The Sisters of St Joseph, Lochinvar, trace their origins to Mother Mary MacKillop and Father Julian Tenison Woods who co-founded the Order of the Sisters of St Joseph in 1866. In that year, Mary MacKillop and her Sisters began teaching children in a converted stable in Penola, South Australia. The Sisters’ purpose was to provide a Catholic education for poor families.
The Sisters of St Joseph opened St Patrick’s Primary School, Swansea, on Tuesday 29 January 1952, with 30 students in attendance. The parish priest at that time was Fr Leo Boyle. Built at a cost of £5,500, Swansea Parish was originally part of the Archdiocese of Sydney. It was not until 1 January 1966 that the parish was incorporated into the Diocese of Maitland.
Initially, St Patrick’s Primary School was staffed by the Sisters of St Joseph. Its founding principal was Sr Virgilius Perkins. In those early days the nuns, who lived at Belmont, travelled to Black Ned’s Bay wharf by rowboat, where they moored and walked to the school which, at that time, was located on the site of what is now the McDonalds restaurant in Swansea. Local legend has it that, on more than one occasion, the boat capsized and gave the Sisters an additional bath for the day.
In 1971, the school was rebuilt on the original site at McDonalds. At that time, The Lake Macquarie Herald wrote a feature article on the school. The journalist described the new school as “the first of its kind in New South Wales”, with modern amenities such as carpeted floors; large windows designed to allow maximum light into the classrooms; curved blackboards designed to eliminate glare; a television in each classroom; and two wall mounted mirrors in the toilet block.
In 1977-78, the school was relocated to its present site on the shore of Black Ned’s Bay. The church, classrooms and cottages were transported on large trucks from the original site. Sr Ellen Shanahan was the principal at the time of this move. It was Sr Ellen who developed our present school logo and school motto, “Grow In Hope”.
In 2006, the school was demolished to make way for the buildings we currently occupy. Bishop Michael Malone blessed and officially opened the new school on 23 February 2007.
The words of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop have a powerful resonance for us at St Patrick’s:
“Gratitude is the memory of the heart … Be full of hope in God who has been good to us all.”
Indeed, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the Sisters of St Joseph and the early parishioners of Swansea, who saw a need for a Catholic school and allowed it to grow. The Gospel message calls us to “Grow in Hope”. With a rich tradition of Josephite education, the future of our students is filled with hope.