, courses of studies and the type of religious instruction were in the hands of the respective denominations.

There were certain difficulties in regard to this system. In sparsely populated rural districts there was frequently not a sufficient number of any particular denomination to warrant the building of a denominational school.

“NATIONAL” SCHOOLS

It was proposed, therefore, that in those areas, all the denominations should combine to establish was called a National School. Although these National Schools enjoyed full Government backing, they developed slowly because they were not favoured by the people and were opposed by the churches, by the Anglican church in particular.

To improve the control of the two types of schools, in 1848 in New South Wales, there were established two separate Boards, a Denominational Board to control Denominational Schools and a National Board to control National Schools. Although denominational schools under the new arrangement were subject to somewhat greater government control, they were still in effect under the control of the denominations. They flourished and, under favourable government conditions, multiplied rapidly.

1880 GOVERNMENT GRANTS CEASED

A series of Education Acts gradually changed this until the publish Instruction Act of 1880 in New South Wales effectively stopped all government grants to denominational schools.

Herein lay the importance and value of dedicated religious teachers and why Catholic schools were gradually taken out of the hands of lay teachers and put into the hands of Religious Congregations  of Sisters and Brothers who were, generally, brought from overseas for this purpose.

Before the 1880 Act and the decision of the Bishops to seek religious congregations to take charge of the schools, the earliest of them were already in the country.

CHARITY & MERCY SISTERS

The Sisters of Charity came to New South Wales from Dublin in 1838, the Sisters of Mercy, also from Ireland, to Goulburn in 1859.

GOOD SAMARITANS & JOSEPHITES

Two Australian Orders also have long histories: The Good Samaritans were founded in Sydney in 1857, and the Sisters of St Joseph [founded by St Mary MacKillop] in South Australia in 1866.

MARISTS & JESUITS

The Marist Fathers came from France to Sydney in 1837, the Jesuit Fathers to Richmond, Victoria, in 1856. In 1878, the Jesuits extended their work to Sydney and also established Xavier College in Kew in Melbourne.

It will be seen that, if we exclude the very early years of 1837 and 1838 when the Marist Fathers and Sisters of Charity reached our shores, the coming of the Sisters to Goulburn in 1859, to Albury in 1868 and to Corowa in 1887, was part of the main stream in the introduction of religious teachers to Catholic schools.

RURAL ORIGINS

It is often said that great movements have their origin in the capital cities and extend to the countryside only at a much later date. This is not so in this instance. And when we add to the wonderful history of the Sisters of Mercy the arrival of the Presentation Sisters in Wagga in 1874, we realise how fortunate were the early settlers in the southern part of this state one hundred years ago.

BISHOP LANIGAN

Most Rev William Lanigan was appointed Bishop of Goulburn in 1867 and from the outset demonstrated a keen interest in education. The New south Wales Public Schools Act of 1866 had amalgamated the National and Denominational School Boards to form one body, the Council of Education, which had authority of all schools in receipt of State subsidies.

1867 – 17 CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

In 1867 there were in the Bishop’s diocese seventeen Catholic denominational schools receiving government. He urged his priests to ensure that high standards were maintained in their schools and that the letter of the Council’s rules was observed.

1871 –  24 CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

By 1871 the number of Catholic schools had increased to twenty-four; there were in addition five independent Catholic schools that received no subsidy. These schools were generally staffed by lay teachers. All teachers were subject to the Council’s inspection because they received Government subsidy, but they were controlled by the Bishop or the clergy.

1868 – MERCY SISTERS TO ALBURY

As already stated, in 1867, there was only one religious house in the diocese, the convent of the Sisters of  Mercy at Goulburn, with twelve professed nuns and two novices. A second house was established in Albury the next year.

1875 – MERCY SISTERS TO YASS

Dr Lanigan welcomed a third group of Mercy Sisters to Yass in 1875, so that when Corowa was established as a missionary district there were in the diocese of Goulburn three Mercy convents (Goulburn, Albury and Yass) and the presentation nuns at Wagga.

