St Patrick's Marist College Dundas Principal Paul Ryan (right) with Student leaders at the unveiling of the sculpture of Br Ludovic at St Patrick's Church Hill for the Sesquicentenary of Marist Education in Australia. Image: Marist Brothers Australia/Supplied
The 150th anniversary of the opening of the first Marist Brothers’ school in Australia was celebrated in Sydney on Friday.
On Friday 8 April 1872, the first Marist Brothers’ school in Australia was opened at St Patrick’s at the Rocks in Sydney. Four Brothers formed the staff: a Frenchman, Br Ludovic, 29, was leader; an Irishman, Br Jarlat, 25, was his assistant; a 21-year-old Scotsman, Br Augustine, was teacher of the top class; and another Irishman, Br Peter, 25, was the cook. In 1962, the school was relocated to Kirby Street, Dundas, where it is now known as St Patrick’s Marist College.
The Marist presence in Australia began in 1837 with the arrival of the first missionaries to Oceania from France. Over the coming decades, Archbishop Polding, senior clergy, and committed lay leaders were unwavering in their efforts to ensure families and the growing number of children in the colony were afforded the choice of a quality Catholic education. After some years of negotiation and advocacy by the Marist Fathers and the esteemed Archdeacon John McEncroe, the first Australian Marist school became a reality.
Last Friday, 150 years later to the very day, after midday Mass, the Marist Fathers marked this historic moment in Catholic education in Australia, unveiling a sculpture commissioned to honour the contribution of the Marist Brothers and all associated with their schools. Within metres of the site of the very first Marist school, the image of Brother Ludovic now gazes across the courtyard of St Patrick’s Church.
Br Peter Carroll FMS Provincial Marist Brothers unveils a bust sculpture of Br Ludovic at St Patrick’s, Church Hill. Image: Marist Brothers Australia/Supplied.
Later that evening, Archbishop of Sydney, Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP celebrated Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral together with the Archbishop of Melbourne, Bishops of Paramatta and Wagga Wagga as well as Auxiliary Bishops, and Priests from around the country, many of whom were educated in Marist schools. They were joined in person and online by Marists and their partners in Catholic education from 19 Dioceses throughout Australia, to give thanks to God for the many successes achieved over the years with the constant support and protection of Mary our Good Mother.
Marist Brothers are seen attending the Mass of Thanksgiving of the Sesquicentenary of Marist Education in Australia at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney. Image: Marist Brothers Australia/Supplied.
In marking the sesquicentenary of the Marist Brothers in Australia, it is important to reflect with honesty on the tragic abuse of children that is an inescapable part of the Marist history. It is openly acknowledged that religious as well as lay have committed crimes against children which have caused enormous pain and often lifelong effects. The Marists have apologised for these actions both privately and publicly. This apology is enduring and is given unreservedly.
Today, 56 schools are members of the Marist network, educating 50,000 students across 19 Dioceses in remote, rural, regional, and metropolitan Australia.
Prayer for the Sesquicentenary Year
God of love Your Spirit ignited the heart of Saint Marcellin Champagnat with a burning passion for God and deep compassion for all people.
You called him and the early Marists to bring this message of God’s tender and all-embracing love to the young and especially those most in need.
Generations have been inspired by his example of humility, simplicity and audacious courage to form good Christians and citizens through the Catholic education of young people.
We pray with Mary our guide and Good Mother that you continue to bless us and all committed to Marist education with Saint Marcellin’s spirit and heart that knew no bounds.
May it renew the whole Church in its mission to make Jesus Christ known and loved, in Mary’s way, through spreading Your compassion and love to the ends of the earth.