In 1889, when Drummoyne was part of the parish of 'Balmain West', the church-school of St Mark's was built. In June 1889, there were 13 students taught by two local sisters Colse and Sarah Hayes. By 1894, there were 98 students. In that same year, the school was taken over by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, who walked there each day from their convent in Rozelle.
By 1900 the Sisters of St Joseph agreed to staff the school and that year St Mark's became a separate parish, which provided a convent for the Josephites and a separate school building (in 1903) teaching 150 students. The school continued, to progress despite limited funding and the 1930s depression, to over 250 student by 1940. Classes were for boys to third class and for girls to lower secondary classes.
In 1948 the Josephites wished to redeploy more Sisters to country areas and so they arranged that the Presentation Sisters (Wagga Wagga congregation) take over the school. The Presentation Sisters were already running Domremy College, Five Dock and so all secondary classes at St Mark’s were transferred and students were encouraged to attend Domremy for secondary schooling.
By 1953, a new school was provided by the parish as part of the developing diocesan system coordinated by the Catholic Education Office. The Office asked the school to take boys to Fourth Class from 1967, 'in accordance with the policy now being gradually implemented throughout the Archdiocese'. In 1990 boys were taken to Year Six, so that St Mark's was now a fully co-educational parish school from Kindergarten to Year Six. By 1969, there were approximately 250 students at the school.
Enrolments have remained fairly stable since 1970, averaging over 200. Government funding enabled the employment of more teachers. This was important because in 1993 the Presentation Sisters ended their fifty five year leadership of the school. In 1994 the first lay Principal was appointed. In 2014, St Mark's entered its 125th year as the parish school with 339 students enrolled.
What is a charism? A charism is a deep awareness of a Gospel value or values linked to a special need in the world. The Gospel value or emphasis remains constant over the history of the group throughout history. The area of need also remains constant but the specific expressions of the need may change over time, place and culture. Charism is always at the service of mission and for us as Christians, this mission is Jesus’ mission.
At St Mark’s we have a dual charism:
a) The Sisters of St Joseph, with Mary MacKillop as the founder and
b) The Presentation Sisters of Wagga Wagga, with Nano Nagle as the founder.
These religious congregations were both at the school for substantial amounts of time. Both Mary MacKillop and Nano Nagle were women who had had seen a need in their society and responded to help those who were poor and disadvantaged.
Who was Mary MacKillop?
Mary MacKillop’s parents were originally from Scotland and married in 1840 and in 1842 in Melbourne, the first of their eight children, Mary, was born.
Mary began work as a clerk at the age of fourteen and she supported her family with her income. When Mary was eighteen she moved to Penola, in South Australia, and became a governess to her aunt and uncle’s children – the Camerons. Mary loved educating children and felt a great need to educate those who, because of poverty, were left to look after themselves. Mary taught many children who were in need that came to the Cameron estate.
While she was there, she came in contact with Fr Julian Woods, who was a priest in Penola. Fr Woods had a similar dream to educate the poor and eventually a small Catholic school was opened in Penola.
In 1867 Mary MacKillop became the first Sister and Mother Superior of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The number of Sisters joining the Order continued to grow in Australia and New Zealand. Mary suffered poor health and died on 8 August, 1909.
On October 17, 2010, Mary was canonised at St Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
Who was Nano Nagle?
Nano Nagle was born in 1718 in Ballygriffin, Cork, Ireland. As Catholic education in Ireland at that time carried the death sentence, Nano had to go to France to be educated.
On her return to Ireland, Nano became aware of the many people all around her who lived in appalling poverty and oppression. Nano knew that without education, no permanent change in society could occur. At great personal risk, Nano opened small schools in Cork and made a stand against some of the injustices of her time. Nano Nagle pioneered a courageous ministry to the poor and downtrodden and in so doing, challenged the authorities of the day.
Besides teaching in the schools, Nano went out after her work during the day and carried a lantern in the night to visit the poor, especially the elderly and the sick. The symbol for Nano is often the lantern as she brought the light of Christ to many who were disadvantaged.
In 1775, Nano began the Congregation of Presentation Sisters and these sisters are now in many countries.
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