Our Lady of the Rosary Parish Kellyville

Sisters of Mercy pass history at school


Sr Kathleen Dowse and Sr Margaret Hinchey
Sr Kathleen Dowse and Sr Margaret Hinchey speak to students at St Mary's Primary, Rydalmere.

St Mary's Primary School has received a lesson in living history, with six Sisters of Mercy sharing with students and staff the story of the Religious Order which ran the Rydalmere school from 1893 to 1982.

As part of the school's St Mary's Feast Day celebrations, the six Sisters joined the school community for Mass on Friday 10 September, before speaking to staff and students about their experiences of working in the school.

Sr Kathleen Dowse
Living doll...Sr Kathleen Dowse demonstrates the type of attire worn by the Sisters of Mercy in the 1800s.
One of the longest serving Sisters of Mercy, Sr Kathleen Dowse, who joined the order in 1949, spoke about how she came back to reopen the school in 1949 with fellow sister, Sr Ursula.

"In 1949 St Mary’s was reopened after it had been closed for eight years after a drop in enrolments," Sr Kathleen said.

"However, a housing boom in the nearby area called for it to be again opened.

"We had 32 students at the beginning of that year and by the end of the year, enrolments had increased to 100. In those times, St Mary’s was a church school which meant that both the school and the church were run in the same building. On Friday afternoons, furniture would be moved to convert the space to the church and visa versa on Monday mornings."

In a special surprise for the students, Sr Kathleen brought along several dolls dressed in the different habits of the order over the years.

Sr Margaret (Monica) Hinchey began teaching at St Mary’s Primary in 1958. She left the school at the end of the same year, and then returned in 1963 to work as a Year 6 teacher until 1966. In 1968, Sr Margaret became principal of St Mary’s, a position she held until 1973.

During her presentation to Year 5 and Year 6 students, Sr Margaret spoke about the importance of community during her time at St Mary’s Primary.

"In those times there was little or no government funding and so we relied on the school community and the parish community for money," Sr Margaret said.

"It was a wonderful school. We loved it. We loved the parents. They loved us and helped us a lot and I’m sure that’s the spirit that is still going on here now, especially today as we celebrate the Feast Day of St Mary."

Appreciation of a rich history

Sisters of Mercy with students and staff from St Mary’s Primary Rydalmere
Sisters of Mercy with students and staff from St Mary’s Primary, Rydalmere.

The Sisters were very impressed with the modern developments, like electronic whiteboards, at the school.

"When I first started, I didn’t even have a blackboard," Sr Kathleen said. "You just didn’t have the equipment and resources like you do now."

"I am very happy that the school has had such wonderful improvements," Sr Margaret said. "However, I think it’s also important to acknowledge the impact of good teaching. I also hope that the students here can continue to appreciate the wonderful things they have been given."

St Mary’s Primary Principal Tony Hughes thanked the Sisters of Mercy for joining in the feast day celebrations.

"St Mary’s feast day is an important event in our school community and we are very thankful to the Sisters of Mercy for joining with us," said Tony. "By sharing their experiences, the sisters have given our staff and students a better understanding of the rich history of our school."

Visit Catholic Education, Diocese of Parramatta

Visit St Mary’s Primary School, Rydalmere

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