Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Gunnedah (Part II)

This is the second of four posts documenting my recent visit to my Australian hometown of Gunnedah.

Above: St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Gunnedah – Saturday, September 23, 2006.

This is actually the second church to be built on this particular site. The first now serves as the nearby “church hall”. The “new” church was built in 1917 and was the church my family attended for over thirty years.

My parents were married here in 1959 (see below) and my brothers and I received the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation at St. Joseph’s. Funeral services for a number of relatives on my father’s mother’s side of the family have been held at St. Joseph’s – including, most recently, Dad’s mother (Nanna Smith) in October 2005.

The stained glass windows of the church are said to be unique in that they depict scenes, not of the life of Jesus, but of St. Joseph.

Above: My high school, St. Mary’s College, where “virtue is the way of life”.

St. Mary’s must be one of the few high schools with a cemetery as part of its front garden!

Across the street from St. Mary’s is the Catholic primary school of St. Xavier’s, which I and my brothers also attended. Both schools where
founded by the Sisters of Mercy in the late 1800’s. Many of the sisters are buried in the cemetery pictured above.

In the late 1990s, the Sisters of Mercy relinquished control of the college. It is now run by the
Armidale Diocese. From 1998-2001, Dad served on St. Mary’s first board of lay people. For two of those years he served as board chair.

Above: Next to St. Mary’s College is the convent of the Sisters of Mercy.

Above: My Year 7 high school photo was taken in the beautiful grounds of the Convent of Mercy in 1978. I’m in the back row, third from left. My cousin, Steven Wicks, stands next to me on my left.

Below: In the uniform of St. Mary’s College for my Year 10 school photo (1981). I remember I once got the strap in Year 8 for not wearing my school badge! Apart from this experience and a couple of others involving teachers who, in retrospect, should never have been in the teaching profession, my time at St. Mary’s was an enjoyable one.

Above: I’ve always loved the grounds and buildings of the Convent of Mercy. Dad did a great job “stitching” two photos into one so as to show the overall size and layout of this special place.

The building on the far left is now part of St. Mary’s College, which is situated just on the other side of it. The dark brick building on the far right is the McAuley Aged Care Facility. My great-grandmother, Emily Simmons (1892 - 1982), spent her last years here, and for many years in the 1990s and up until her relocation to Port Macquarie in 2002, Mum served as “recreational/activities officer” for the facility’s residents.

Above: A side view of the Convent of Mercy. Where Dad has parked the car is where my brothers and I would wait each day after school for Mum to pick us up!

Above: Mum took this photograph during a previous visit to the Convent of Mercy in 2003. I am sitting next to Sister Gemma Burke, former principal of St. Mary’s College, while behind us (from left) stand Sister Helen Baguley and Sister Eleanor Dawson. During high school, Sister Helen was one of my favourite Religion teachers. When living in Gunnedah, Mum was an associate member of the Sisters of Mercy.

NEXT: Gunnedah (Part III)

See also the Wild Reed posts:
Gunnedah (Part I)
One of These Boys . . .
A Lesson from Play School
Catholic Rainbow (Australian) Parents
The Bayly Family - July 2006 (Part I)
The Bayly Family - July 2006 (Part II)
The Bayly Family - July 2006 (Part III)
My Brother, the Drummer
Like Father, Like Daughter
A Rabbit’s Tale
Remembering Nanna Smith

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