MERCY CONVENTS GOULBURN & ALBURY

It is now time to return to the story of Corowa’s Sisters of Mercy.

It will be recalled that when Bishop Lanigan took up residence in Goulburn in 1867, he transferred Father McAlroy, who was priest in charge of that centre, to Albury and made him Vicar-General of the diocese. When Fr McAlroy travelled to Albury he brought seven Sisters of Mercy with him to establish a convent. Their college opened on July 24, 1868 with an enrolment of six girls.

GOULBURN TO ALBURY – 6-DAY JOURNEY

It was not a fast journey by road in those days when there was no train service between Goulburn and Albury, the rail link coming in 1883.

The Sisters were conveyed in two wagonettes with overnight stops at Yass, Jugiong, Gundagai, the home of Mr Edward Keon between Gundagai and Holbrook and Holbrook itself; Albury was reached on the sixth day.

Within a matter of days, on July 26, the corner-stone of the convent building was laid; meanwhile the presbytery became the convent.

1887 SISTERS TO COROWA

Twenty-one years later, in 1887, the Sisters were ready for a further development, this time to Corowa. The four Sisters travelled from Albury to Wahgunyah to reach Corowa, a route commonly used once the branch line from Springhurst to Wahgunyah was completed. Their reception at the station was most enthusiastic one.

The Sisters were about to commence in the Missionary District of Corowa an era of education, charity and good works that made a lasting impression in all the communities in which they worked.

FIRST CATHOLIC SCHOOL IN COROWA

There was already a Catholic School in Corowa as there was in so many centres in New South Wales in the 1880s and these schools were taught by lay teachers.

The first Catholic school in Australia had been opened in 1820 by Father Therry. and the number gradually grew until in the year Bishop Lanigan was appointed to Goulburn, there were 138 Catholic schools in New South Wales with 170 teachers.

MISS BURNS – COROWA

In 1884, for instance, Father Fogarty, Diocesan Inspector of Schools, was present in Corowa with the parish priest, Father William Bermingham, at the Annual Distribution of Prizes when Miss Burns, in charge of the school, submitted the school report.

MISS BURNS & MISS STEWART

In the following year there were four classes with two teachers, Miss Burns and Miss Stewart. In the absence of the Diocesan Inspector, Father Curley conducted the annual examinations and presided at the distribution of prizes.

On Devember 12, 1886, Fr Curley announced to his congregation during Mass that “the school will be taken over by the Sisters of mercy from Albury after Christmas.” The Annual Distribution of Prizes that year was an important occasion, as it marked the last time in those early days when a lay teacher would read the Report.

PRESENTATION TO MISS BURNS

Miss Burns was presented with a valuable gold watch to mark the termination of her services with Catholic schools; she announced that she had joined the New South Wales Education Department.

Father Curley had already informed his parishioners that the presbytery would become the convent and he would find accommodation elsewhere.

EXTRA-CURRICULAR SUBJECTS

Before the end of the month it was announced that the Sisters would take private pupils for tuition in Music, Singing, French, Painting and Drawing, the fee for each subject being one guinea per quarter.

From the outset a school picnic was held annually in the Police paddock, an invariable comment each year being that “there was a hot wind with clouds of dust.” The picnic was preceded by a procession of the school children.

DEATH OF SISTER ANGELA

Sister Angela, one of the original Sisters to come to Corowa in 1887 died in 1895. She was formerly Miss Mary Gleeson.

EARLY STAFFS

In 1889 the Corowa Sisters were Mother Camillus and Sisters Celestine, Lucy and Liguori.

The staff in 1891 was Mother Celestine and Sisters Malachy, Amalachi and Euphrasia.

Sister Evangelist was given the honour of ringing the school bell for the first time in 1887.

As we look back, years have a habit of passing quickly and in due order the sisters at corowa celebrating various foundations. They are recorded briefly here.

