Catholic sisters return home to celebrate Goldfields School’s 125th anniversary

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Four Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart were among those celebrating the recent 125th anniversary of St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School.

Sisters Frances Maguire, Dora Maguire, Pauline Dundon and Kathleen Hitchcock, along with archivist Sue Sondalini, returned to Kalgoorlie-Boulder to reconnect with former students, families and community members on the anniversary of Catholic primary school.

They said they were delighted to be “home”.

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School was established in Kamballie, southeast of Boulder, by three Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart on February 8, 1897.

It has been rebuilt three times after being destroyed by cyclones in 1903 and 1928.

The school held an event on October 16 to mark the 125th anniversary, featuring historic photographs, memorabilia and old-fashioned schoolyard games.

Former students, teachers, principals and families involved with the school were present, as well as representatives of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, members of the Catholic Church community and representatives of Education Catholic WA.

Sr Hitchcock told the Kalgoorlie Miner the visit was nostalgic for the group as they were able to meet former pupils and families involved with the school some 40 years ago.

“It was absolutely wonderful to meet so many people and even children that I taught in the 1980s,” she said.

“There were many parents, students and people who have been in the parish and supported the work of the sisters during the years we have lived there. It was just lovely.

“We love going back there (Kalgoorlie-Boulder) and seeing as many people as possible. We just like coming home.

The sisters also visited the tomb of Sr Ursula Tynan, who was the first headmistress of St Joseph in 1897.

She is buried in Kalgoorlie Cemetery, along with six other Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

Sisters Frances and Dora Maguire were both born in the Goldfields and taught at John Paul College.

Sr Hitchcock spent a combined 15 years serving the Catholic school communities of Kalgoorlie and Boulder between 1975 and 1992.

She worked as headmistress of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School for three years and then of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School for seven years.

Sr Hitchcock has also been involved in the local Catholic parish, was president of the Goldfields YMCA for five years and chair of the founding committee of the Safety House WA program in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Sr Hitchcock said she had fond memories of her time working in the Goldfields community.

“There was a wonderful relationship the school had with the parents but also with the people in the town,” she said.

“Ray Finlayson was the mayor and he was very supportive of the school when I was there and people were supporting the school with donations.

“I just loved living there. I loved the lifestyle. My grandparents got married there and my grandfather was born at the Mt Margaret mine, so there’s a rich heritage here for me too.

Sr Hitchcock was also a member of the Country Priority Zones Program – a program run between government and non-government schools to organize academic and social events in schools in the Goldfields-Esperance area.

The program was aimed at all students in the Goldfields-Esperance area, which included visits to students from Ngaanyatjarra lands.

“At that time, schools were under-resourced so we were able to fund things like the Perth Orchestra or the Black Swan Theater to visit,” she said.

“The aim was to provide extra-curricular activities to schools.”

During their visit to the Goldfields, the sisters were able to stay in the same property where they lived while serving at St Michael’s School, St Mary’s and St Joseph Catholic Primary Schools and John Paul College.

The property is now owned by Kalgoorlie-Boulder town councilor Mick McKay, who gifted the building to the sisters, including Sister Dundon who taught her son Glen.

Sr Hitchcock said the sisters were delighted to be ‘coming home’ to the property and thanked Cr McKay for his generosity.

“Mick McKay was very hospitable and welcomed us into the convent which was lovely. It was very nostalgic,” she said.

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