At the age of seventeen Joan McMahon entered the Good Samaritan Novitiate at Pennant Hills on July 2, 1938, and was given the name of Sister Mary Pius. Sister Pius made her first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience on January 4, 1941. After a period of teacher training she taught at St Scholastica’s College for twenty years – supervising boarders when the school day was finished and studying for her Arts degree which was awarded externally from Armidale University in 1962. In 1962 she was appointed to Narrabeen to take charge of the new Catholic secondary girls’ school (Mater Maria) at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School at Narrabeen. She oversaw the building of the College at its present site in 1964 where she remained for the year. In 1965 she was transferred to Victoria and taught at Koroit and Hamilton. Over the years she was appointed principal roles in numerous schools and was recognised as an outstanding figure in Catholic Education in the Melbourne Diocese. In 1975 she was found to be suffering from cancer. She died on April 23, 1975, at the age of 54 and in the thirty-seventh year of her religious life.
Father Amiel Joseph Sobb was ordained in November 1929. After serving as a parish priest during the 1930s and on the front lines in New Guinea during World War II, he took an appointment as parish priest in the newly created parish of Narrabeen in 1946. A parish, which in those days included the areas of Collaroy Plateau, Terrey Hills and north to Palm Beach. He wholeheartedly developed the Catholic church on the peninsula, assisting in the construction of the Avalon, Terrey Hills and Collaroy Catholic churches and the development of Catholic schools including Maria Regina, Sacred Heart and our own Mater Maria. In 1979, Father Sobb celebrated his Golden Jubilee as a priest, for which Mater Maria students performed a wonderful concert. Father Sobb was an important part of the pioneering team who assisted in the development of Mater Maria from its foundation to his death in 1982. Father Sobb died aged 77.
Mrs Pauline Byrne was the longest serving staff member of Mater Maria. Mrs Byrne taught English throughout her thirty-three years and during this time was a strong advocate of public speaking and debating. The Pauline Byrne Award for public speaking and debating is a perpetual trophy that is presented each year at the Presentation of Awards evening to a student who has achieved well in these areas. The Byrne Theatre is representative of the past and present staff members of the College who are actively committed to educating Mater Maria students.
Mr John Ducker was a long time friend, parent, benefactor and supporter of Mater Maria Catholic College and an active member of our Catholic community during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. John was the founding chairperson of the Mater Maria College Council, which first convened on July 25, 1990 and represented a significant step in the College’s development as an educational community. His son was the first male College Captain of this College in 1984 and his grandchildren have been students of this community. On November 29, 2005 John passed away. John is fondly remembered by this community for his visionary commitment and spirit in the consolidation and development of Mater Maria Catholic College.
Born in 1896, Norman Gilroy left school at thirteen years of age to work as a messenger boy. After serving in the First World War he entered the priesthood. Later he went to Rome to study, returning with a Doctorate in Divinity. He became Bishop of Port Augusta in 1934, Archbishop of Sydney in 1940, Australia’s first Cardinal in 1945, and, in 1969, the first Cardinal to be knighted since the Reformation. In 1964, Cardinal Gilroy opened the College (essentially the Gilroy Building and the original Convent in 1964). Gilroy is best remembered for his advocacy of state funding for non-government schools and his involvement with the Ecumenical Movement. One of his proudest achievements was arranging the first Papal visit to Australia in 1971, just prior to his retirement. At Sir Cardinal Gilroy’s funeral in 1977 the then leader of the Opposition, Gough Whitlam, described him as a ‘prince who never forgot his priesthood’. Cardinal Gilroy died aged 81.
Mater Maria Catholic College is on the lands of the Guringai people. The country of the Guringai people stretches from north of Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson) to the Tuggerah Lakes area. The boundary between the Guringai and the Darug to the west of Sydney seems to be Port Jackson and the Lane Cove River. The Guringai have walked their country for tens of thousands of years acting as custodians of their country, in the relationship with all living things. Today Guringai people can be found living all over Australia with a few Guringai people remaining within their traditional boundaries. Whilst this may be so, connections to the land remain at the heart of Aboriginal people’s spiritual relationship to their country.
Sister Mary Honorius Fitzmaurice, christened Kathleen Morris, was born in Scotland in 1913. In 1927 she moved with her family to Australia and settled in Balmain. In Balmain she came in contact with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and attended school at St Scholastica’s. On July 9, 1932, she was professed as SisterMary Honorius and completed her teacher training at St Scholastica’s Training College. Her first appointment was to the Secondary School at St Christopher’s at Manuka, ACT. In the years following she taught at Nowra, Moruya, Lawson Charters Towers, Wilston and Coffs Harbour. She was Principal at Lawson, Queanbeyan and Mater Maria Catholic College (from 1967 to 1977). She played an important guidance role in the development of the College especially in seeking grants for capital programs and was the Principal who saw the building and opening of the Fitzmaurice Building – the new science laboratories and library in 1974. She retired to Canberra in 1981 but in September 1985 moved to Polding Villa because of continued ill health. She died peacefully in her sleep on February 18, 1996 aged 82 and in the sixty-seventh year of her religious life.
Sister Therese Marie Fleming was the founding principal of the co-educational school of Mater Maria. As Principal from 1978 to 1984 and also a music teacher during her time at the College, Sister Therese Marie developed special needs education at the College, enrolled the first boys, oversaw the construction of the Guringai, Ducker and Amiel Buildings, commenced the building of the Bush ‘log’ Chapel and developed educational exchange tours to Japan. Today, Sister Therese Marie is based at Charters Towers in Queensland and serves the rural areas of Northern Queensland, teaching students about learning technologies and continuing to educate in light of gospel teachings.
Mater Maria Catholic College is on the lands of the Guringai people. The country of the Guringai people stretches from north of Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson) to the Tuggerah Lakes area. Recognising the local custodians of this land, Marana (merani) in the Sydney aboriginal dialect means: first or to be first garabara (car-rib-ber-re): dance, a method of dancing.
Patrick Lawrence Murphy was born on October 28, 1920 in Eastwood NSW. He was ordained as a priest on July 22, 1944 for the Archdiocese of Sydney and after spending 42 years serving the Archdiocese of Sydney including Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney (1977 – 1986), Bishop Murphy was ordained the inaugural Bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Broken Bay on May 28 1986 by Cardinal Edward Clancy. His ministry was always characterised by a deep commitment, hard work, and patient perseverance. As the first Bishop of the Diocese of Broken Bay, Bishop Patrick Murphy DD represents the bishops of our Diocese and opened this building in 1990. He remained Bishop of Broken Bay until 1996 and died following a long illness on March 18, 2007.