1. SILVER JUBILEE OF MERCY SISTERS’ FOUNDATION

The Silver Jubilee was celebrated with a short programme of vocal and instrumental items provided by Misses M Kelly, J Gibson, M Sandral, J Elias, A Gipson, F Freeman, M Monahan, M Davis, M Leapord, N Nixon, M Coleman, V Squires, J Tenney, R Cavanagh, E Goodwin, K Trinnicak, a Gallagher, A Curtain, C McDonald, V Kelsey, L whitty and masters C and A Anderson, C Foley, H Squires, R Coleman and J Whitty.

Father Hickey called on Mrs O’Leary to present an illuminated address to the Sisters, the address beautifully done by Mr Arthur Marti.

Father praised the work of the Sisters and handed to the Reverend Mother a purse of 110 sovereigns, due in the main to the organizing ability of Miss Knight, Mrs O’Leary, Mrs Leapord and Mrs Goodwin. Fr Slattery (Albury) responded on Mother’s behalf saying that nowhere else could they hope to see such a brilliant function.

The gathering of more than 500 was given afternoon tea at small tables placed in the school grounds.

Father Slattery referred to the jubilee celebration at Mass that morning. He wished to testify to the noble work done by the Sisters, wherever they were established, in the cause of intellectual and religious education.

He had seen the Mercy Sisters nursing in hospitals, at the bedside of the dying, by the cradle of the orphan, helping the unfortunate and in schools. Twenty-five years ago it was joy in anticipation, that way it was joy in realization.

2. GOLDEN JUBILEE OF ALBURY’S FOUNDATION

Pontifical High Mass on Thursday, August 15, 1918 marked the Golden Jubilee of the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in Albury in 1868.

Rt Rev JW Dwyer, Bishop of Wagga, presided; also present were Rt Rev Dr Gallagher, Bishop of Goulburn, Rt Rev Dr Phelan, Bishop of Sale and Rt Rev Monsignor Buckley, Wagga.

The celebrant of the Mass was Rev P Flynn (Wodonga), Deacon, Rev. A Percy (Goulburn), Sub-deacon, Rev R O’Dea (Albury), Master of Ceremonies Rev PH Reilly (Albury). Bishop J.W. Dwyer preached the sermon.

There was an “At Home” in the convent grounds at 7.30pm when Rev W Slattery (Administrator Albury) made a presentation of a Jubilee Gift to the Sisters of Marcy.

The following convents of the Sisters of Mercy, all founded from Albury, were represented – Albury founded 1868, Newtown, 1882, Corowa, 1887, Deniliquin, 1887, Wodonga, 1892, Tocumwal, 1906.

3. CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS OF THE MERCY ESTABLISHMENT

The centenary in Corowa of the establishment of the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin on December 1831, was not overlooked.

At a happy function with Mrs TJ Gorman presiding, Mrs Leapord read an address and handed a cheque for 62 pounds to Mother Xavier. Fr PJ O’Reilly spoke.

The Corowa Sisters received a simple card from Ireland which read “Greetings from Baggot Street”. It was in Baggot Street, Dublin that Mother McAuley had her first convent in  1831.

4. GOLDEN JUBILEE OF COROWA FOUNDATION

A Past Pupils’ Association was formed to organise a function to mark the Golden Jubilee of the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in Corowa in 1887. The only survivor of the four original Sisters was Sister Evangelist then living in Albury.

Miss EH Wright was president, Mrs M Nagle secretary and Miss McMahon treasurer. Several pupils of the 1887 school were present at the function at chich the Sisters to be the guests of the Catholic congregation, Miss Edith Wright, Miss McMahon and Messrs Jim and Jack Dunn.

A most welcome guest was Mrs Squires who was one of those who welcomed the Sisters to Corowa in January, 1887.

The Golden Jubilee Mass was offered by Auxiliary Bishop AF Henschke on Sunday morning, December 19, 1937; St Mary’s choir sang a Missa Cantata. Bishop Henschke preached.

