History and Tradition
In 1923, five sisters from the religious order, the Daughters of our Lady of the Sacred Heart arrived in the important seaport town of Wynyard to establish the Wynyard community and to teach at the new school, St Brigid’s. They were met at the Wynyard Railway Station by the Parish Priest Father Patrick Fanning MSC.
An historical day for Wynyard was the laying of the foundation stone of the convent and the school, dedicated to St Brigid, on the site of the old Catholic Church, by Archbishop Barry, on 16th October 1922. Rain steadily poured down as Father Patrick Fanning, MSC disclosed that the building program would cost £1891. The provincial of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Father Ryan, was pleased to hear that £580 was already in hand as he was at the ceremony.
On their arrival in Wynyard, the five Sisters of the Daughters of our Lady of the Sacred Heart found that classes were scheduled to commence in four days time in the newly erected school that was designed by Father Fanning MSC, the Parish Priest at this time. The foundation stone had been laid in October 1922. The school had fifty-four students that first year including three boarders.
The Wynyard House Diary of the Sisters, tells the story of the transfer on February 1, 1923, of the Longford community to Wynyard. The new Wynyard community consisted of Sisters Joan of Arc McQuillen, Dominica O’Sullivan, Kieran Doyle, Ignatius O’Connor and St John Barth.
The details of the transfer are recorded by the community scribe: the last Mass at Longford convent, the sadness they felt seeing the Blessed Sacrament removed from the house, the packing and the disapproval of the railway authorities at the excessiveness of the excess luggage the sisters had! The very slow and tiresome trip on the train is also recorded and the excess luggage being changed to another train at Burnie. When finally the sisters arrived in Wynyard, Father Fanning, M.S.C. warmly welcomed them and took care of the excess luggage.
The convent was not yet completed, but Father Patrick Fanning, graciously and generously, gave the presbytery over to the sisters temporarily and went to stay with a parishioner. Although the day had been very trying, the Sisters in the new community, confided themselves and their new work, to the Heart of our Lord, to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Saint Joseph.
Classes were due to commence four days later in the fine new school building that had been designed by Father Patrick Fanning himself and built in 1922.
By the 17th February 1923, the Sisters vacated the presbytery and Father Fanning once again, returned home.
March 2nd 1923, the first Friday of the month, the new Wynyard community officially consecrated itself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, constituting Him the head of their little religious family. This consecration of their religious family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was recorded in a special register and signed personally by Father Fanning and the five sisters in the community. It was renewed on important feasts at least twice a year for ten years, signed personally by the individual members of the community.
By 3rd May 1923, both the convent and school were ready for the official blessing by Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne then on tour of Tasmania. Archbishop Mannix’s visit was very much anticipated and eagerly awaited by many people in the district.
One of the sisters (identity unknown) wrote of the special day: “Students filed out of class in preparation for the honoured guests’ arrival. At midday, Archbishop Daniel Mannix, accompanied by Archbishop William Barry, Archbishop of Hobart, and several visiting priests, arrived at the school for the official opening, which was held in the presence of the students, families and guests. The students sang a welcome song and knelt for his Grace’s blessing after which a suitable address was read. The blessing of the school and convent followed.
“A platform had been erected in the grounds and Dr Mannix delivered a stirring address to a large assembly, who had previously inspected the buildings. Dr Barry and the other guests also spoke. The distinguished visitors were the guests of Rev Father Fanning MSC but were entertained at afternoon tea at the Convent, after which they left for Burnie, where Dr Mannix was to deliver a lecture that same evening.”
Much to Father Fanning’s delight, the Government School Inspector, when on a visit to the Wynyard State School, visited St Brigid’s Convent School and was very taken with the teaching methods in operation at the school. He consequently invited the Chief Inspector to come to see the teaching in progress. For Father Fanning’s new school this meant an easily gained registration.
