By Paul Dobbyn
QUEENSLAND’S religious men and women and their tireless efforts to educate the state’s young people for more than 150 years have been celebrated in an historical display in Brisbane.
The display, a series of three plaques opening with the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in Brisbane in 1861, is mounted on the walls of the Queensland Catholic Education Commission office in the St Stephen’s Cathedral precinct.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge blessed the plaques in a ceremony attended by representatives from various religious institutions and QCEC leaders on July 29.
Archbishop Coleridge in his speech referred to “a mysterious and prodigious fertility celebrated in these plaques, which is the fertility of God which is endless”.
Among those present were Catholic Religious Australia Queensland president Sisters of Charity Libbey Byrne, CRAQld executive officer Mercy Sister Mary Lowcock, Brisbane Sisters of Mercy congregation leader Sr Catherine Reuter and QCEC leaders including executive director Mike Byrne.
Brisbane Bishops Brian V. Finnigan and Joseph Oudeman were also present.
In his welcome, QCEC chair Professor Peter Sheehan said the display captured “the narrative strength” of the story of Queensland’s dedicated religious men and women.
Prof Sheehan said the historical display “was a God-given opportunity” to recognise their work.
Mr Byrne said the project had arisen as QCEC looked for a special way to celebrate last year’s 50th anniversary of CRAQld.
“Today, in just a little way, as QCEC, we say a big thanks to you all,” he said.
“It’s our privilege here today to celebrate the great story of Catholic Education in Queensland.”
Mr Byrne also referred to “the humble beginnings” of many large Catholic schools in the state.
“It’s amazing where our story has come from to where our story is today,” he said.
Sr Byrne opened her comments by asking those present to call to mind the face of one of their teachers.
She then recited a self-penned poem, celebrating an ageing teacher reflecting on a life of hard work from a very young age, dedicated to high standards of education and faith.
“The face of God that we see, the story which we enter, is the story of those religious who have gone before us,” Sr Byrne said.
She also reflected how “when we’re teaching the young, we wonder if we’ll make a difference”.
Murgon-born Sacred Heart Sister Philomene Tiernan, recently killed in the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, was given by way of answer.
“Sister Phil is being talked about throughout the media,” Sr Byrne said.
“This gives some understanding of just what one religious has been able to achieve … the ripple effect from her life.”