Father O’Reilly welcomed everybody to a Garden Party in the Convent grounds in the afternoon. Among those present were the Bishop, Very Rev Dean Slattery (Albury) Fr Cochrane (Albury), Fr Hennessy (Urana), Fr Lane (Albury), Fr Larkins (Balldale), Fr O’Connor (Rutherglen), Rev Dr Harper (Berrigan), Mr CB Lethbridge, MLA, and Mrs Lethbirdge, Ald. Armour (Mayor) and Mrs Armour, J Chivell (Ex-Mayor).

Miss Wright read an address to the Sisters which was signed by the President, secretary and treasurer and Jas. Dunn, PJ Nagle, Mary J Gallagher, Esther Parkin, AH Marti, Rev PJ O’Reilly and LM Buggy (church secretary). At the same time a cheque for 110 pounds was handed to Mother Ignatius.

Bishop Henschke said he was pleased to make his second visit to Corowa to appreciate the mammoth work being done by the Sisters everywhere. (He was deputising for Bishop Dwyer who was ill). Corowa was one of the first communities to realise the value of a religious education.

Ald. Armour congratulated Fr O’Reilly on having such a loyal community. That week had added another link to Corowa’s proud history – Mr Lethbridge had been elected to represent them in the legislative Assembly; he, a native of the town, had been chosen for mayor; and the Sisters were celebrating their golden jubilee. The President of the Past Pupils’ Association, Miss Edith Wright, had been his teacher. She still had a prize received from Curley in 1885.

Mr Lethbridge was sorry Bishop Dwyer was not present; he was not only a Bishop, but a personal friend of most of the Catholics of Corowa. He welcomed Dr Henschke. The object of the Sisters was to make good men and women and prepare them for the life to come. Religion was the one things that was going to save humanity.

Mr Buggy responded on behalf of the Sisters.

During the afternoon Miss Monica Stoll presented the Sisters with a photo of the present scholars and a jubilee cake made by Mrs CH Gale and Mrs L Parkin.

5. CENTENARY OF THE ARRIVAL OF THE SISTERS IN ALBURY

The Centenary of the Sisters in Albury was associated with a Centenary Building fund Appeal as a prelude to the second century of service by the Sisters.

Over the years buildings, generally of a substantial nature, were erected to provide accommodation for the Sisters and education for the pupils.

COROWA MILESTONES IN CATHOLIC EDUCATION

1. A NEW SCHOOL IN 1893

The building that served the parish from the beginning of Catholic education in Corowa was proving inadequate for the growing number of pupils attracted to the school, especially since the Sisters took charge.

In February, 1893, Fr O’Shaughnessy announced the decision to erect a new building in consequence of increasing numbers as well as the great inconvenience caused by some of the classes being forced to use the church.

He was encouraged by the considerable support of his parishioners and he decided to record the names of donors on a memorial tablet in the building. The following names appear on the tablet: Mrs Keogh, Fr O’Shaughnessy, Mr N Leonard, Mr DM Brennan, Mr T Regan, Dr O’Shaughnessy (Albury), Mr O’Shaughnessy (Narrandera), E Haines, G Sidgewick, J Rankin, M Murphy, O Conroy, J Jepson, Mrs Tenney , P Corcoran, Mrs Gill, J Talbot, W Ryan, L Doyle, J Dunn, Mrs McMahon, Mrs Nagle R Frewen, The Convent, Very Rev J Gallagher, Rt Rev W Lanigan.

Plans were prepared for a brick building 60 feet by 25 feet. There was a music room separated from the main building by folding doors. This would be used as a classroom for the infants during term and as a stage for the usual summer and winter “breaking up” functions. Building was to commence without delay and the school erected on the vacant allotment between the Church of England grounds and the convent.

On August 27, 1893, a special sermon was preached in St Mary’s by Very Rev Dean Gallagher, the occasion being the laying of the foundation stone of the school. The church was crowded, members of other denominations constituting nearly half of those present.

