Dressed up for the 120th anniversary celebrations are Carthage House members (rear) Andrew Zanette, 15, and Nina Cheles-McLean;
Dressed up for the 120th anniversary celebrations are Carthage House members (rear) Andrew Zanette, 15, and Nina Cheles-McLean;

Small band of nuns 130 years ago changed our region forever

IT would have been impossible to imagine 120 years ago the impact the arrival of 30 young Irish nuns would have on the Northern Rivers.

The group of Presentation Sisters, all aged in their 30s, had left Ireland at the request of the then Bishop of Armidale, Dr Torreggiani, to start the first regional Catholic school on the Australian mainland in Lismore.

The sisters started St Mary's and, a few weeks later, the St Carthage's primary school, ultimately spreading to start schools at Murwillumbah, Ballina, Tweed Heads and Bellingen.

On August 15, 2006, the current incarnation of St Mary's Trinity Catholic College Lismore, which combines the original school with St Joseph's, started by the Marist Brothers 25 years later, celebrated the original school's 120th birthday.

The school launched its celebration with a Mass and the unveiling of a written blessing from Pope Benedict XVI, followed by birthday cake and a daylong party.

Presentation Sisters congregational leader Sue Richardson said the anniversary was important for her fellow sisters.

Sr Richardson said young Presentation Sisters continued coming to Lismore from Ireland up until the 1940s, despite the fact that many, especially in the early years, were never able to return home.

St Mary's and St Joseph's officially combined to form Trinity in 1985; a move principal Brother Peter said was helped by the similarity in the sisters' and brothers' calling to teaching, which centred on helping people who otherwise had little or no access to education.

The Marist Brothers formed in France after the French Revolution, which left many rural areas in ruin and without schools. The Presentation Sisters formed in Ireland after Britain outlawed education for Catholics and they held classes in secret.


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