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St Mary’s College celebrates return to co-education for Bicentenary

George Al-Akiki
George Al-Akiki
George Al-Akiki is a junior multimedia journalist at The Catholic Weekly.
St Mary’s Cathedral College Principal Kerrie McDiarmid and former student Patricia Sumner celebrate the school’s Bicentenary with Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
St Mary’s Cathedral College Principal Kerrie McDiarmid and former student Patricia Sumner celebrate the school’s Bicentenary with Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Patricia Sumner hopes the new generation of girls starting at St Mary’s Cathedral College in 2025 will enjoy the same unique experience of education and faith as she did, 70 years ago.

The former prefect of the class of 1953 recalls striding past the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park, making her way into the cathedral, taking a moment to pray before walking down past the presbytery and into the playground.

The 86-year-old alumni was surprised to discover that Catholic education at St Mary’s would celebrate its bicentenary by returning to co-education for the first time since 1967.

Her family’s connection to the college covers off half its 200-year history; her father also attended the college during the 1920s.

Though a few things might have changed since 1824 or even 1953, Patricia believes the college will give another generation the same memorable education she received.

“Regardless of changing religious orders, changing times and the changing educational landscape, St Mary’s continues to maintain the uninterrupted education of kids from all over Sydney, and I think that’s a big achievement,” Patricia said.

The college’s return to co-education was celebrated by students, parents and guests, including Patricia, during the St Mary’s Cathedral College Bicentenary Opening Mass on Wednesday 7 February, alongside new plans for female choristers and K-12 learning.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP presided at the Mass, and blessed and lit a new bicentennial candle to mark the beginning of the latest chapter in the school’s history.

“There’s adventures in many spheres of life, and education is undeniably one of them,” the archbishop said.

“All individual adventures of Christians are ultimately connected, all subplots within the great divine drama.

The college’s return to co-education was celebrated by students, parents and guests, including Patricia, during the St Mary’s Cathedral College Bicentenary Opening Mass on Wednesday 7 February. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
The college’s return to co-education was celebrated by students, parents and guests, including Patricia, during the St Mary’s Cathedral College Bicentenary Opening Mass on Wednesday 7 February. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“All are important actors in that great story, children of God in need of salvation, but also blessed and exalted.

“Boys of St Mary’s and soon girls as well, principal, staff and friends: yours is a holy adventure—a pilgrimage—and you are blessed to have St Mary, Help of Christians, as your tour guide.”

Sydney Catholic School has purchased an additional campus on William Street, a short walk from the existing campus and cathedral.

Principal Kerrie McDiarmid honoured the students who have made the college’s 200-year history into a “living tradition that continues to unfold with hope and purpose.”

“As we welcome young women once again into our college and expand our school across two campuses, we are reminded of the importance of the journey ahead and all those who will be architects of a legacy that resonates through the corridors of St Mary’s Cathedral College.

“In this historic moment, let us, like Mary, say ‘yes’ to God, say ‘yes’ to encounter and ‘yes’ to a future filled with a commitment to truth, goodness and beauty.”

Head of creative and performing arts at St Mary’s, Michele Marshall, who has taught at the college for over 30 years, said she is excited about “absolutely everything” that the bicentenary has brought with it.

“It feels like a more balanced, well-rounded education that takes into account even more aspects of educational life than before,” Michele told The Catholic Weekly.

“If we can plant the seed of faith and spark the curiosity of even more students, our education system will only improve from that and send more children on the adventure of life.”

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