Celebrating 120 years of Loreto Normanhurst Education
Libby Rogerson ibvm is Deputy Chair of the Loreto Normanhurst School Council. She currently serves on a number of not-for-profit Boards, is coordinator of the Loreto Sisters JPIC and Community Leader of the Normanhurst Community. Loreto Normanhurst had the honour of Libby launching the 120 Inspirational Loreto Women book and opening a new room at the school recently:
It is a great honour and privilege to be launching a book and opening a room.
Rooms like this evoke memories and it is books that store the memories and recount them in stories, reflections and reminiscences. Richard Flanagan, in his recent novel, said that “words are cages in search of a bird.” The words encaged in this book tell of a myriad coloured birds who have done so much to enhance the world through their studies, their creativity and their service.
This room is wallpapered with the dreams and aspirations of young women who, in earlier days, sat in serried rows of desks studying and in later years who sang, played instruments, waited on tables and looked forward to life beyond its confines. If it is wallpapered with dreams it is wrapped around with the faith and service of countless generations of Loreto Sisters who followed Mother Gonzga’s rainbow dream of setting up a school which “would give the talented daughter of a poor man as good a chance of distinguishing herself as the daughter of a rich man.”
The young Irish sisters, who left, never to return to their country, homes and families, to bring education to Australian girls, had a depth of faith and an abiding love of God which is embedded in these very walls. If I could single out one of these, Sr. Kevin Maye, who left her village in County Sligo to enter Loreto, volunteered for Australia and worked in the Boarders’ Dining room for 45 years. Her years of service spanned the time between when my mother was at school here and when I and my two sisters came as boarders. In all the years I knew her she never raised her voice to a child and, consequently, became the recipient of their tales of woe, their homesickness and their troubles. A life of service unequalled by many but honoured by Maye house here at Loreto Normanhurst.
The walls of this room and the accounts of all the amazing women who passed through these walls span the more tragic shards of history? How many Sisters, how many young women stood here and heard of the deaths of their fathers and brothers in two world wars? How many young women had their dreams shattered by the depression and left here, perhaps wreathed in shame? The Sisters were living absolutely frugally and I know my grandfather helped them on occasions.
Out of these tragedies new hopes were born and we see them played out in the extraordinary work and service highlighted in this book. From oceanographer to playwright to judge and rural nurse these women, to paraphrase Mary Ward, truly in their time did and do much. Australia and the world are the better for their extraordinary gifts and talents – gifts not reserved for themselves but given to others in myriad ways.
This beautiful book is a series of snapshots of the lives of a mere handful of teachers, board members, sisters and students who were and are part of the rich tradition of Loreto Normanhurst. But I want you to spare a thought for the many whose lives are not recorded but who have done much for their families, workplaces and communities – some well-known, no doubt, to people here. And we must never forget those caught up in the messiness of humanity, who won’t be written up in any annals – their griefs, tragedies and failures are just as much part of the weft and warp of this school’s fabric.
Loreto Normanhurst is a wonderful school, one I am immensely proud of – happy, vibrant, inter-weaving all the best of education, creativity and sport with a deep spirituality and an abiding commitment to the values of freedom, justice, sincerity, verity and felicity. The staff of the school do their utmost to help the girls appreciate the privilege of a great education and their consequent responsibility to work for those at the margins. In my experience the girls are quick to respond. An example – the Loreto Sisters have a second house in Mt Pleasant Avenue and for months we had an asylum seeker family in residence – they moved on and the house was empty for some weeks. Last week I had a call from the House of Welcome they were bringing two homeless Sierra Leonian girls, one 8 months pregnant, who had been sleeping on a concrete floor in a garage. While the house was reasonably Ok it hadn’t been lived in for some time – I had a million things to do. In desperation I rang the school requesting detainees, none at that time, but a call would go out for volunteers. And at lunch time over came a bevy of beautiful girl volunteers who vacuumed, dusted, made beds and one even volunteered to cook! They were soon followed by the Director of IT who tuned the television, a skill I am completely devoid of, and sorted out the wifi. This is justice in action and I have on innumerable occasions been tremendously grateful to the students and staff of Loreto Normanhurst for the support they give my myriad social justice activities. These girls are following in the footsteps of the wonderful women brought to our attention in this book.
The tangled vine of 120 years of history will continue entwining generation, after generation of students, staff and parents building on a strong faith in a loving God, the values of Mary Ward, the vison of Mother Gonzaga Barry and the commitment to an education, which of its very essence, sets out to form young women who will engage with the world intelligently, creatively and critically. Using all this to bring justice and hope to our world.
It gives me great pleasure to launch this book – testament to the 120 inspirational women who have done much to make the world a better place.
To order your copy of the 120 Inspirational Loreto Women Book please click here.
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