By Theresia Titus
St Mary’s School in Northampton celebrated its 150th anniversary during a two-day celebration on Friday and Saturday 13 and 14 April.
Geraldton Diocese Vicar General Fr Brian Ahearn celebrated the Mass, with Northampton/Kalbarri Parish Priest, Fr Tai Trinh, Fr Robert O’Bryan, Fr Robert Cross and Fr Peter Downes assisting as concelebrants.
In his homily, Fr O’Bryan touched on the rich history of the school, the work of the religious sisters and access to Catholic education for children in Northampton and surrounding areas.
The oldest member of the St Mary’s School community, Mrs Gloria Simpson aged 92 and youngest member Layla Simpson, Mrs Simpson’s great-granddaughter, bought the offertory for the Mass.
School Principal Melissa Marquis said that the anniversary was exceptional and a “significant milestone”, an opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future of the school.
“It is acknowledging and recognising all that has been accomplished in such a small community,” Mrs Marquis said.
“From humble beginnings in a Church-School to buildings that the School Boards, P&Fs, Sisters, Clergy, staff and parents have worked hard to achieve with Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA).”
On the first day of the celebration, the students and teachers enjoyed their tour of the school, visiting each classroom that was decorated to represent different eras of the school.
They also had fun with trivia quests and ‘staff vs students’ games, as well as the unveiling of the 150 Years Commemorative Wall and patchwork quilt that features current staff and families.
Among the total of 250 guests on Saturday were Sr Christine Clarke from the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sr Kathleen Hitchcock from the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Acting Executive Director of CEWA Dr Debra Sayce.
Also present were Member for Moore Mr Shane Love MLA, Labor Member for the Agricultural Region Honourable Laurie Graham MLC, Chief Executive Officer for the Shire of Northampton Garry Keeffe as well as Principals from CEWA and Department of Education Schools.
Lay teacher Michael Caroll opened a church-school in 1868 which was the beginning of St Mary’s School.
Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus continued the leadership in 1887 and passed it on to Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1899 to 1990.
“In the past, Catholic education in Northampton has been blessed to have been led by two religious orders,” Mrs Marquis said during her speech.
“These two groups of sisters worked tirelessly and courageously so that boys and girls like you could have access to a Catholic education
“Their life was not comfortable. From their dedication and commitment, St Mary’s School has evolved into what it is today.”
Speaking on Saturday, Sr Kathleen said Josephite Sisters were “honoured and grateful to God“, as they were able to contribute to the “growth and development” during their ten years in Northampton.
Also speaking during the celebration, Sr Christine said, “There were hard times for the sisters, as there were for the people in the town and on the land.”
“The sisters were always grateful for the support and friendship of the people of the Northampton region.”
Today there are 47 students enrolled at the school and 20 staff dedicated themselves to Catholic education in Northampton.
Mrs Marquis said the school’s goals for the future is to continue providing “education that caters to develop every child to their potential”,
St Mary’s also aims to equip the students with Christian values and life skills essential to surviving in a challenging world.
“Living in a small community like Northampton, it is vital that the students learn, through religious education and Christian Service Learning to be a part of the community and following in the footsteps of Jesus and living to serve others,” she concluded.