GoldenJubilee-HistoryBook - page 6-7

Mount St Benedict College Golden Jubilee
History Book
Mount St Benedict College Golden Jubilee
History Book
Locally, parish primary schools were over-filling, and
parents worried about the long distances their daughters
would have to travel to receive a Catholic education. The
need for an additional secondary school for girls in the
district was apparent and the Sisters generously offered
to build and staff a college on land beside their Novitiate
at no cost to the surrounding parishes. But the newly
formed Catholic Education Office took some persuading,
doubting the demand.
Radical reforms to high school education in New
South Wales had recently taken place, adding a year
to schooling, adding depth and range to subject
choices, and requiring schools to have properly
equipped science laboratories and libraries. Education
standards were hugely improved as a result but
managing the logistics of compliance was complex.
Funding and administration of Catholic schools was
being centralised under the Catholic Education Office,
but the Office was still finding its feet.
Change was everywhere during these years. The
Church itself was in the midst of radical modernisation
as the initiatives of the Second Vatican Council began
to filter through.
Independently, the Good Samaritan Sisters had been
through their own period of reform concerning the
spiritual and intellectual training of novices and
postulants, most of who were destined for teaching
roles. It would be an extra educational benefit, they
told the Cardinal, for postulants to have access to the
science facilities of the proposed school.
When approval was finally granted in August 1965, the
Sisters set a cracking pace, promising to commence
building as soon as practicable and immediately
arranging temporary accommodation for the following
year for the first intake of Year 7 students. Mother
Francis Clare, Superior of the Mount St Benedict
Convent and Sr Peter Damian, the Mistress of Novices,
had early oversight of the project until Sr Christopher
Burrows and Sr Hyacinth Roche were appointed.
On their first day, the new girls – forever affectionately
known thereafter as the Pioneers – arrived in their
various primary school uniforms from the year before.
They waited almost an hour before being led down
the path at the side of the Novitiate to the verandah
outside the laundry, then into the new premises. White
floor, green walls, pink ceiling. It was a high airy room
(because of the slope of the hill, the basement was
not underground) with rows of desks which had been
unpacked and assembled from boxes which apparently
looked like coffins. Under each desk was a mat, a small
but significant gesture of hospitality to protect young
feet from cold concrete. With equipment begged and
borrowed, lessons began.
It was an exhilarating year for Christopher and Hyacinth
who, while teaching nearly all core subjects, formed
the structures of the school on the run – choosing
a motto and crest which laid down an ethos for the
school grounded in Benedictine values, organising
uniforms, forming Houses, appointing specialist staff,
managing accounts and administration – all as they
simultaneously oversaw the building works rising out
of the pea paddock beyond the orchard next door. The
demands were many, but assistance was never far.
Sisters from the convent helped out with support and
supervision, and a community spirit quickly developed
amongst the parents.
1966 - The Pioneer Group
Mount St Benedict College
Sr Hyacinth on the official opening day of the new buildings
The Foundation Stone
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