Religious orders in new educational initiatives

Sydney Dominican Sisters have donated a pricey Sydney convent to an educational program for disabled children as the Jesuits are launching a new pedagogical partnership between two Victorian Catholic colleges.

Dominican Sisters at Wahroonga on Sydney's North Shore are giving up the chance to profit from the real estate boom by donating their heritage listed convent to a Catholic school for use as a creative arts centre and classrooms for disabled children, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

After nearly 50 years, the sisters have moved out the convent named Prouille after the French village where the order was founded.

"It was a very large building that was getting rather ramshackle and we decided two years ago to move the community out of there," the Sydney prioress of the Dominican sisters, Sister Rosemary Lewins told the Herald.

"We will be giving St Lucy's the right to redevelop it. It's always a wrench from history and some people lived there for a good many years, but it's good it's remaining for the use of the children, and the order will remain on as stewards."

The sisters' gift is part of an emerging trend among religious congregations says Catholic Religious Australia president, Fr Mark Raper.

"It's important to note the Dominican Sisters are alive and well," Fr Raper said. "There are 29,000 around the world and they are one of the bigger groups that are flourishing. But times are changing, too, and needs differ in different places."

A public appeal is under way to raise $3.5 million for the convent renovations. The Sydney architect Alex Tzannes has drawn up plans for new drama and music rooms, classrooms and a dance space. The plans also preserve the grand oak staircase and the chapel, and will set up a museum documenting the order and the school's shared history.

Gailene Keen, the school's development officer, said the convent's new facilities would be put to good use.

"St Lucy's starts from the premise that all children, and especially ours, are whole. They are children who have different gifts. They might never be doctors or lawyers but they have much to offer. Usually language is a barrier to development but through arts, drama and dance they learn to express themselves and so they learn to communicate. In the arts there is no right and wrong, not like in literacy and numeracy."

Geelong Catholic Regional College gets new Ignatian identity

Meanwhile, in Victoria, Fr Raper, who is also Jesuit Provincial for Australia, welcomed another innovative program involving a partnership between Catholic Regional College (CRC) at Drysdale, near Geelong, and the Jesuit Xavier College in Kew, Melbourne, the Province Express says.

Catholic Regional College, which is a coeducational high school with nearly 700 students, seeks help to focus and foster its Catholic identity, and sees that Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit educational vision will be a means to this goal.

In implementing this aim, CRC will be renamed to reflect this relationship. The proposed new name will be Saint Ignatius College Geelong.

Xavier College, founded in 1878, undertakes to assist CRC to implement a Jesuit style of education, known as the Ignatian pedagogy. Xavier sees reciprocal benefits for both Colleges in this arrangement.

While the partnership does not disturb the governance arrangements of each school, collaboration is expected on curriculum and ethos development. There will be common programs of staff development and occasions for exchange between the students of each college.

Mr Michael Exton, who has been the Principal of Catholic Regional College since 2005, in welcoming this agreement, said "This new partnership can only bring benefit to the College and to the students and families associated with it."

Fr Raper said: "Ignatian pedagogy is a rich heritage and we are happy to share it. Through such a partnership we can also learn from our association with a wider section of the Catholic and educational communities."

"We have asked all our Jesuit schools to reach out to sectors of society, to people with whom they would not normally have contact, and to share what they do best, namely their educational expertise, and their desire to form young people in their faith," said Fr Raper.

"I congratulate Xavier College for their readiness to respond to this request, and I welcome CRC Geelong as a partner school.'

In a new role, convent will ring with children's voices (Sydney Morning Herald, 17/11/06)

New education initiative (Province Express, 15/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Regional College, Drysdale, Victoria
Xavier College, Kew
Holy Name Parish - Other Schools and Orders

17 Nov 2006