175th Anniversary Celebration17th April 2014

Picture4@ St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne….

22nd March 2014

Grey skies, misty rain and the stiff breeze of a Melbourne morning could do nothing to curb the sense of excitement and expectation as the crowds gathered at St Patrick’s Cathedral at 10.00am on Saturday, 22nd of March 2014.

Delighted calls of recognition and reunions, the greeting of old friends and colleagues rose to a crescendo as all flocked into the Cathedral. Inside all was in readiness for the Eucharist of Thanksgiving as the combined choirs of St Columba’s and Catholic Ladies College were perfecting their notes, backed by Kevin Meese on the organ.

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The Planning Team and co-opted helpers were distributing Mass booklets and showing guests to their places and by 9.45am it was standing room only!

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The Pre-Liturgy opened with a lone trumpeter, Georgina from Catholic Ladies College, brilliantly performing a piece she had especially written for the occasion.  Sr Margaret Costigan, rsc gave the welcome to Country, followed by Sr Helga Neidhart rsc reading the story of the first five sisters’ arrival in Botany Bay in 1838 as St Columba’s College banners, bearing their names, were carried in procession by representatives of various ministries.

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Sr Teresita Marcelo, rsc carried a picture of Mary Aikenhead and Sr Gaye Reynolds, rsc lit the special 175 years Congregational candle as Sr Annette Cunliffe, rsc welcomed all present, expressing her and our gratitude to all – sisters, families, colleagues, and friends for their support over the 175 years.

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Promptly at 10.00am the choir and organ burst forth with the rousing chorus ‘Lift up your Hearts to the Lord ’ as the procession of acolytes and some 30 clergy led by Archbishop Denis Hart mounted the altar steps. Thoughtfully chosen readings were read by Sr Denise Hannebery, rsc and Sr Elizabeth Costigan, rsc, the responsorial psalm was beautifully sung by the cantor, Amelia from St Columba’s.

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Archbishop Denis Hart spoke warmly and sincerely of the influence and wide ranging impact that Mary Aikenhead’s spirit and charism had inspired over 175 years in Australia and in particular of the 125 years in Victoria. He spoke of his gratitude for the support he personally felt from Sr Annette and the Sisters in Melbourne. He dared to make a change to the well thought-out liturgy by moving the Affirmation and Commitment to the end of the Mass!!

Prayers of Intercession were read by Sr Loretta Bani rsc, Sr Colleen Jackson rsc, Sr Colleen McDonald rsc, Sr Amanda Nguyen rsc, and Sr Patricia Walker rsc. The gifts were carried to the altar by members of the Stapleton family led by Sr Joan Stapleton rsc representing the families of all the Sisters.

The lines for Communion seemed never ending but the choir and organ continued to inspire. The Sisters stood for the Affirmation and Commitment and as the applause died down the choir and organ again captured the mood with ‘Light a Fire on the Earth’.  As the Sisters followed the clergy procession, the congregation broke into thunderous applause which was amazing and truly humbling, and, as someone commented afterwards – ‘The applause said it all’!

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Brenan Hall at St Vincent’s Hospital, the venue for Morning Tea, was so popular and tightly packed, that many groups availed themselves of the adjoining Zouki Café for refreshments and more conversation and sharing of memories to conclude what all agreed was a wonderful day and a great celebration.

A special thank you to Sr Gaye Reynolds and her Planning Team and many others who so generously volunteered their talents and services.