School days: Teachers, parents and students celebrate 150 years of Catholic education at St Carthages Cathedral.
School days: Teachers, parents and students celebrate 150 years of Catholic education at St Carthages Cathedral. Jacklyn Wagner

Catholic education marks 150 years

IN 1860 the first Catholic school was opened in South Grafton with one room and only one teacher.

Today, celebrating 150 years of Catholic education, the Lismore diocese stretches from the Tweed in the north, Laurieton in the south and as far west as Dorrigo, according to director of Catholic schools in Lismore, Anne Wenham.

“We now have 47 schools, 17,000 students and 1,800 staff,” she laughed.

“So that’s a big increase of catholic education in the area.”

One of the biggest changes within the catholic school system that Ms Wenham noted, was the number of lay people teaching in the schools these days.

“Most of the schools had nuns, brothers and priests as staff and principals,” she said.

“If you walk into any parish school today, there are mainly lay men and women teaching.”

While Ms Wenham sees that as a significant change, the authority in the schools is still the same.

“Today we have built on the influences of the men and women who have gone before us,” she said. “When we look for new teachers, we want people who have that sound understanding on what the values and commitment of the Catholic Church has been built on and we commit to supporting our teachers in their ongoing professional developments and spiritual foundation.”

Today many non-Catholic families are also enrolling their children in Catholic schools.

“Certainly the priority is Catholic students but saying that, the schools are definitely open to families who aren’t Catholic,” Ms Wenham said.

“This is with the understanding that there is an openness to engage the teachings of the Catholic Church.”



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