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Golden Jubilee Mount St Benedict College

The Early Years


An Introduction The Sisters of the Good Samaritan have a long history of responding to those in need. In the 1960s the Sisters recognised the need for a Catholic school for girls in the Hills District of NSW. In 1966 Mount St Benedict College was opened, with the first classes taking place in the basement of the Mount St Benedict Novitiate. Those first students and their teachers probably could not have foreseen the population explosion that was to take place in this area of Sydney, which would see the College grow to its current size of over 1000 students. Looking back over fifty years it is fascinating to see the way things have changed – the changing uniform, the growth in facilities, the declining number of sisters on staff and the ever increasing opportunities afforded to girls in their learning. Reading earlier school documents such as newsletters and yearbooks, it is encouraging to find that the values that informed the early years of the College are still the same now – the emphasis on the Benedictine heritage and the Good Samaritan traditions that were evident in those early years are still the driving force behind all that we do. Mrs Maria Pearson College Principal 2005 – present

Students at the College now, from Year 7 through to Year 12, are able to reach out to those in need in the local

community, at a national level and beyond. The College has partnerships with organisations in Sydney, in the Northern Territory, in Kiribati, the Philippines and works with them to meet needs within their communities. At the same time students from the College have their eyes opened to the world and are able to see the opportunities for them to use their gifts to make the world a better place. From the beginning Mount St Benedict College offered girls a broad curriculum, a wide variety of cocurricular activities and many different sporting opportunities. As the College has grown it has gone from strength to strength in each of these areas, consistently achieving excellent academic results, having a reputation as a highly successful sporting school and making a name for itself in many competitions, particularly at a global level in Future Problem Solving. Thanks to the foresight of the Sisters, the College continues to enjoy a beautiful position overlooking an area of remnant Sydney Blue Gum High Forest which makes a beautiful backdrop to the modern facilities we now enjoy. Maria Pearson

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, f el s y m d n a er h p to is r h We used to say, C it.” d ee n ’t n id d ey th id a s ey ‘And th

he, 2014

Sr Mary (Hyacinth) Roc

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Mount St Benedict College Golden Jubilee History Book


The Welcome School In a room freshly painted in colours which might be described today as bilious, Mount St Benedict College had its beginnings. The year was 1966. A makeshift classroom converted out of a bakehouse in the basement of a novitiate of Catholic sisters seems an unlikely place to start a modern school but a modern school it was, born out of the changing social conditions of post-war Australia and pressed to rapidly develop in response to constant growth. Chronicling the tumble of events which made up that first year, Deputy Principal Sr Hyacinth Roche wrote, ‘If only we could carry out all we think of, but at least we can do something.’ In her neat and unwavering handwriting, she was referring to the first eager students of the College and their plans to help the missions, but Sr Hyacinth may just as well have been speaking about the larger, scrambling project in which she and Principal Sr Christopher Burrows were engaged – the herculean task of setting up the brand new school. In Sr Hyacinth’s tone there is relish for the potential of what might be achieved, and a keenness to get on. There is a sense of togetherness, too. In this spirit Mount St Benedict College was founded and developed. A shared endeavour.

Today, Mount St Benedict College has over 1000 students but when it opened its doors only sixty-five pupils were on the roll. As those girls and their parents approached the Novitiate of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan at Pennant Hills on that first February morning, their feelings must have been mixed. The Convent and Novitiate, now the Mount St Benedict Centre, was and is an imposing brick building. As a sanctuary of retreat and formation it was not a place to which members of the public were routinely admitted. When it opened in 1927, the Novitiate dominated the landscape. Situated on elevated ground, fine views of Sydney were obtainable from the upper balconies. On every side were slopes and valleys, orchards and farmlets, all ringed by the distant haze of the Blue Mountains. Suburban homes soon sprung up around the Novitiate but the semi-rural feel was not to disappear until the 1950s when the population of the area surged, in large part due to post-war immigration. Many of these new Australians were Catholic families. The Sisters of the Good Samaritan were quick to understand the implications and energised by the challenge. ‘In some respects,’ they said in 1957, ‘the large-scale immigration of this recent decade... has been the most interesting and vital phenomenon of our century of existence.’

