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This 100-year-old rural Queensland Catholic school has only 67 students and they’re all delightful

Sea of green: Young and old gather in for a centenary crowd photo.

IN 1919 St Joseph’s School, Gayndah opened to 56 students and this year it taught 67, but don’t let its size fool you – St Joseph’s has a big heart.

It was on full display at its centenary celebrations across the weekend of September 13 to 15.

Principal Terese Shephard said being at a small school meant you got to know the students on a different level than at a larger school.

“It’s a beautiful community, beautiful campus and the students are just delightful,” she said.

Brisbane Auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell celebrated the school centenary Mass for about 200 people, with Fr Adrian Farrelly concelebrating.

The weekend was a panoply of events.

Friday was wine and cheese, Saturday was a family picnic and Sunday was the centenary Mass.

One curious element across the weekend was a school history room set up with photos, memories and roll books going back to 1919.

“People spent a long time in there going through their memories,” Ms Shephard said.

“One lady went in and saw the piano and opened it up and started crying because that was her memory after school – going there for her piano lessons. 

“It was lovely hearing all the stories of past pupils.”

Included among those at the festivities were Good Samaritan Sisters, including Sr Monica Armstrong and Sr Margaret Barry – who was a student before she joined the Good Samaritans.

Past and present: Past principals Liam Dougherty, Lawrie Knott and Sr Joy (Edith), and current principal Terese Shephard at the 100-year celebration.

Ninety-two-year-old Joy Mary, known as Sr Edith when she was the last Good Samaritan Sister to be principal, was also there.

“I think it’s extremely important (to celebrate the centenary),” Ms Shephard said.

“One of the Good Samaritans said to me … how grateful they were to be mentioned in the school song and the school prayer.

“Their charism, their spirit, as the founders of the school lives on and certainly, speaking to past pupils and families, this school still holds a very important part of their life. 

“There was a lot of connecting and emotion around the weekend for those returning students, which was lovely to see and be part of. 

“I had a lady comment to me as she was leaving the Mass, she said you don’t know me at all but this has been lovely and so important for us to come back and connect with each other. 

“That was lovely to hear.”

And the Gayndah students were leading from the front, making up the Sunday Mass choir.

Centenary Mass: Brisbane Auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell celebrated the school centenary Mass for about 200 people with Fr Adrian Farrelly concelebrating.

Ms Shephard said she was grateful for how the community supported the event.

“We had parents here from 7am on Saturday morning to 4pm on Saturday afternoon,” she said.

“Everyone was just jumping in and doing and working without having to say anything. 

“The community came together and just worked as a whole.”

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