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Celebrating the gift of education

​150 years ago Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods established the first St Joseph's school in Penola, South Australia. This year, the Sisters will hold three special exhibitions honouring their contribution to education in Australia.

The exhibitions tell the story of the development of Mary MacKillop Place in Mount Street, North Sydney, as an educational site. Mary MacKillop herself was a dedicated teacher and it was important for her that the Sisters were well prepared for this valuable work. 

The exhibitions honour the gift of education on the site, in particular, the role of the teachers training college in the development of thousands of teachers.

"Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods saw education as the means by which people could change their circumstances in life," says Congregational Leader, Sister Monica Cavanagh rsj. 

"Mary MacKillop had a lovely saying: God wants us by every means at our disposal to lead others to life. I think that at its heart education is about just that, leading others to life."

"As Sisters of St Joseph, education is in our blood. We might not be teaching in the classrooms anymore, but we continue to use these skills. Whether that's by training teachers in East Timor, tutoring a child, teaching English to a group of women for whom it is their second language, or even just teaching the lady next door how to read a recipe book." 

"Through education we enable people to experience that fullness of life that Jesus spoke about in the Gospel."

The first exhibition, titled: Sisters of St Joseph - Educational Endeavours at Mount Street, North Sydney, opened in March and traces the development of the site from its infancy as a teaching college for religious women, through its growth into the Catholic Teachers' College, Catholic College of Advanced Education, and its amalgamation with three other institutions to form Australian Catholic University in 1991.

The second exhibition, A Tribute to Pioneering Josephite Educators, opens in late July creating a Heritage Walk which will be a permanent fixture to honour significant people in the site's history. People like Mother Laurence O'Brien who was instrumental in the expansion of the school to train more infant and primary teachers, and Mother Leonie Ryan, who trained thousands of teachers and opened the college to members of other religious congregations and then to lay teachers.

The final exhibition, Listening to the Heartbeat of the World: the Ministries of the Sisters of St Joseph into the Future, opens in early October and explores education at the site today and how it has contributed to the ongoing ministries of the Sisters throughout the world.

"I myself am a product of this Catholic Teacher's College and was here at a historic time when the first lay principal, Mr McGrath, took on the leadership," says Sister Monica.

"I am forever grateful for the effective teaching methods I learnt here and for the wisdom I gained from so many wonderful lecturers. My teacher training has been the backbone of all the ministries I have undertaken over the years."

​Where: Mary MacKillop Place Museum, 9 Mount Street, North Sydney

When: 1 April – 11 December 2016

For more information visit or call 02 9929 7344

​​CCI is pleased to provide financial support to help the Congregation stage these exhibitions and for other sesquicentenary celebrations. ​



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