St Joseph’s Gunnedah
Religious Communities throughout the Parish’s history:
3rd January, 1879 – Sisters of Mercy
The Sisters of Mercy first came to what is now the Armidale Diocese in 1879 to the “hamlet” of Gunnedah and established both primary and secondary schools. In subsequent years there were Mercy foundations throughout the diocese with new schools being opened up until 1956. Their schools were established before public education in a number of towns and, whilst they were founded mainly for Catholic students, right from the beginning they educated any child who could not get schooling, no matter what their religion.
The Sisters of Mercy from Singleton were invited to the Gunnedah Parish by Bishop Murray of Maitland (Gunnedah was then in the Maitland Diocese) and the Parish Priest, Fr Denis English. They arrived in Gunnedah on 3 January where “people of the hamlet, led by the Bishop of the diocese and the priest of the parish, the Rev Denis English, came out to the heights above the town to welcome the Sisters”. (1) A primary school was opened immediately with classes being taught in the gallery of the Church which was built in 1875. This primary school was to become known as St Xavier’s School, situated on the corner of Henry and Bloomfield Streets, Gunnedah. At the same time, in a small wooden four-roomed house named the Convent and rented at a pound a week, “a high school was opened, the room for this purpose during the day, serving as a dormitory (for the Sisters) at night.” (1) This high school would become known as St Mary’s College and had moved by the end of 1880 to a permanent brick structure on the block of land directly opposite St Xavier’s School. St Mary’s gave accommodation to the Sisters and girl boarders from the surrounding district.
(1) St Mary’s College Magazine 1929