Since the foundation of the Society of the Sacred Heart in Australia in 1882, education in Schools of the Sacred Heart has been a strong element of our mission and ministry, evolving to meet changing times.
In May 2013, the then Provincial, Joan Pender and her Council commenced looking into the future governance of our Sacred Heart Schools in Australia. They asked Sister Elizabeth Dodds – a Religious Sister of Charity with a long and wide experience of governance – and three RSCJ – Rita Carroll, Diana Hayes and Anne McGrath – to form the Australian Schools Governance Working Party. Their mandate was to explore various options of ensuring the life of the Schools into the future. The Working Party drew upon the skill and expertise of many people. Meetings were held to communicate with key stake holders including RSCJ.
The outcome of this process over a three year period was the decision taken by the Provincial Council to apply to the Vatican to establish a Pontifical Public Juridic Person called Sophia Education Ministries. This new entity would take the responsibility for the governance of our three Australian Schools – Kincoppal-Rose Bay in Sydney, Sacré Cœur in Melbourne, and Stuartholme in Brisbane. With endorsement by the General Council, approval for Sophia Education Ministries was granted by the Vatican on 21st November 2016.
Legal complexities and a different system of education precluded Baradene College in New Zealand from being part of this process at this time. However the four schools continue to form the ANZ Network of Sacred Heart Schools.
During 2017-2018, an Implementation Committee was formed with the multi-faceted task of planning the establishment of Sophia Education Ministries. A search began for potential Directors for its Board. A significant number of people participated in a strong formation programme. Individuals were invited to discern their willingness and ability to serve on the Board, in the immediate or longer term future. After a discernment process, the Provincial Council appointed the Directors.
Six years on from the initial step, we are blessed with six faith-filled Sophia Directors who are gifted both personally and professionally. Peter Pritchard is Chair, with the other Directors being Rita Carroll rscj, Marie Leech, Elizabeth McClintock, David O’Donnell, and Jacquie Shanahan.
The public handover ritual was held within the celebration of the Eucharist in the chapel of Kincoppal-Rose Bay on 5 May 2019. Lynette Toohey, as Provincial, formally commissioned the six Directors:
reminding them that they stand proudly in the tradition of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, Saint Philippine Duchesne and a long line of Sisters of the Sacred Heart and other educators who have sought to serve God faithfully;
calling on them to be persons who will ensure the Formation to Mission of the Schools and their growth in faith;
asking that, as Sacred Heart Educators, they may learn to ponder the qualities of the Heart of Jesus in silence and reflect these qualities in the lives of all whom they meet.
The commissioning ceremony and the formal acceptance by the Directors were witnessed by RSCJ, Directors of the School Boards and School Principals, lay colleagues who had participated in the formation programme, Directors of a Provincial Board, Sacred Heart educators from the three Schools, representatives of the two university Colleges previously administered by RSCJ. Kincoppal-Rose Bay staff, and students led the singing.
The Provincial Council -- Lynette Toohey, Diana Hayes, and Kathleen Muirhead -- gave the solemn blessing that concluded the Eucharistic celebration and presented a gift to each Director: words of Sophie, framed simply and beautifully to guide them in all their undertakings – Courage and Confidence!
May they move forward with courage and confidence, knowing the trust we have in them as we share our charism and mission and as they respond to the call of the Spirit through Vatican II for the laity take up their role in the Church.
Sophie said in her time: "Times change and we must change with them." Sophia Education Ministries is new life emerging – in the ANZ Province, in the Society, and in the Church.
Anne McGrath rscj