Since 1904 St Columbkille’s School has provided an education, founded in a catholic ethos, for the children of Corrimal and surrounding suburbs. From humble beginnings in an enclosed verandah of a cottage in neighbouring Midgley Street, the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus opened their first School in the April of 1904 under the direction of Sister Rosalia. At various times, the children were taught in the original Parish Hall – a wooden building, which was added to several times. When the classes became very large in 1954, Monsignor Downey rented the Church of England Hall, enabling Sister Joseph Phillip to teach there. This continued until 1960 when the main School building was opened. The southern extension was completed in 1968 and 2008 saw the completion of the refurbishment of the entire School. In 2010, the Convent was demolished to allow the construction of the Monsignor Downey Hall, which was blessed and opened by Fr Graham Schmitzer on 22 July 2011.

Alongside Religion and the ‘3Rs’, the Sisters were also renowned teachers of Music, having as many non-Catholic pupils as Catholics. They organised a major concert each year and the Parish archives state “…professionals couldn’t do better.” In addition to Infants and Primary students, the Sisters taught the Senior Girls until 1966 when the Josephite secondary school for girls, Holy Cross College, opened in Bellambi. In 1983 Holy Cross College amalgamated with St Paul’s College (until that time a boys-only school) to become the present-day co-educational Holy Spirit College. The last religious principal of St Columbkille’s was Sister Kerry Gardiner, who remained until the end of 1993, when Mr Michael Connelly took up his appointment as the first lay principal in January 1994.

Today at St Columbkille’s the legacy of these pioneer women lives on. The Staff continues to hold at its core the impetus of the foundress of the Josephite Order, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. She believed that the need to educate the children of the poor, be they spiritually, emotionally, academically or financially so, was to be the prime motivator. Our School’s Vision and Mission Statement, “Learning Together, Shaping Futures” reflects both this and the words of St Ireneaus – “The human fully alive is God’s greatest glory.”

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