Maria Catalano (nee D’Andrea) was one of the early students at the William Street school, starting in 1960 and completing her Year 6 and 7 studies there.
She recalled that many of the students were, like her, the children of post war immigrants from Italy and as their parents couldn’t speak English the school became their connection to the local community and the Church.
“The nuns were very strict, but fair,” she said, proudly showing one of her mementoes of her school years – a set of rosary beads given to her by the then principal, Sister Noeleen.
“I loved the school and that’s why I wanted my children to come here. Coming back brings back very fond memories.”
Indeed her children, son Eric Catalano (who started in 1974) and daughter Esmeralda Cutri (1980) also attended St Joseph’s. Similarly they loved the “family nurturing environment” and wanted their own children to be part of that.
Eric’s children Natalia (Year 4) and Luca (Year 1) and Esmeralda’s Cristian (Year 6) and Giada (Year 2) are now continuing the family tradition.
Several of the teaching staff now working at the school are also former students. Like the Catalanos, they said St Joseph’s would always have a special place in their hearts. Jessica Hoare, Toni Benci, Elsa Romano, Jess Nelson and Matthew Harrison said it was the “sense of community” that made St Joseph’s unique.
Their reflections on their school days come as St Joseph’s is this year celebrating the 75th anniversary of the opening of its William Street campus.
However, the origins of the school’s involvement with the Kensington-Norwood area and the Sisters of St Joseph date back much earlier – to 1872 when St Mary MacKillop moved into the Norwood parish. Soon after her arrival she established a school at Bridge Street, Kensington and the Sisters taught there until 1941 when the dilapidated building was replaced by the William Street facilities.
The Norwood parish was really committed to building the new school and set about fundraising for the £5000 needed. Progress was slow as the materials needed were required for the war effort, but on January 26 1942 it opened its doors to students.
The Sisters continued to teach there over the next three decades, with the first lay teachers appointed in 1973. The last remaining Josephite Sister left the school in 1986.
Today, the school operates as one with the Bridge Street campus catering for preschool and Year 1 students, and the William Street campus Year 2 to 7. It has 266 children enrolled and continues to be a mainstay of the local community.
Jump to next article