Dr Gallagher dwelt upon the necessity, from the Church’s point of view, for the blending of religious instruction with the secular curriculum, and the duty devolving upon Catholics of helping to their utmost with their worldly wealth and their moral support the efforts of their pastors to instil into the minds of youth the principles of Christianity.

The collection that day realised 96 pounds and 14 shillings, which, added to the amount already in hand, made a total of 300 pounds, in addition, 150 pounds had been promised.

A procession of school children marched from the church to the site of the school with banners and symbols and processional hymns; Very Rev Dean Gallagher led the procession.

The stone was blessed and lowered into position, after which the foundations on which were to be raise the walls of the building were also blessed.

The building was to be of brick without elaboration of design, but serviceable and substantial. Messrs Peter & Co. of Yarraville were the contractors and the members of the Building committee Messrs John Rankin, N Leonard, J Hennessy, PG Corcoran, and D Brennan. Great credit was given to the committee for the zeal with which they worked.

2. ADDITIONS TO THE CONVENT IN 1903

On March 1, 1903, additions to the convent were opened and blessed by Fr Slattery, Parish Priest of Wagga, and administrator of the diocese in the absence of Dr Gallagher.

Corowa had been the first charge of Fr Slattery as a spiritual leader in 1878; he had been to other places previously, Goulburn his first, as a curate. He was glad to be among the Corowa people again, whose liberality had been praised by Fr Hickey. When he arrived in Corowa the church was not plastered and not fenced and there was no place for the priest to live.

Before he left a presbytery had been built and a fence built around the church. That presbytery was now part of the convent. The main reason why additions were needed was that the original presbytery had bee built for two priests; it was not big enough for the four Sisters.

3. A NEW SCHOOL FOR THE INFANTS IN 1910

On November 13, 1910, a new school for Infants was blessed before the 9.00am Mass by Dean Phelan, V.G. of Melbourne. The Children of Mary, Hibernians and school pupils marched from the church to the new school.

The 10.00am Mass that morning was offered by Father Hartigan who was that week inspecting St Mary’s School. He congratulated the people on the building they had erected, which was all that could be desired, especially the ventilation and lighting.

He spoke of education through the ages, stressing the need to have a religious atmosphere in the classroom. He paid a high tribute to the teaching Sisters. They had come amongst the people with nothing to gain, having dedicated their lives to the teaching of young minds.

4. A NEW CONVENT IN 1929

An account is given of the new convent building in chapter 9 ‘From Father Hickey to Monsignor Lane’

5. A NEW SCHOOL OPENED IN 1959

Thirty years after the erection of the convent for the Sisters, Corowa was to have a new school for the pupils. The Corowa Catholic Youth Club would be pulled down to make way for the new building. This removed one of the last buildings associated with the early history of Corowa, as it was the home of the Lang family.

Dr WH Lang was a well-known medico about the turn of the century; he was later handicapper for the Victorian Racing Club.

LG Price had the contract to build the school; he had previously built the nurses’ home in Corowa and the Mercy Hospital in Albury.

The foundation stone of the school was blessed by Rt Rev FH Henschke on Sunday, October 5, 1958. Monsignor Lane welcomed the Bishop “to this historical occasion in the history of the Corowa parish”. A new method of financing the obligations of the parish had recently been introduced; parishioners would spread their donations over two years and generous promises had been received.

Cr WH Johnson welcomed the Bishop saying that the people of the town would be just as proud of the new building as the parishioners of St Mary’s. Messrs Leo Buggy, Kevin Regan, Alan Knight and M O’Halloran also spoke.

Bishop Henschke said that the natural teachers were the parents but experts were needed to give children a start in life. The rapidly increasing number of Catholic children was becoming a problem and our schools might have to limit the number of enrolments or provide finance for more teachers.

The school was blessed and opened on August 16, 1959, when a thousand people gathered for the occasion. Thirty Sisters from surrounding convents were present on a clear, sunny day as well as several priests. The cost of the new building was 36,000 pounds, the debt was 15,700 pounds.

