FROM its impoverished beginnings in one room of a convent to a chorus of 800 voices overflowing a cathedral 90 years later, the story of Brigidine College, Indooroopilly, has been one of strength and gentleness.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge celebrated the college’s 90-year anniversary Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral on February 8, with Dominican Father Pan Jordan, Fr Neville Yun and Fr James O’Donoghue concelebrating.
Principal Brendan Cahill, who has been with the college since 2003, said the anniversary Mass was an excellent moment for the college community to unite in prayer.
“It was just a wonderful opportunity, not only to welcome everyone, but to start the year in a positive and outstanding way for the college – to talk about milestone, talk about legacy, and the future,” Mr Cahill said.
Brigidine Sisters from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria were at the Mass.
With them was a 92-year-old woman who went to Brigidine College in its early years.
Mr Cahill said her daughters and granddaughters all went through the college.
During the Mass, college captain Trinity Waller spoke about the history of the college.
“We acknowledge that our college walks in the footsteps of St Brigid, Bishop Daniel Delaney, the Brigidine Sisters and educators that have gone before, and whose dream has gone before us,” she said.
“By living the Gospel message, they ignited the light of faith and learning.
“They inspired us to dream new dreams.”
Although Brigidine College began only months before the Great Depression and at a time when women rarely schooled into later years, the Brigidine Sisters never gave up on their vision.
By 1943, the college presented its first two candidates for senior certificates.
The college struggled until 1961 when the sluggish enrolments took an upswing after the completion of a new building.
At the heart of this story was a commitment to overcome “bad systems”.
In his homily, Archbishop Coleridge said bad systems historically withheld Catholics from receiving an education, from rising out of poverty and from breaking the powers oppressing them.
“So what we want is a way out (of the bad system), not more deeply into the problem,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“That’s why we’ve got Brigidine College and any school that bears the name of Catholic.
“So what is the power? What is the strategy that will break the power of the bad system?”
Archbishop Coleridge said the answer was heard in the words of St Paul – the love that was poured out into the hearts of people by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:1-5)
“What is the only power that will ever break the power of the bad system – the revolutionary answer is the love of God,” he said. “Who would have thought of that?
“Does it sound trite? Does it sound vapid? Does it sound moralising?
“If it does, then listen with fresh ears.
“We are talking about the greatest power there is; the only power that’s greater than death. The love of God has been the engine of Brigidine College down through 90 years.”
Mr Cahill said Catholic education was at the heart of the Brigidine story.
“That’s the way it began over 200 years ago, (and) that’s the way it continued here in the 1920s,” he said.
“To alleviate poverty, to alleviate your difficulties in life, education was the key to that. That’s something that resonates still today.”
It was something that resonated through the “bad systems” that still existed.
“These days it’s about young women being provided the opportunity through education to make their place in the world, to get their opportunities in the world for later on,” Mr Cahill said.
“These days we talk about opportunities for women, we talk about the injustices made towards women and things that can be unfair at times.”
Mr Cahill said being strong and gentle, the words of the school’s motto, was an interesting dichotomy in a lot of ways.
“It’s through consistently being gentle and connected that gives you a real strength of purpose,” he said.
The significance of the event was also marked by something crooked – literally.
In Irish folklore St Brigid is said to have been appointed a bishop and is often depicted in art and imagery holding a bishop’s crozier.
Craftswoman Caroline Smith, who the school came in contact with while on a Kildare Ministries Pilgrimage in Ireland, crafted the anniversary crozier.
It was made from 90-year-old River Red Gum and Tasmanian Oak, each indicative of the college’s roots.
Other events are planned throughout the year to mark the 90-year anniversary including on Brigidine Day in July, an arts event in August and a gala ball for parents in September.
Alongside these events is a project called 90 stories in 90 years, bringing college alumni into the life of the anniversary.
Photographs posted on Facebook accompanied by stories throughout the year will be collected into an electronic book at the end of the year.