A reflection by Sr Maureen McDermott rsj on an exceptional milestone and celebration.

It was with a joyous and grateful heart that I journeyed home after the celebrations of 130 years of education at St Joseph’s School, Hillston, New South Wales on Tuesday 3 May.

The celebrations began with Eucharist concelebrated by Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE and the parish priest, Fr Christopher J Lim, for the parish community, in which the pupils were the focus. The spirit of Mary MacKillop was tangible as the entrance hymn in praise of Mary was sung with great gusto.

Following Eucharist, all were invited to the school hall where the Principal, Ms Beverley Hayes, shared the history of the 130 years of St Joseph’s with senior school students acting the arrival of the first sisters who had originated from ‘the Vale’ (now known as Perthville).

A highlight of the history was the recognition of Roma Cashmere for her many years of generous service to the financial management of the school, mostly in a voluntary capacity. With her family surrounding her, Roma accepted the sign that will be hung in her memory in the Administration Section. About four years earlier, Sr Madeleine Carroll was remembered with her name displayed proudly on the building, ‘Maddie’s Learning Place’.

In concluding the assembly, the school community once again sung with conviction their school song, including the words, ‘with a Josephite heart we can build a better world’.

The sun shone brightly as those gathered stayed for soup and coffee before the cutting of the Anniversary Cake – the 130 cupcakes made by Mrs Emma Laird (nee Whitteron), parent and staff member.

People travelled from near and far; a couple from Canberra and Moya Homan (nee McDonagh) whose father was the pharmacist from 1941-1955. One woman, Jennifer Naughton, brought her First Communion Certificate to acknowledge and thank the sister who wrote on the certificate so beautifully in 1956.

The sisters who had ministered over the years were remembered with affection and appreciation – many asking me how sister so and so was. How pleased they were to hear of news of any of the sisters. Joe Sarkis asked me if I remembered him! How disappointing it was that I was not the right Sr Maureen who had been there some years earlier!

My gratitude to Mandy Hutchison, REC, for the invitation to share in this memorable celebration. The light of St Joseph’s at Hillston shines brightly, living their school motto with pride: “Let Your Light Shine Before All”.

Maureen McDermott rsj

About St Joseph’s School, Hillston

The rural town of Hillston in far west NSW has a population of approximately 1300 which services vast areas of pastoral and irrigation properties. St Joseph’s Parish School is in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes catering for children from Kindergarten to Year 6. The school, situated on the banks of the Lachlan River, was opened in 1892 and enjoys the rich charism of Mary MacKillop’s Josephite Sisters, who were present at the school until 2002.