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Woody Point’s first Catholic school had a miraculous start 50 years ago

Proud parents: Rhonda and Terry White with a photo from the early days of Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, Woody Point.
Photo: Emilie Ng

OUR Lady had a miraculous hand in laying the foundations for Woody Point’s first Catholic primary school 50 years ago.

Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School was built on land bought by the suburb’s parish priest Fr Jim Henry, who had an interesting use for Miraculous Medals.

Terry White Chemists group co-founder Rhonda White, who was a Woody Point parishioner for 12 years, said Fr Henry used Miraculous Medals to help him buy blocks of land within the parish borders, including the plot used to build Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, now known as the Woody Point campus for Southern Cross Catholic College.

“The land the school is on now, he bought – he bought it block by block by block – and what he used to do is when he wanted to buy a block of land, he’d sneak over at night and he’d bury a medal of the Immaculate Conception (Miraculous Medal), and then he’d go to the agent, offered the money he wanted to and he told us, that every time the Mother Mary worked for him,” Mrs White said.

Although Fr Henry hadn’t planned on using the land for a school, he was convinced to hand over a plot of his miraculous gift to start Woody Point’s first primary school through a “tactical” exercise initiated by Redcliffe legend Fr Bart Frawley.

Mrs White and another mother were included in Fr Frawley’s plan, after he heard the two mums were unable to send their children to St Bernadette’s Catholic school in neighbouring Scarborough.

Mrs White had already put her eldest child Anthony, who is the chief executive officer of Terry White Chemists, through St Bernadette’s but was told she couldn’t enrol her second child because they were outside the parish boundary.

Fr Frawley, later a monsignor, called Mrs White and asked her and another mother to share their rejection with an auxiliary bishop, hoping he could convince Fr Henry to offer some land for a new school.

“The big plan Monsignor had at the back of his mind was all those children would go back to Woody Point area,” Mrs White said.

The meeting with the bishop eventually produced enough ammunition to convince Fr Henry to part with one of his blocks of land so the local children could be educated in the area.

Fr Henry was given the honour of naming the school, choosing Our Lady of Lourdes, the title for the Marian apparition through which Mary revealed herself to a French peasant girl as “the Immaculate Conception”.

The school opened in 1968 with two classrooms converted from an old army shed, and principal Sr Patricia Buckley with support teacher Mrs Kennedy.

Mrs White’s husband, Australian pharmacy icon Terry White, helped build the fence surrounding the school, and he pitched in to build the oval for the football team.

He was also founding president of the school’s Parents’ and Friends’ committee.

The primary school was eventually amalgamated into Southern Cross Catholic College in 1995.

Mr and Mrs White will return to the site of Our Lady of Lourdes primary school to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary next month. “That was really a marvellous time,” Mr White said. “People got together and did things together.

“There was a spirit of community.

“Everybody put the shoulder to the wheel.”

The Whites sent all five of their children through the school.

“I wouldn’t have thought of going anywhere else,” Mrs White said.

“Catholic education still today plays a huge role; all my grandchildren are at Catholic schools and I would expect that of them.”

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