Sr Pat, as she is known by all and sundry in Roxby Downs, arrived in the mining town before the Catholic school opened and was part of the initial discussions around its establishment in 1999.
Since then the school’s development has fluctuated with the highs and lows of the Olympic Dam mine but today it is a vibrant R-9 Catholic school in one of the State’s most remote regional environments.
Sr Pat was one of two Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (OLSH) who began serving the region in 1995, firstly from a house in Woomera while the US Army was still based there, and then from Roxby Downs.
“I’ve been here through three bishops and eight parish priests,” laughed the 85 year old.
Since 2004 Sr Pat has been the only OLSH Sister in the parish but she said “I’ve got the community, there’s enough to do”.
With a background in education, Sr Pat has “helped out” at the Catholic school and other schools in the region in between her ministry with the parish and her involvement in a wide range of community groups.
She said the itinerant, fly in/fly out workforce made it difficult to find people to support the local parish, which since 2013 has celebrated Mass in the Lutheran Church.
In 2019/20 the diocese bought a building in the town which will be the new parish church.
“We are waiting for it to be signed off which we hope will be soon,” Sr Pat said.
“At the moment we have to set up every Saturday night and then put everything away afterwards.
“As soon as we get good people (to help) they leave, and the shift work also makes it hard, not just for us but for sporting clubs and other groups.”
The 20th anniversary celebrations included a special Mass led by Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ and Port Pirie Diocese priests. The first principal of the school Paul Delahunty was welcomed back, as was Fr Jim Monaghan who was parish priest in 2000.
Mr Delahunty paid tribute to the foresight of the then director of Catholic Education Peter Cibich who worked tirelessly with Bishop Eugene Hurley and parish priest Fr Steve Ardill in getting approval from the SA Commission for Catholic Schools in 1999 to open the school.
Bernadette Lacey, principal for 12 years, thanked the many families, staff and students that had passed through the doors of the school and acknowledged the work of the pioneering families in laying the solid foundations, culture and charism that hold strong today.
She also thanked Sr Pat for her guidance, hard work and commitment to the faith community.
“Sr Pat holds a mountain of history and the students love to hear her stories of St Barbara’s from the past, including the moving of her house and the early days of school buildings arriving on the school site,” Mrs Lacey said.
At the celebration, Sr Pat was presented with an Aboriginal painting representing her time in Roxby Downs and its people.
Representing the world of the Kokotha people, the painting was created by three women from the Minyma Group – Kerry Orr, Jodie Fereti and Sandy Gibbs.
Referring to the symbolism of the image of five roads coming together from Biami, ‘the father of us all, our father’, Sr Pat said meeting people from many religions and cultures had for her been the expression of the Daughters’ motto ‘may the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved’.Jump to next article