“If I could be of service in saving souls in any part of the globe,
I would willingly do all in my power”
Nano Nagle's life of prayer, her concern for her people, her courage and perseverance inspired and enabled her to establish schools and support other works of charity for those who were poor and oppressed. She recognised the importance of education and so she trained the children to be witnesses to the faith so that wherever they went they would proclaim the Good News.
In 1775, Nano Nagle and three women who shared her vision came together as the Sisters of the Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart, later renamed the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM). Growth of the congregation was slow but steady. The number of foundations in Ireland grew and foundations were also made in Newfoundland, England, India, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
More than a century later, Mother Joseph O’Connell left Cork for Geraldton on 21st May 1891. At the invitation of Bishop Matthew Gibney, nine Sisters embarked on the SS Orient to realise Nano’s dream in a vast and distant land. The Sisters landed at Albany and travelled 55 weary hours by train to Perth.
After a short rest they boarded the SS Australind at Fremantle, where they spent three days getting tossed around on the stormy water before setting out on the last leg of the 24 hour trip to Geraldton.
By this time the port of Geraldton had become a prosperous town due to wool and grain exports and mining from Northampton nearby. On arrival the nuns assumed responsibility for the school that had been kept open for them by the Sisters of Mercy and commenced work the very next day. It was the beginning of a long, successful and continuing presence of Presentation Sisters in schools within the Geraldton Diocese.
During the next 78 years, a further 21 schools were opened: Geraldton 1891, Northampton 1899, Roebourne 1901, Greenough 1902, Lawlers 1903, Carnarvon 1906, Sandstone 1909, Goomalling 1912, Mullewa 1914, Mt Magnet 1915, Youanmi 1918, Wiluna 1933, Nanson 1939, Bluff Point 1940, Wonthella 1940, Tardun 1941, Port Hedland 1942, Big Bell 1949, Wittenoom 1956, Beachlands 1963 and Rangeway 1969.
Originally they taught from a school site in Marine Terrace. Eventually, in 1902, they moved to a site between the Cathedral and the Convent. The Stella Maris Presentation College foundation stone was laid in 1911 and the first wing of the school was completed in the same year. The College catered for girls from primary school age to those preparing to sit the Entrance Examinations for the University of Adelaide.
In 1843 the first Christian Brothers travelled from Ireland to Sydney and in 1894, at the request of Bishop Gibney, a Perth Bishop, the Christian Brothers came to Western Australia. In 1926 they came to Geraldton and that same year, opened St Patrick’s College in Bayly Street and St Patrick’s Junior College in Cathedral Avenue.
On 21 November 1969, Presentation Day, a Decree was presented to unite the Presentation Congregations of Geraldton and Perth into one Congregation with the head house and novitiate being at Iona, Mosman Park. This would be known as The Congregation of the Presentation Sisters of Western Australia.
Presentation Sisters are called to encounter God in the heart of the world and to continue the mission of Jesus in the spirit of our founder Nano Nagle. Like Nano we are called to keep our hearts open to the cry of Earth and the cry of those living in poverty, voices which challenge us to conversion and action both personally and communally.
St Francis Xavier Primary School
The school was officially opened on February 13th 1978. Prior to the formation of St Francis Xavier, students attended either St Patrick’s Junior College or Stella Maris Junior School. These schools continued their association with St Francis for several years after its foundation.
The initial enrolment of St Francis was 225 children from Years 5 – 7 under Principal Sister Mary Agnes Griffin. The first buildings on site were the present senior block, the administration building, which was used as a classroom as well as administration, and a number of temporary demountable classrooms.
The enrolment in the school increased over the following three years and by 1981 St Francis Xavier catered for Years 1 -7. The formal association with St Patrick’s and Stella Maris ended but the Presentation Sisters continued their involvement in the school as Principals until 1996 when Paul Hille became the first lay Principal.
The junior classrooms, music rooms, library and canteen were opened in 1980. The Year 6, 7 and pre-primary classrooms were opened in 1990. When Pre-primary changed to full time enrolment in 1994, a new room was built and in 1999 the kindergarten extension was added.
The administration area was upgraded in 1995 and in 1996 the computer room was opened. The latest stages of building saw the undercover area constructed in 2000, library extensions in 2002 and the multi-purpose room built in 2005.