Archived News Item

Academy Of Mary Immaculate Celebrates 160 Years


One hundred and sixty years to the day, the Academy of St Mary Immaculate has celebrated their foundation with the unveiling of a statue of their first Principal, Mother M Ursula Frayne.


On Monday, April 20, 850 people including Sisters, students, teachers and representatives of Mercy Education Ltd gathered for a twofold celebration; a celebration of the life of a remarkable woman, Ursula Frayne, and a celebration of the history of a unique College.


In addressing the gathering, Principal, Mary Moloney rsm said that as we celebrate 160 years, we do so aware that these celebrations would not be taking place were it not for a certain woman, ‘someone who made a difference everywhere she went’.


“Ursula was an extraordinary person, resolute, unafraid, a leader in every sense of the word, and a leading figure in whatever community she was in both in Perth and in Melbourne.


“Ursula was a pioneer educator, welfare worker, a business woman, a musician and advocate for the poor and the needy, but most importantly she was a woman of Mercy – in fact it is this latest quality that most fully defines her.


“The Academy was not only the first school founded by the Sisters of Mercy in Victoria but it is the oldest girls’ Secondary College in Victoria.


“Today we also celebrate the Mercy legacy that has been handed down to us over the journey. It is with confidence that I believe we can say that the College has remained true to our Mercy heritage…in fact I think if Mother Ursula Frayne were here today she would be smiling and would be proud of the Academy community acknowledging all that has been achieved over the last 160 years,” she said.


The centrepiece of the celebration was the unveiling of the sculpture of Ursula Frayne that had been sculpted by Gael O’Leary. Fittingly, the figure of Ursula is made from the same design as one unveiled on Foundation Day last year at the Mercy Heritage Centre, Perth. Both capture the essence of Ursula the Traveller, which is represented by the trunks. The sculpture at the Academy also features a violin and a set of books representing education and music, which were both important to Ursula and the Sisters of Mercy. A chair near the sculpture beckons students and staff to ‘Come and sit a while with Ursula’. As part of the project, new gardens have been planted in what is now an inviting and peaceful place within the Academy.


In speaking about the Sculpture, Institute Vicar, Annette Schneider rsm, representing the Institute Leadership Team (along with Barbara Bolster rsm and Sally Bradley rsm) and the Institute which funded the project said Ursula was a person for our time, not just 160 years ago.


“Ursula invites you and the person sitting next to you to live your life in the spirit in which she lived hers – she recognised a need and she did what she could, with the women and men who supported her, to respond to that need. Take some time to sit with her and to talk with her about the needs of our world in 2017 – you might be surprised at the conversation which unfolds!” she said.


The Academy’s fine legacy of music was showcased as part of the ceremony. It included music as diverse as ‘Ave Maria’ to ‘Jurasic Park’ and Gershwin.


An Apostolic blessing was also received from the Archbishop Angelo Becciu (Vatican Secretariat of State) on behalf of Pope Francis.


The blessing reads:

His Holiness Pope Francis invokes the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ upon The Students and Staff of the Academy of Mary Immaculate on the happy occasion of the Academy’s 160th Anniversary. He willingly gives the assurance of his prayers and imparts to all gathered for the celebration his Apostolic Blessing.


Annette Schneider rsm (Institute Vicar), Lucy Molony (Board Chair, Mercy Education Ltd), Corin Powell (College Captain), Gael O’Leary (Sculptor) and Mary Moloney rsm (Principal).



27 April 2017