Archived News Item

Special Occasion for Sacred Heart College Geelong

On Saturday 24 May, Sacred Heart College Geelong celebrated the 140th Anniversary of its beautiful Chapel and the centenary of the Grotto. This special occasion was marked with a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop Vincent Long and concelebrated by priests from the Geelong community. 
The celebration was exactly 140 years to the day that the Chapel was formally opened and dedicated on the Feast Day of Our Lady Help of Christians. The completion of the building marked the end of a fourteen year building program initiated by Mother Xavier Maguire who founded the school in 1860.
The decoration and rich symbolism relating to Mary which adorns the walls and sanctuary dome identifies the Chapel as a Marian Chapel. The College tradition of devotion to Mary is also reflected in the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes built outside the Chapel in 1914.

Prior to the Anniversary Mass guests were invited to hear a recital of sacred music in the Chapel featuring the school’s rare Fincham organ played by noted organist Mr Brendan Lukin. The Mass began with a short ceremony at the Grotto and guests were led into the Chapel by the College choir singing Salve Regina. Student leaders from each year level formed a guard of honour from the Grotto to the Chapel.

 The Mass, which was followed by afternoon tea, was the high point of a Marian Month of celebrations which featured a program of events for staff, students and their families and the wider community.

Among the school’s guests at the Anniversary Mass were many Sisters who had taught at the school including former Principals Sr Carmel O’Dwyer and Sr Eileen Ann Daffy and Sr Madeleine Fox who was Head of the Boarding School for many years.

Kath Walsh – Director of School Development

Messages to: Joan Wilson rsm






1 – Pictured from left are Fr James Puppady, Grace Turner, Fr Mick Fitzpatrick, Bishop Long, Fr Kevin Dillon, Guilia Monea and Fr Gerard Keith.
2 – Fincham Organ in the Chapel.
3 – The school choir singing Salve Regina leads a procession into the Sacred Heart College Chapel for a Mass to celebrate the 140 anniversary of the building
4 – Bishop Vincent Long and former Principal of Sacred Heart College Geelong Sr Eileen Ann Daffy enjoy afternoon tea following the Mass to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the school’s beautiful Chapel.
5 – Guests filled the Sacred Heart College in Geelong to celebrate the 140th anniversary of building at a special commemorative Mass.

Bishop Long’s Homily follows here:

Homily for the Eucharistic celebration to mark the 140th Anniversary of the Chapel and the Grotto – Sacred Heart College Geelong

Dear friends,
This afternoon, we have come together to celebrate a very significant milestone in the history of Sacred Heart College, the centenary of the grotto and the 140th anniversary of this magnificent chapel.  These are not only places of devotion but also the heart and soul of the college. They continue to inspire the people who come here today just as they inspired the Mercy Sisters of yesterday to dedicate their lives in service of the Gospel.
Much has changed since this chapel was part of a large convent where it was teeming with religious life. Like many convents or monasteries years ago, this place was probably full of nuns in black habits, like a scene in the Sound of Music. Oh the good old days. Then with the passage of time, things began to change. As religious in a post-Christian society, the Sisters face formidable challenges, not the least of which is their dwindling numbers in places like Australia. Let’s face it: Can nuns compete with Justin Bieber or One Direction for the girls’ attention? Hardly, I don’t think.

And yet, the sisters are not sitting around, moping and hoping for the good old days to return. They are busy getting on with the mission God has given them to do. In a lot of cases, they are reinventing themselves so to speak and re-birthing their charism in unexpected ways. They are thinking outside the square by virtue of their creative obedience to the Holy Spirit. They are busy with nurturing and delivering new life. They are like the embers in the ashes that will start the fire the morning after. The words of St Paul may best describe what many religious sisters today are doing “Death is at work in us but life in you”. That is divine creativity at work.

Divine creativity is very much at work in this college. The ember of faith, hope and love in the tradition of Catherine McAuley is being rekindled in this place. It is coming to new life perhaps not through nuns in black habits but through the young women who are inflamed with the passion for justice, for equality, for dignity, for the fullness of life and love that is at the core of the Gospel. The ember of faith, hope and love is not extinguished even if this generation of bearers of the ember may diminish and even die out. What Catherine McAuley, trailblazers and prophetic people like her taught us is that we must learn to look beyond the present; we must learn to reframe the harsh reality around us into a hopeful vision. We must learn to see things in the perspective of God and point others in the direction of the kingdom.

We see something of this prophetic reframing and reimagining in Pope Francis and the way he challenges us to follow the arc of sacred history. Despite all the challenges we face in the secular age, there is no time to lose in nostalgic yearning for bygone era. It is not time for us to raise our drawbridges and retreat behind the fortress. It is not time for us to cling to our security or to retreat to our soap bubbles. We must abandon our culture of comfort and go to the periphery. We must be less of an enclosure for the virtuous but more an oasis for the weary and downtrodden. We must be less of an experience of exclusion and more of an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity. We must be less about a leadership of power, control and clericalism but more a diakonia of a humble servant exemplified by Christ at the Last Supper. The spirit is calling us anew into the business of being the sacrament of God’s love for the world.

The Gospel today is brief but quite significant. Jesus is surrounded by the intimate circle of friends and family members most of whom are women. It is no sheer coincidence. In the life of Jesus, it was the female followers who showed faithfulness and enduring love more so than their male counterparts. Nowhere else is this discrepancy more obvious than at the final hours of our Lord. This leads me to believe that if the Church has a bright future, it is due to the example of many female followers who are like those early female disciples, Mary Magdala, Mary wife of Clopas and most of all Mary of Nazareth.

Another reading of the text has to do with the prophetic reframing and reimagining. In the midst of hopelessness, sorrow and death, Jesus leads his followers beyond the harsh reality. He reimagines their relationships in a new context. They are no longer to relate with one another as before, since he himself lives on through them. Woman here is your son, he tells Mary and here is your mother, he tells the beloved disciple. This is much more than “Look after my mummy Johnny”. In effect, it’s more like saying: “Your relationships are reordered and reimagined because I live on in you. And this is the basis of your new existence.” It’s a life changing revelation.

Dear friends, this place has been life changing for many people during the last 140 years. But we are here not simply to celebrate what has been achieved but also to look forward with hope. The spirit is leading us on and we are not afraid of the future. In fact, we have every reason to believe that the future will be as blessed as the past. Our task is to keep the ember burning bright and to pass it on to the next generation. May we be open to the guidance of the spirit as we journey with each other and together meet the challenge of delivering new life for the world.

+ Bishop Vincent Long
May 24, 2014