The Sisters assisted Father Fanning by teaching Religion to the children of the Catholic families who lived in outlying districts. The Sisters prepared their work and travelled with the priest on Sunday morning. People in the outlying districts sat on backless benches in Halls while the priest said Mass. There was no heating at all. As soon as Mass was over, the Sisters began to teach the children from these rural and remote areas. Most of these outlying areas had Mass and the lessons the Sisters gave to the children, about once each month.
Sister Joan of Arc McQuillen
One of the five sisters who initially arrived in 1923 to begin work at the new school, Sister Joan of Arc McQuillen, was known for her teaching, both at the school and, instructing country children about the Catholic faith. Sister Joan eventually began teaching children of former children she had instructed about the Catholic faith with the same dedication and enthusiasm. Sister Joan of Arc McQuillen was described by many people as ‘a saint of the Tasmanian countryside who brought hope to the dying and peace to the troubled.’ She was an inspiration to all.
The Wynyard Presbytery – now a well-known land-mark in Wynyard, was built in 1937 when Father Richard Scarfe was Parish Priest. The Foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Simonds on 28th October 1937.
Between 1943 and 1951, the OLSH Sisters would travel to Waratah in their mid-year holidays, to instruct the children who lived there. The priest would drive them 90 kilometres to Waratah, on a Sunday morning and after Mass he would leave them and drive back to Wynyard. The Sisters would teach the children every morning, one Sister taking the older students and the other Sister instructing those preparing to receive Sacraments. During the afternoons, the Sisters were devoted to home visitations and no family missed out. This meant that the Sisters often made their way through knee-deep snow to get to the next house. Even though houses were not close together, every home welcomed the Sisters and an open-fire was always going to warm them up before they left for the next visit. After a week, the priest would return and again they travelled the 90 kilometre journey back to Wynyard. This was during the school holidays!
Not only did two sisters give up their school holidays mid-year to carry out the Religious instruction to children and families in Waratah, but also recorded is that the holiday time was when the sisters also held instruction for country children in places surrounding Wynyard – Yolla, Henrietta, Sisters Creek, Moorleah, Myalla and Montumana.
Father Robert Kennedy 1950-1956
During his six years at Wynyard Father Kennedy built the Hall, which could be used as two classrooms on the Jackson Street side of the property. The Hall is currently used by the school as a Hall and Library. The school carried out an extensive refurbishment of the Hall in 1999-2000. This refurbishment included a completely new floor throughout, new male and female toilets, replacement of all windows and external doors with new aluminium.
Father Michael Flynn – 1956-1965
Father Michael Flynn served at Wynyard from November 1956 until March 1965. Father Michael Flynn added an Infant Block (now the Kindergarten) and a science room to St Brigid’s School. During Father Flynn’s time in Wynyard, Marist College was built in Burnie and this saw a decline in student numbers in secondary classes and eventually all secondary students travelled to Burnie for their Catholic secondary education and St Brigid’s catered for students from Prep to Grade Six. The Mother of God Church at Rocky Cape was built during Father Flynn’s time as Parish Priest.
Father Vincent Shelverton -1965-1982
Father Shelverton came to Wynyard as Parish Priest in 1965 replacing the very popular Irishman, Father Flynn. During Father Shelverton’s time in Wynyard, he farewelled the OLSH on 2nd December 1971 after their forty-nine years of dedicated service to the school, parish and community of Wynyard. Father Shelverton was known for his great kindness with the sick and dying. He was also known to speak his mind and to stand up for everything he believed in.
The Sisters of the Order of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart completed their work in Wynyard at the end of 1971. Sisters Alphonso, Winifred and Claver are pictured above. The Sisters were to go to Queenstown to St Joseph’s Catholic School. Pictured also are two former students, Sister Anne SSJ (Thompson), and Sister Luke SSJ (McMahon) and OLSH Sisters from Sydney and Queenstown Srs Baptisma, Hilary and Florine.
The OLSH Sisters’ missionary work of setting up a school was completed at the end of 1971. The Sisters had served 49 years of dedicated service to the Wynyard community and established St Brigid’s Catholic School. Father Shelverton farewelled the sisters and told them their work would be long remembered and appreciated in Wynyard.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph accepted responsibility for St Brigid’s Catholic School in Wynyard from 1972 until the end of 1983.
