Written by Amanda Murthy, photos by Jodi Longmire. Republished with permission from The Record.
It was fitting that in this year of St Joseph, foster-father of Jesus and patron of workers, that St Joseph’s School (SJS) in Northam gathered on Friday, 30 April to mark 50 years since the amalgamation of two Catholic schools, leading to today’s school becoming an iconic presence in its local community.
Established in 1889 by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition, SJS was the first Catholic school to exist in the Northam area.
In 1948, the Marist Brothers opened St Paul’s Boys School, and 1971, a decision was made to combine these two schools to become a co-educational primary and secondary school on two separate campuses.
The auspicious celebrations included a thanksgiving Mass celebrated by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB and concelebrated by Father’s George James and Konrad Gagatek at the school’s parish St Joseph’s Church.
Local guests joined in the auspicious event, as well as Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA) Executive Director Dr Debra Sayce, CEWA Director of Leadership & Employee Services Dr Tony Curry, Marist Schools Australia Regional Director Mrs Julie Ryan, Marist Brothers Brother Joe Hughes and Br Terry Orrell. From St Joseph of the Apparition, Sister Jacqueline Jones and Mr Egmont Milton, and the presence of former principal Mrs Carmen Cox, made the day even more meaningful.
St Joseph’s School Northam Principal, Andrea Woodgate, welcomed students, staff and guests at the start of Mass, with a message describing the journey and dedication of all those involved in the school’s success.
“Today we come together to mark two occasions, the blessing of the new buildings which have all been added over the last two years, but more importantly, to mark the 50th anniversary of the amalgamation of the two Catholic schools in Northam,” Principal Woodgate said.
“132 years ago, the first Catholic school in Northam, which is now the Secondary campus at which this Mass takes place, was established by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition.
“73 years ago, the Marist Brothers purchased Fermoy House and the area that is now the Primary campus, and that became St Pauls’ School for Boys from Year 5 to 10. Over time it became clear that it would be more sensible for the two schools to come together,” she added.
“In 1971 amalgamation of the schools became final. The decision was made to call the new entity St Joseph’s School so that it remained the same as the parish.”
Principal Woodgate went on to say that since then, the school has continued to flourish, assuring that “what it is today, is the result of many years of dedication and commitment by the people behind Catholic education in Northam and the Avon Valley.”
Archbishop Costelloe administered a blessing on the various areas of the primary and secondary campuses, along with crucifixes, offering his prayers that the crosses will “be a constant sign of our dedication to Christ and of God’s blessing on all those who use these rooms in the many years to come.”
“Lord Jesus Christ, who bade Your apostles to pray that peace might come on any house they entered, we entreat You to bless by our ministry this building destined for the education of the young. Bestow Your peace and blessing on it in full measure, so that its teachers and pupils may experience Your saving grace. We ask this through Christ our Lord,” His Grace concluded.