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1966 - The Pioneer Group e eg ll o C t ic ed en B t S t n u Mo 6

Mount St Benedict College Golden Jubilee History Book


Locally, parish primary schools were over-filling, and parents worried about the long distances their daughters would have to travel to receive a Catholic education. The need for an additional secondary school for girls in the district was apparent and the Sisters generously offered to build and staff a college on land beside their Novitiate at no cost to the surrounding parishes. But the newly formed Catholic Education Office took some persuading, doubting the demand.

Sr Hyacinth on the official opening day of the new buildings

Radical reforms to high school education in New South Wales had recently taken place, adding a year to schooling, adding depth and range to subject choices, and requiring schools to have properly equipped science laboratories and libraries. Education standards were hugely improved as a result but managing the logistics of compliance was complex. Funding and administration of Catholic schools was being centralised under the Catholic Education Office, but the Office was still finding its feet. Change was everywhere during these years. The Church itself was in the midst of radical modernisation as the initiatives of the Second Vatican Council began to filter through. Independently, the Good Samaritan Sisters had been through their own period of reform concerning the spiritual and intellectual training of novices and postulants, most of who were destined for teaching roles. It would be an extra educational benefit, they told the Cardinal, for postulants to have access to the science facilities of the proposed school.

The Foundation Stone

When approval was finally granted in August 1965, the Sisters set a cracking pace, promising to commence building as soon as practicable and immediately

arranging temporary accommodation for the following year for the first intake of Year 7 students. Mother Francis Clare, Superior of the Mount St Benedict Convent and Sr Peter Damian, the Mistress of Novices, had early oversight of the project until Sr Christopher Burrows and Sr Hyacinth Roche were appointed. On their first day, the new girls – forever affectionately known thereafter as the Pioneers – arrived in their various primary school uniforms from the year before. They waited almost an hour before being led down the path at the side of the Novitiate to the verandah outside the laundry, then into the new premises. White floor, green walls, pink ceiling. It was a high airy room (because of the slope of the hill, the basement was not underground) with rows of desks which had been unpacked and assembled from boxes which apparently looked like coffins. Under each desk was a mat, a small but significant gesture of hospitality to protect young feet from cold concrete. With equipment begged and borrowed, lessons began. It was an exhilarating year for Christopher and Hyacinth who, while teaching nearly all core subjects, formed the structures of the school on the run – choosing a motto and crest which laid down an ethos for the school grounded in Benedictine values, organising uniforms, forming Houses, appointing specialist staff, managing accounts and administration – all as they simultaneously oversaw the building works rising out of the pea paddock beyond the orchard next door. The demands were many, but assistance was never far. Sisters from the convent helped out with support and supervision, and a community spirit quickly developed amongst the parents.

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Novices -1960

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The Principal and Deputy had straightforward goals. They wished to instil a love of learning in each child and to educate each individual to be the best they could be, at the same time sharing with them the gift of the love of Christ. With good humour, Sr Hyacinth’s diary records the activities and fun of those first months: recorder lessons, ‘We hope the screeching will soon give way to peaceful melodies’; sports days; fund raising; tennis coaching, ‘With practice and perseverance we hope to see the balls remaining within the precincts of the court’; an outing to The Sound of Music; the delivery of a TV and a Pepsi Cola machine, ‘A not unwelcome sight for thirsty people!’; and mass on Fridays in the Novitiate’s beautiful chapel. For the students, the Novitiate and its occupants were a tantalising mystery. They were forbidden to talk to postulants, but did, saying, ‘They spoke to us first,’ and could not resist sneaking forays upstairs to areas out-ofbounds. Always remembered by the students in later life was the half hourly ringing of the bell which regulated the novices’ day. On rainy days the laundry was opened up for play but otherwise recreation took place on the tennis courts, although a complicated regime of gate shutting had to be followed to ensure the dairy cows stayed where they should. When two girls were caught carving their initials into a tree beside the courts there was a major case to answer. But their defence was simple. We are pioneers, they said. As pioneers do, they were just leaving their names there. On 23 October 1966 Archbishop Carroll formally opened the new school buildings on behalf of Cardinal Gilroy: seven classrooms, a science lab, a library, a music room

