Cairns sisters gift college to diocese
After 85 years of faithful stewardship, the Cairns Sisters of Mercy have formally transferred ownership of Mount Saint Bernard College in Herberton to the Catholic Diocese of Cairns.
A special ceremony was held on October 12 to formalise the transfer of ownership and celebrate this historic occasion. The sisters and Bishop James Foley gathered with college staff, past and present students, parents and friends, staff of Catholic Education Services, and priests of the diocese.
A day of celebration
The day of celebration commenced in Mercy Hall with a visual presentation by Congregation Leader, Sister Faye Kelly RSM, which focussed on a journey through history, recalling the people and events of the last 85 years.
Mount St Bernard (MSB) has a rich history and tradition as mainly a boarding school for secondary girls from more isolated areas of Far North Queensland. During these years, primary school boys and girls also attended St Patrick’s Primary School, until it closed at the end of 1969, and boarded at MSB. In 1994, boys were enrolled as day students at the college.
After Sister Faye’s presentation, students received a specially designed bookmarkto commemorate the occasion from the sisters.
Sisters and guests enjoyed a formal lunch in the college dining room prepared by college staff and home economics students, while students and staff celebrated with a BBQ.
Following lunch all gathered in the Chapel for the celebration of Eucharist. Bishop James Foley, the main celebrant, was joined by eleven priests of the diocese. Before the final blessing Sister Faye spoke of the sisters’ contribution to MSB and the hopes of the sisters as the college becomes a
She said: “Among the hopes of the sisters, is that the Mercy charism will remain an influence on the work of all involved in the operation of the college. Much of our history in this diocese is rooted in Mt St Bernard Convent and College as our motherhouse and order-owned ministry. Because our involvement in this particular school has been so extensive, it is of great importance to us that the ethos and character of the school be maintained and enhanced as it moves into the future.”
Mr Hadyn Flynn, Principal of Mt St Bernard expressed the gratitude of past and present staff and students for all that the sisters have given to the college over the first 85 years. He then made a statement of commitment that the current staff will continue to keep the Mercy charism strong in the college into the future.
All college staff members were presented with a gift of a candle, bearing the logos of the Sisters of Mercy, the Diocese of
Speaking on behalf of the people of the diocese, Bishop Foley expressed his gratitude to the sisters for their work at MSB and for the trust the sisters have placed in the diocese to take over this ministry. He also expressed his commitment to preserve the charism and work of the school into the future.
Bishop Foley and Mr Flynn unveiled the gift to the sisters which was accepted by Sister Faye. The symbolism of this gift was explained by Ms
“The gift is a candle stand, created by
Of importance is that there are holders on this stand for three candles, and I invite Hadyn Flynn, Principal of
First, three is a significant number in Christianity, because we understand God to be a God of Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so the candles represent the God who lights our life and leads us into this ministry of Catholic education.
Second, there are three partners in the transition being celebrated today – the Sisters of Mercy,
Third, the three candles represent time, and the journey of life – this is why they are placed on the pathway section of the candle stand. The candle at the lower right hand side, at the beginning of the pathway, represents the past of this school and this entire site at Herberton; the candle on the left hand side of the pathway, about half way along it, represents the present, including the moment of transition we are formalising today; the candle at the top will not be visible clearly, yet that is deliberate. This is the candle of the future – concealed behind lacework carved into the wooden flame. That partial concealment is an element of the future – the future is created by a combination of faith and prophetic vision, it always holds an element of mystery and the unknown, yet because we are people of hope we trust in God’s steadfastness to shepherd us along that journey.”
Following the final blessing and dismissal afternoon tea was served for staff and guests in the boarders’ dining room.
A copy of the charter acknowledging the transfer of ownership, signed by Sister Faye and Bishop Foley, can be downloaded here. This document outlines the commitment of the diocese to exercise stewardship of the site and the works conducted at it, seeking to preserve the charism of Mercy which underpins that ministry.
History of the College
The Sisters of Mercy opened St Patrick’s Convent and Primary School in Herberton in 1910.
Background to the transfer of ownership
Mount Saint Bernard College Herberton inherited a tradition dating from the earliest days of the local Church of the Diocese of Cairns when five Sisters of Mercy from Dungarvan County Waterford Ireland came to minister in Cooktown at the invitation of Bishop John Hutchinson.
Since the early 1990s, the Cairns Sisters of Mercy have reflected upon possible ways to complement our own involvement in the College. In 2003, the sisters entered into formal discussions with the Bishop of Cairns, Bishop James Foley and the Director of Catholic Education Ms
This resulted in Sisters of Mercy placing the school into the care of the diocese. We acknowledged with gratitude the decision of the diocese, through Bishop Foley, to accept ownership of
Photo: Standing around the scupture (gift) L-R Carmel Ross (Executive Director of Catholic Education Services, Bishop James Foley, Mr Hayden Flynn (College Principal) and Sister Faye Kelly RSM (Cairns Congregation Leader).
From: Sister Faye Kelly RSM, Cairns Congregation Leader