Blessing and Opening 2013

​On Thursday 7 June the Most Rev Bishop Brian V. Finnigan DD and the Federal Member for Moreton, Mr Graham Perrett MP officially blessed and opened Penola Place (the library and resource centre), the St Mary of the Cross MacKillop Prayer Garden, the undercover area and five new classrooms.

Why is the library known as Penola Place?

Our new library is named Penola Place, after the town of Penola that is located 388 km south east of Adelaide, where the story of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop all began.

It was during 1861 that Mary MacKillop first met Father Julian Tenison Woods in Penola, South Australia. It was during this time that Mary MacKillop’s and Fr Woods’ dream began to found a new religious order to meet the educational needs of isolated and disadvantaged children.

Mary MacKillop, as an outstanding young teacher, established the first free Catholic school in Penola in 1866. Mary started teaching in a stable and then moved to the Schoolhouse, which today is a heritage building that people can visit.

It was also in Penola that Julian Tenison Woods and Mary MacKillop established their own order of nuns, the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The order, otherwise known as the ‘Josephites’ or ‘Brown Joeys’ continue to work with the poor and needy communities throughout the world today.

In 1938, 72 years after Mary first established the school in Penola, the Sisters of St Joseph opened St Joachim’s Catholic School for Catholic children living in Holland Park.

From Mary’s humble beginnings in Melbourne and then later to the establishment of a school in Penola demonstrated her great desire to do God’s will and help those in need. Mary’s beginnings and the hardship that the first sisters faced reminds me that education is not always about the buildings and facilities – it’s about building our capacities as parents and teachers to provide opportunities for our children to reach their full potential. The facilities and resources certainly help teachers educate the students, however of greater importance are the relationships formed, and guidance received to ensure students feel secure and safe to take their learning deeper and further each day.


Chris Thomas
June 2013