In the nicest way, the fledgling school was intimate and homely; and this first cohort of students, cheerful and willing, was always held especially dear. and a teachers’ room. The girls, in their new uniforms, lined up along the driveway to welcome him in a guard of honour. Afterwards, parents were invited to inspect the rooms but no risks were taken with the freshly shellacked floors; mothers padded around in stocking feet having been asked to remove their heels. Later, when the girls took up residence, they were required to wear jiffies indoors for the same reasons. Care for personal possessions was just as strict. Checked aprons must be worn over uniforms during the day and blazers were only permitted to be worn to and from school. Parents pitched in to assist with the transfer of furniture and the settling in. Planting and watering gardens, arranging the library, they did whatever they could to add to the comfort of students. Until the end of term the Pioneers had the school to themselves but the following year, and each year thereafter, they were joined by a new intake of Year 7. In 1969, the year man walked on the moon and the whole school gathered in the hall to watch it on TV all day, the Pioneers sat their Leaving Certificate. Twenty-five of them went on to do the HSC in 1971. Highly motivated, friendly and always welcoming to the constant stream of newcomers, the Pioneers graduated as mature and confident young women, evidence in themselves of the school’s success.

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The Convent 10

Mount St Benedict College Golden Jubilee History Book


... a school for the people, by the people, built on love and faith.” With enrolments constantly growing, the workload for Sr Christopher and Sr Hyacinth increased. During their tenures the building program was almost unceasing and throughout the school’s history construction has continued at regular intervals. Having a full complement of year levels in 1971 was a turning point. The critical mass generated its own energy and a whole range of new activities and initiatives was possible. It was a decade of firsts: yearbooks, musicals, graduation dinners, overseas trips. By the time Sr Christopher departed in 1973, leaving Sr Hyacinth in charge, the old orchard separating the convent and the College had been tamed into an oval. No more would the Sisters’ trudge between the two places in wet weather with shoes clumped with clay. Embraced by the wider community, the reach of the College had expanded, too. It was a keen participant in interschool sports and arts activities; nearby high schools shared their facilities when needed for functions or exams; and the parents created a family atmosphere as they worked together raising funds, making the annual fete and barbecue a favourite event to which everyone in the area was welcome. By 1979, when Sr Hyacinth’s own term ended, the school which wasn’t wanted by the Catholic Education Office had nearly 800 students and a waiting list. The hard work of establishing the College had been done.

Physically, temperamentally and spiritually its nature had been shaped. But a school is never a finished project. Every decade brings its own needs to which new leaders respond. The landmark change of the 1980s was the incorporation of the College. Then in the 1990s the first lay and male principal of the College was appointed – Mr Alan Moran. This was a period of renewal and, with a refocussing of the school’s mission, the College squared up to face the challenges of the next millennium, not least by making a large commitment to information technology. In 2004 the built environment of the school was dramatically altered with the construction of two major new blocks and the conversion of other spaces into new learning centres. The tiny basement school was a distant memory. In 2014, thinking back to the beginning, Sr Hyacinth Roche said, ‘I can remember it all now... we managed somehow. It was meant to be. But we always had great help along the way, the locals and even people sometimes not associated with the school, they’d come and offer their help, advice.’ Sisters, staff, students, parents and good neighbours – for fifty years they have worked together to build the welcome school – a school for the people, by the people, built on love and faith.

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g n i n r a e L Pottery - 1979

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Car Maintenance - 1979


Filming - 1980

Classroom - 1986

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Central Australia Tour - 1980

Classroom - 1960s 14

Mount St Benedict College Golden Jubilee History Book

Central Australia Tour - 1978


Class of 2000 Year 9 Camp - 1997

Art - 1991

Class of 2003 Taronga Zoo Excursion - 1998

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s t r A e h T Speech Day - 1970

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Speech Day - 1970


Musical ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ - 1978

Musical ‘Joseph and His Technicolour Dreamcoat’ - 2003

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y t i n u m Com Students in the Courtyard of Peace - 1972

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Lunch on the Oval - 1977

Year 12 Graduation - 1980


Debut - 1971

Debut - 1982

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Fete - 1976

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Games on the oval - 1986

Class of 2003 Medieval Day Year 8 - 1999


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9 1 s er v a le te a ic f ti er C l o o Sch

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Marching down Pennant Hills Road 22