Monsignor Lane congratulated the Bishop on the anniversary of his consecration as a Bishop. He thanked more than one hundred men who had erected a neat fence round the school, Mr Clarrie Plunkett who supervised the work, Mr Kevin Seymour who reconditioned the school desks, and Fr Wright who was a tower of strength.

Councillor R Brown and Messrs LM Buggy, Pros Sandral, Jack Talbot, Alan Knight and Monsignor Larkins (Albury) spoke.

Bishop Henschke said his anniversary was not that day but the day before. It was the 112th anniversary of the arrival of his parents from Germany, the 42nd anniversary of his ordination as a priest, the 22nd anniversary of his consecration as a Bishop.

When he blessed the classrooms he said he had also blessed those who would dwell therein, teach therein and learn therein, and that the children who learned therein would be strong, healthy, humble, docile, good, kind and obedient to the laws of the state and to their parents.

COROWA WELL SERVED BY MERCY SISTERS

Between the year 1887, when Mother Camillus and Sisters Angela, Evangelista and Celestine were the foundation Sisters and 1977 when the present Sisters are Sister Angela, Sister Bernadette Crimmins, Sister Bernadette and Sister Paulinus. Corowa has been the home of a succession of Religious who have maintained the highest ideals of the Mercy Order.

ROLL CALL OF SISTERS WHO SERVED IN COROWA

Here are some of them culled from the records of the past [alphabetical order of Sisters’ names professed in religion, not chronological]:

Sisters Angela, Aquin Buckley, Austin, Agnes Ryan, Anne Gardener, Amalachi, Mother Anthony Stuart.

Sisters Bridget Keating, Berchmans McIntyre, Benedict Tanner, Bernadette Crimmins, Bernard Pettigrew, Bernadette Duffy, Brigid, Borromeo McGovern and Mother Basil Driscoll.

Sisters Camillus (1887), Celestine, Clare Duggan, Claude McGrath, Claver Nolan, Carmel Lonergan, Camillus (1947).

Sisters De Pazzi French, Dominic Quinlan, Dympna Murray, Dolores Wilding.

Sisters Evangelista, Eugenie, Elizabeth, Evangelist Ward, Euphrasia.

Sisters Felician, Francis O’Grady.

Sister Gabriel.

Sister Helen, Sisters Imelda Seymour, Ignatius Smith.

Sisters James Tanner, Julianna Madden, Joseph Wynn, Josephine Dick, Jude, John, Jessie Mitchell.

Sister Kevin.

Sisters Liguori Newell, Lucy, Leonie, Loretto, Lorna Mary.

Sisters Malachi (1891), Monica Kearns, Maureen Hummerston, Margarita, Margaret Schmetzer, Margaret Christine, Malachy Walsh, Magdalen Driscoll, Maria.

Sisters Paulinus, Paul, Petrea, Peter Cahill, Patricia O’Connor, Perpetua Talbot.

Sisters Rita, Rosario, Rosarii O’Connor.

Sisters Stephanie, Sebastian, Stanislaus Wallis.

Sisters Theresa Healy, Terese Anne Esler, Therese Edwards.

Sisters Vincent Garity, Vivien Williams.

Sisters Wenceslaus, Winifred, Xavier Tanner, Zita.

The reverend Mothers in recent years have been:

1947-1953: MM Camillus; 1954-1956 MM Basil; 1957-1962 MM Anne; 1963-1968 MM James Tanner; 1969 MM Therese Edwards; 1970-1974 Sister Maureen Hummerston; 1975-1977 Sr M Angela Buckley; 1978 Sr Margaret Schmetzer.

NOTES ON SOME OF THE SISTERS

Each Sister in her own way made an impact on the school and the neighbourhood; the following notes on some of them give an indication of how that influence was exerted.

SISTER JOSEPH (Wynn) was an Irish girl. She came out to Australia, finished her education and entered the Mercy Order. She spent most of her religious life in Corowa. She went to Albury for a short period during the First World War, but returned about 1918-20 and remained until 1953 when she had a fall and injured her back.