Sister M Mechtilde Dillon was the first Josephite Principal at St Brigid’s School in Wynyard when the Sisters of St Joseph took responsibility for the school in 1972.
Father Phillip McCormack – 1991-2001
Father Phillip McCormack was Parish Priest at Wynyard from 1991-2001. Father McCormack was fondly known as ‘Father Smiley’ and was a regular visitor to the school. During Father McCormack’s time in the Parish he worked with John Kirkwood, the Principal of St Brigid’s, in accomplishing the refurbishment of the Hall, Library and construction of two new classrooms opened in 2000. During Father McCormack’s time at Wynyard, the first Lay Principal, Mrs Kathleen Siggins was farewelled from St Brigid’s to take over the role of Principal at Stella Maris Primary School in Burnie. Mrs Judy Pakinga and Mrs Betty Hurst had short terms each as principal of St Brigid’s School and Mr John Kirkwood took over the principalship of St Brigid’s School in 1999.
OLSH Sisters Return to Wynyard
The sisters from the order, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, returned to the Wynyard area and once again resided in the Convent in 1992. They continued their work within the Parish, community and were frequent visitors to the school. In 1999, the sisters left Wynyard and returned to Sydney.
Father Arthur Shelverton
Father Arthur Shelverton was Parish Priest in Wynyard from 2001-2003
Father Bernard McFadyen sm
After many years of Dioscesan priests in Wynyard, Father Bernie McFadgyn SM, a Marist Father became Parish Priest of the newly formed combined Burnie-Wynyard Parish in 2003.
Father Tony Kennedy sm
2010 - 2012
In January, 2010, Father Tony Kennedy arrived in the Burnie-Wynyard parish as the second Marist Parish Priest.
Father John Girdauskas
Father John Girdauskas is current Parish Priest of the Burnie-Wynyard Parish. Fr John visits the school regularly and resides in Burnie.
The History of St Brigid’s School’s Founding Order - OLSH
Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
The first five daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart to arrive in Australia, set out from France by ship on October 22, 1884 and landed in Botany Bay, Sydney on January 31, 1885. Their destination was the missions of Oceania.
They were met by Fr Navarre, MSC who had come from Thursday Island to greet them, and by Fr Joly, a Marist who was waiting to take them up the Harbour to Villa Maria, the headquarters of the Marists. A small house on the property was placed at their disposal until they could have a convent of their own.
Also meeting them was a 19 year old girl, Margaret Sweeney, from Ryde, who became the first Australian Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Archbishop Moran offered a place to the MSC/OLSH if they established a parish and school. They accepted Botany. Four of the sisters were French, but one was Irish, Sister M. Xavier Ryan. Sister M. Xavier began a small school beside the church on Botany Road in April 1885. It was here that the work of the OLSH sisters in Australia began. They have carried out their mission in all states except Western Australia.
Margaret Sweeney was the first of many young Australian women to join the Daughters. Like her, these too often left our shores to work overseas. As well, almost 300 OLSH have gone to work in the Northern Territory.
Some of the places the sisters have been to include...
Papua New Guinea… beginning in 1887
Kiribati… beginning in 1895
South Africa… beginning in 1953
Philippines… beginning in 1968
Sudan… beginning in 1995
Japan… beginning in 1995
The sisters draw their inspiration from their title and delight to be called Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
The Founder gave the order the name to honour Mary. Mary gave Jesus his humanity. In this special relationship, Mary becomes for all time, the woman closest to the Heart of Jesus.
The title is quite a long title and they are often called by some other names, such as ‘OLSH’ sisters, or, since the Latin for the name is Filii Domina Nostra Sacro Corde they are sometimes called ‘FDNSC’.
Regardless of how sisters in the order are known, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart plays a large part in their lives. Sisters wear their medal with pride. They pray to her, trusting in her intercession.