Merici College 60th Anniversary Mass

The Archbishop’s vision was of a gospel-centred school: inclusive on all levels, a place welcoming all, embracing not just one group of teaching sisters but many.

This year marks 60 years since the beginning of Merici College. Our community celebrated this milestone at a very special Mass where we reflected on our past, present and future journey from Canberra Catholic Girls’ High School in 1959, to Merici College in 2019 and beyond.

We were very honoured to welcome our Principal Celebrant for the celebration; His Grace, Archbishop Christopher Prowse, and Concelebrating were Bishop Pat Power, Monsignor John Woods and Fr Bernie Patterson together with Fr Emil Milat, Fr Kieran Adams & Fr Paul Nulley from the Central Canberra parishes.

As we gathered together as one community, we acknowledged our Sisters of the Orders who were instrumental as the foundation of our College, our Merici alumni, former and current College staff members, students and families.

We reflected on the work of St Angela Merici who encourages us to cultivate the vine entrusted to us. The cultivation of this vine began in 1959 when six religious congregations, accepted Archbishop Eris O’Brien’s invitation to begin this first Catholic high school in Canberra.

The Archbishop’s vision was of a gospel-centred school:

  • inclusive on all levels,
  • a place welcoming all,
  • embracing not just one group of teaching sisters but many.

The first of the religious orders to respond were:

  • The Good Samaritans
  • the Brigidines,
  • Sisters of Mercy,
  • the Josephites,
  • the Presentation Sisters
  • and the Ursulines.

It was in the following years that the Sisters from the Dominicans, the Holy Faith, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and many lay staff, continued the cultivation of this vine over the years to the present day.

We were inspired to have with us at the Mass Sr Ruth O’Dwyer, one of the original Presentation Sisters from the opening year of 1959.  Sr Ruth would be remembered at that time as Sr Agnes.

Our 60th Anniversary candle and white lillies were carried forward by Sr Ruth, along with Wanda Lawler and Helen Campbell who were students in the opening years and from the Class of 1962, one of the first graduating classes.  Joy Dillon also from the same class brought forward the memorabilia she has carefully collected over the years and has donated to the College. Following were alumni members representing each of the following decades of Merici’s 60 years and a representative of the Class of 2020, representing our future.

The First Reading was led by John Volpato from the Class of 1983. Co-education was trialled at the College in the late 1970s to the early 1980s. John represented the boys of Merici College who are integral to our rich history.

The Gospel was brought forward by members of our community: Eva Schroeder, Class of 1981 and House Captain of Tingira (now known as Balgo House) who passed the Gospel to her daughter, Charlotte Schroeder-Juratowitch, Transitions Captain of the Class of 2019, and joining her, connecting the past, present and future, was Grace Howse, Class of 2020 who passed the Gospel to our future 2020 School Captain, Zoe Beresford.

Bishop Power presented the Homily which reaffirmed Archbishop O’Brien’s vision of Merici College and reflected on the achievements of the College. Full Homily

We embraced our history through the Prayers of Intercession with Sr Margaret Daniels (alumni), Catherine Rey (former Principal of Merici College), Corinne Preston (alumni and current staff member), Sr Anita Murray (former teacher), Philip Rumble (alumni) and Emma Howse (current student).

The Sister of our Founding Orders brought forward the gifts in the Offertory Procession as we reflected on how they have shaped our past, present and future.

At the conclusion of the Mass, as one community, we travelled together to three venues around the College with Archbishop Christopher Prowse to bless our significant 60th Anniversary projects. Firstly, with Sr Ruth O’Dwyer, we visited our newly planted rose garden which reflects the Orders upon which the College was founded. Then to the past, with John Volpato (Class of 1983) and Philip Rumble (Class of 1981), we blessed the plaque outside the Gymnasium to acknowledge the boys who were students at the College for a short period of time in the 1970s and 1980s. We then moved to the Old Quad for the blessing of the 60th Anniversary mural with Janet Cooke (former student, staff member and parent). The mural embraces not only our Foundations and past but also the present and the future.

The celebrations concluded with a wonderful morning tea enjoyed by all our guests.  

We would like to thank all our community for attending our Mass and sharing in the history of Merici College.


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