She taught three generations of many Corowa families. She had up to 60 children in Infants, 1st and 2nd grades and very few passed through those grades without a wonderful grounding in the basic subjects and religious knowledge. Many successful men and women around Australia today probably owe their success to Sister Joseph’s teaching I those early classes. She died in Albury in 1954.

SISTER EVANGELIST (Ward) rang the first school bell at St Mary’s, Corowa in 1887. She was a South Australian girl who came to Albury and took a position as governess to the Hore family. She was not a young girl when she entered the Marcy Order, but lived to a grand old age and died in Albury in 1939.

SISTER BERCHMANS (McIntyre) was in Corowa in the 1920s. She was a Melbourne girl. During her time in Corowa she taught typing and shorthand to nearly every young person who took up office work.

After the convent was destroyed by a storm in 1926, she set up her classes in a tin shed behind the house which the Sisters occupied before the new convent was built. In this shed she had what was probably the first Corowa Youth Club. She ran a Ladies’ Sewing Guild where the ladies of the parish met and made articles for the fete, and the children’s clothing for needy families in the town. Sister Berchmans died in Corowa on April 6, 1932.

SISTER ALOYSIUS (Dunn) came from Tocumwal. She was a most talented musician and scholar of English. She spent many years in Corowa as Music and Art teacher. A great number of her pupils gained very high honours in the music world, once such pupil being Doris (Savage) O’Donoghue.

For one so gifted Sr Aloysius was blessed with great humility which endeared to all who were privileged to have known her, she died in Albury on September 18, 1950.

SISTER PATRICIA (O’Connor) was the daughter of Mr and Mrs John O’Connor of Vera Street, and she became the Mother General of the Mercy Order. She was at Corowa for a period.

LAY TEACHERS AT ST MARY’S

In addition dedicated lay teachers taught at the school, especially in the secondary classes. Mrs Phibbs is one of those teachers: she was employed in the Home Science department of the school.

MRS PHIBBS – OUTSTANDING HOME SCIENCE TEACHER

She commenced in the 1930s by entering for cooking competitions and won more than 600 champion, first and second prizes. Success followed her here; Carmel Shelley a pupil, became so proficient that she helped in the demonstrations.

DIVERSE CURRICULUM – HIGH STANDARDS

The school introduced a curriculum aimed at a many-sided development; this is illustrated by the following:

  • Music was a strong subject with innumerable successes in examinations conducted by the Australian Music Examination Board. The University of Melbourne, the Sydney Conservatorium and the Sydney college of Music.
  • Pupils sat for Commercial Examinations conducted by the southern Cross commercial College.
  • A literary and Debating class was established.
  • Outstanding successes were achieved at the Corowa Eisteddfod.
  • The Home Science Department developed girls to a high standard.

1962 WYNDHAM SCHEME CHANGES

Most of this work, certainly in the secondary department, was discontinued in 1962 when the Wyndham Scheme made it impossible for the work to continue.

LAY TEACHERS PREDOMINATE

The primary department was not affected and the school continues its good work. The teaching staff, as is the case with so many Catholic schools in Australia today, has many more lay teachers than religious staff.

1978 ST MARY’S STAFF

The members of the 1977 staff were: Mr tom Maginnity (Principal), Mrs M Shelley (Acting Principal), Sr Angela, Mr P Halford, Miss B Fitzgerald, Mrs J Schmidt, Mrs V Mullavey, Mrs C Talbot.

MOTOR MISSION SISTERS

Motor Mission Sisters have been housed at Corowa as they continue their important work in secondary schools in the diocese.

Sister Bernadette Crimmins, from her base at the convent, carries out apostolic work in the community that is both valuable and appreciated. The formation of a prayer group in the parish owes much to her initiative.

1978 Pupils (2)

1978 Students at St Mary’s Corowa

[Click on photo to enlarge for detail.]

Anniversary booklet for Centenary of Sisters of Mercy in Corowa

*  *  *  *  *

(Ch. 11 completed).

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