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Building on strong foundations


It’s a case of back to the future at St Joseph’s School Hectorville where a 160-year-old building has been restored and is now being shared with the parish, just as it once was.

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The local heritage-listed building on North Street was the first Catholic church built on the eastern side of Adelaide and doubled as a school during the week.

Opened by Fr John Smyth as the Church of the Annunciation on June 29, 1863, it was the beginning of the Hectorville Catholic Community. On July 2, the community came together to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the opening of the current Annunciation Church on Montacute Road.

The celebration was also an opportunity to launch a book on the history of the community, compiled by parishioner of 58 years, Bob Rabbitt.

The book outlines the early days of the parish and the school, which from 1870 was run by the Sisters of St Joseph under the guidance of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

Prior to that, about 100 students were taught by a lay teacher, Miss McMahon. Now named the St Joseph’s Centre, the building is currently being used by the parish for the program ‘Catechesis of the Good Shepherd’ and will be used by school families in the future.

Hectorville church circa 1893

St Joseph’s Hectorville principal Liz Thomas said the restoration of the former church had always been a priority for the school and parish.

“The building was badly dilapidated and was in need of renovation. When working with the architects, the school wanted to honour the heritage and significance of the building. We’re very proud of the final outcome,” she said.

After the parish outgrew the original church in North Street, a larger church was built across the road in 1917. The rapid development of the area in the late 1950s resulted in the building of the third Annunciation Church on Montacute Road.

The school also flourished, expanding in area and growing to become a vibrant and dynamic learning community.

A feature of the Reception to Year 6 school is its strong sense of community, with many families involved over several generations.

Joseph Pinneri, whose son attended the school and who now has grandchildren there, recalled being taught by the Josephite nuns in the sixties.

He said the school was much smaller then and surrounded by market gardens: “It was just a row of huts, I remember the nuns living across North Street in the convent.”

The Frangiosa sisters also spoke of their family’s long and close connection with the school.

Amanda, Claudia and Julia, together with their three siblings, were students at St Joseph’s from 1984 to 2008 and returned as parents from 2016.

“We have always been a part of the parish,” Amanda said.

“We enjoyed the school as students and now that we are older, we believe in the philosophy and vision of the school for our children. St Joseph’s is a warm environment where students feel comfortable and can be themselves expressing who they are.”

Several staff at the school are also old scholars, including Italian Language teacher Jenny DeVizio. She said her experience was “so positive I decided to send my children here, and they sent their children here”.

“Ever-changing” and a “close community” is how proud alumni Rosa Amato described the school.

“Forty years later we’re still here,” she added.

Assistant principal, Religious Identity and Mission, Mary Armstrong, said that it was important to “preserve our history, while investing in our students’ future”.

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