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Sesquicentenary honours saint


St Joseph’s Memorial School, Norwood, one of only three schools started by St Mary MacKillop still operating today, celebrated its 150th anniversary on its founder’s feast day.

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The sesquicentenary celebrations on August 8 began with a liturgy and whole school performance for family, friends and special guests at the William Street campus.

The community then walked the path Mary MacKillop herself walked to the school’s Bridge Street campus, carrying banners created by students to represent the special day.

Among the attendees were Sisters of St Joseph Christine Schwerdt, Catherine Clarke, Mary Cresp, Lillian Girardi, Veronica Slattery, Anna Spaccatore, Ann Leesue and Josie Huppatz.

They were joined by John Mula and Mark Battistella from Catholic Education SA, Norwood Payneham and St Peter’s Mayor Robert Bria and Norwood Parish Pastoral Council chair Angela Hazebroek.

The history of St Joseph’s Memorial goes back to 1854 when John Roberts opened the Mechanics Institute (the site of the current Bridge Street campus) for use as a place of worship.

In 1872 the Sisters of St Joseph took ownership of the current convent on Phillips Street in Kensington and began teaching two pupils. Later that year, on Christmas Eve, Fr Tappeiner leased the Mechanics Institute and children were moved there from the convent school in 1873.

It was the first official Josephite school in the Kensington district, known then as St Joseph’s School. In 1877 Fr Tappeiner purchased the Mechanics Institute. Around this time, it is documented that St Mary MacKillop would visit the school and distribute boiled sweets to the children.

By the beginning of World War I there were 87 students enrolled and two years later, in 1916, the Mechanics Institute was declared unsafe and was demolished. While the new school was built, the Maris Brothers loaned the Sisters the hall at their school on Queen Street.

In 1917 a new school on Bridge Street was blessed and opened, with 106 students enrolled.

At the end of 1941 the school, which had pupils from five to 15 years old, moved to William Street and became St Joseph’s Memorial School. In 1951, the higher primary school students transferred to the vacant Bridge Street site which later became St Joseph’s High School for girls and then Mary MacKillop College, which relocated to the corner of Phillips Street and High Street in 1963.

Today Bridge Street is an early years’ campus for children in Preschool, Reception and Year 1 and William Street campus is for students from Years 2-6.

Acting principal Grace Vassallo-Wakefield said the sesquicentenary was a significant event for the school community and an opportunity to recognise the role St Mary MacKillop played in establishing a school in Kensington.

“St Joseph’s Memorial School is unique in that the Jesuit priests in the Norwood parish supported St Mary MacKillop when she lived in the area,” she said.

“They supported Mary’s vision for the establishment of a school in Kensington. The memorial in our name is to honour their partnership with Mary.”


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