This year has been one of consolidation for the Loreto Normanhurst Archives. The bulk of the collection has been entered into a specialised database called “Archive Manger”. The use of this program enables more efficient management of the school’s records and artefacts. Consequently, time can now be given to a variety of tasks including research and advocacy. For example, this year a comprehensive record of all the winners of the Music Festival since its inception in 1972 has been completed.
This year at whole school meetings, staff have enjoyed learning about IBVM Sisters who have helped to weave the story of Loreto Normanhurst. These women were dedicated and courageous people who should be honoured for their commitment to educating and caring for their students. In Term 2, we learnt about Mother Crescentia, and I share her story with you here.
Mother Crescentia was a brave woman who came to Australia all the way from Ireland in December, 1900 to become a Sister of the IBVM. She taught English Literature, French, Music and even Etiquette. During the Depression, Mother Crescentia worked very hard to build up student numbers at Cooparoo. One method she employed was to wait at the school gate each morning, greeting parents and girls walking past as a strategy for encouraging new students to join the school. She also managed to win the State ‘Casket’ after a former student from Marryatville sent her a ticket. Mother Crescentia actually won first prize and gave the 5000 pounds to the school. It was used to construct a new 3 storey building which is to this day, known as the ‘Casket Building’.
Throughout her time at Normanhurst, Mother Crescentia became known for her story-telling skills. When blackouts occurred during war time, she often found herself caring for girls doing their lessons. She would pass the time by drawing on her Irish heritage, telling the girls spell-binding ghost stories until the power came back on. It is said that her cautionary tales would often begin with ‘Close the door! Shut the windows! Nothing I say is to go out of this room! I knew a girl once who….’ Mother Crescentia remained at Normanhurst until she died at the age of 74 in 1955. She is buried in the bush cemetery on the school grounds.
In 2016, Sister Frances Browne IBVM has been engaged in a number of issues. Primarily, she has been working on the life of Mother Clare Birrane IBVM who was the Superior (Community Leader today) of Loreto Normanhurst from 1948–1954 and in 1961, and the Bursar and Assistant Superior from 1971–1986. During her first years as Superior, Mother Clare upgraded the Loreto Junior School, built the Senior School classrooms in 1952 and the Chapel of the Sacred Heart in 1953. The classrooms which she built are currently the offices of the Administration staff which is known today as the Birrane Wing. During her time as Bursar, Mother Clare’s office was beside the Boarders’ Dining Room where parents, teachers and nuns visited very frequently. She was an amazing person who helped many families with financial assistance and was a trusted advisor to all who knocked on her door. Much of the information on Mother Clare has come from other Loreto Sisters, ex-students, research through old Loreto Magazines, newspaper articles, own memories of her and the small pieces of information which she had written down for various reasons.
Sister Frances was also invited to the Year Seven Traditioning Day and also to the Primary School to talk to the girls about the long history of this challenging and justice-orientated school. In addition, time has been spent finding information for former students who are looking for photos of their their mothers or grandmothers. Sister Frances also assists staff members and students with any historical matters they might request.
In 2017 the Loreto Normanhurst community will be celebrating 120 years of transforming young girls into independent, articulate and compassionate women of integrity. Consequently, there will be many more opportunities ahead to celebrate the lives and stories of the women who have become an integral part of the unique fabric that is Loreto Normanhurst.
Mrs Rowena Curtis
Records Manager and Archivist