Mount St Benedict College Golden Jubilee History Book


Good Neighbours Founded by Archbishop John Bede Polding in 1857 to respond to the needs of poor, homeless women in Sydney, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan was the first religious congregation to be formed in Australia. Following Polding’s own Benedictine Rule and taking their name from the famous parable, the Sisters extended a hand to offer practical help to their neighbours wherever need was found. Activities soon extended from providing shelter and spiritual comfort to women, to the education of children. With the demand for Catholic schooling ever growing, the Good Samaritans built a network of schools crossing four states. Their works expanded to include outreach and education in Asia and a diversified range of ministries across Australia. In the decades following the Second Vatican Council the Sisters returned to the charism of St Benedict finding fresh inspiration and relevance in the ancient values. Pax, Hospitality and Stewardship – these are the simple and enduring Benedictine values which guide staff, students and the family community of Mount St Benedict College.

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Sport Sr Christopher and Sr Hyacinth at the Athletics Carnival - 1970

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Netball - 1972

Swimming Carnival - 1979


Swimming Carnival - 1975

Athletics Carnival -1976

Athletics Carnival - 1976

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Athletics Carnival - 1975

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Gymnastics - 1976


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70 9 1 s r te is S s v ts en d tu S Netball:

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Class of 1971 with original house banners

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Mount St Benedict College Golden Jubilee History Book

Swimming Carnival - 1980


Athletics Carnival - 1997

Swimming Carnival - 1997

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s e i t i l i c Fa Library extensions - 1985

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Paving of Hall Courtyard - 1991


C Block and Admin Block - 1993

Building Project: 91 9 1 s m o o R t r A d n a ic s u M Courtyard of Peace - 1993

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Mount St Benedict Convent & Chapel - 1930 32

Mount St Benedict College Golden Jubilee History Book


Place

Al-lo-wah jumna yenu way a pemel ya Daruga Together we walk on the land of the Darug

The ridge line on which Mount St Benedict College stands was once part of an extensive Blue Gum and Blackbutt forest. The original custodians of this land are the Darug people. After dispossession by encroaching white settlement, the land was granted to Sir Joseph George Long Innes in 1875. It passed through several hands until 1906 when it was bought by Edgar Olley Jones, a stock and station agent in Sydney. His brotherin-law, architect George Sydney Jones, designed a gracious Federation style family home for the site which featured a cloister. Perhaps it was this that appealed to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan who bought the property, named Regenbah, in 1922. Over the next few years the Congregation purchased an adjoining 20 hectares and constructed a novitiate, extending the Regenbah cloister around the new building. Named Mount St Benedict at the suggestion of Mother Marcella Kenny, the Novitiate was opened on 27 November 1927 by Archbishop Kelly. With its own dairy, orchard and vegetable gardens, it was largely self-sufficient. Beyond the gardens and paddocks, the remaining bushland was enjoyed by the Sisters for its beauty and as a place of contemplation.

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l a u t i r i Sp Official Opening of the College by Archbishop Carroll and Sister Christopher Burrows - 1966

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Year 12 Graduation Mass - 1981


Celebrating 1500 Years of Benedict at St Mary’s Cathedral - 1980

Kosovo Wings of Hope - 1999

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The sisters making Communion wafers

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‌ it is encouraging to find that the values that informed the early years of the College are still the same now - the emphasis on the Benedictine heritage and the Good Samaritan traditions that were evident in those early years are still the driving force behind all that we do.�

Mrs Maria Pearson College Principal 2005 - present

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Mount St Benedict College Golden Jubilee History Book


Words by Dr. Vicki Hastrich of The History Company Editors: Kylie Gray and Michelle Blackman Design: Fresco Creative Thank you to Sr Mary Hyacinth Roche Principal 1974 - 1979 and Kylie Rees from The History Company


449C Pennant Hills Rd Pennant Hills NSW 2120 Phone: 9980 0444 Email: admin@msben.nsw.edu.au www.msb.nsw.edu.au

The Early Years is printed under ISO 9001:2008 environmental accreditation. The paper is made from elemental chlorine free bleached pulp sourced from well-managed forests and controlled sources. It is manufactured by an ISO 14001 certified paper mill.

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Mount St Benedict College > Golden Jubilee > History Book  

Mount St Benedict College publishes a school yearbook and magazine which recap the news and events of each year at the school. Graphic desig...

Mount St Benedict College > Golden Jubilee > History Book  

Mount St Benedict College publishes a school yearbook and magazine which recap the news and events of each year at the school. Graphic desig...

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