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Hope, courage and faith in the future


The sesquicentenary of the arrival of the Sisters of St Joseph in Port Augusta and the opening of St Joseph’s Convent School (now Caritas College) was celebrated at All Saints Church last month.

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Arriving in Port Augusta by sailing clipper in May 1871, St Mary MacKillop, Sisters Angelica Greene and Angela Grugen set up the first school on the town’s wharf, the 44th school established by the fledgling order.

What has been Caritas College since 1971 can boast the longest continuous Josephite presence.

At the sesquicentenary Mass, Emeritus Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ outlined the history of the Sisters’ presence in the Diocese of Port Pirie, describing the founding of the order as “an act that transformed the Church in South Australia and beyond”.

Port Augusta was the sixth town in the diocese to have a school opened by St Mary MacKillop and her Sisters.

“Over the next 20 years, little house-convents of two or three Sisters were active in no less than 27 settlements just in our diocese,” Bishop O’Kelly said.

“We were a pioneering community, and the extraordinary growth of the Sisters’ works surely mirrored what we read of the early Church as the Holy Spirit breathed change and growth and life among the first Christian communities.”

“On May 17 1871, the Sisters opened St Joseph’s Convent School in a shed, on a bleak piece of land in Port Augusta.

“Only five days earlier three Sisters had disembarked from a steamer…one still a novice, aged 19, with no previous experience as a teacher. The second had taken her first vows only a month earlier; she was 21.

“The third was one of the most outstanding women of 19th century Australia, Mary MacKillop, the saint, co-foundress of the Josephites with Julian Tenison Woods, and herself still in her twenties.

“On that day their shed-school was crammed with children, and in the evening young men came to learn how to read and write.

“That was the first day, and here we are, 150 unbroken years later, thanking God for what has been and is being done for others here, and marvelling at how the Holy Spirit breathed youthful life and mission, enthusiasm, and energy, into this Josephite foundation in a remote and straggling, semi-Outback little town, a population of just over 500 souls.

“You can imagine the excitement of the Catholic people and others at this event, the novelty of the Sisters in their  striking religious  habits of the age, providing a service that otherwise would not have been, and drawing such a proportion of the town’s people, Catholic and other, on its very first day.

“Hope and courage and faith in the future, with God’s providence, was the hallmark of the spirituality of Mary MacKillop and her Sisters, and today we rejoice in that legacy, and pray it continues ever strong.

Hope and courage and faith could be a motto now for the school as it looks to the future.”


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