14 November 2012
Celebrating Dedicated Service
The Feast of Our Lady of Mercy is a good time to celebrate special Mercy occasions, and this year we celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Sr Immaculata Devine and McAuley House’s 105 years of Mercy education. On Saturday 22 September, the Sisters gathered at Iona Convent, Pretoria, for the first of the celebrations – Sr Immaculata’s sixty years of religious life. Immaculata’s two grandnephews were guests of honour, having made the journey from Limavady, County Derry, to represent the Devine family.
Sr Immaculata and her grandnephews, Lee and Michael Devine
Holy Mass was celebrated in St Columba’s Church, next to the Convent, and the celebrant was Archbishop George Daniel, emeritus Bishop of Pretoria. Archbishop Daniel had been a curate at St Columba’s when Sr Immaculata was teaching at Iona Convent. In his homily, he reminded us of all that Sr Immaculata had done for education in Pretoria and in the Winterveldt over her many years of teaching and he recalled how, in the 1970’s, Immaculata had been the first principal in Pretoria to open the school to all races. He also thanked her for her sterling work for Peace and Justice in the archdiocese.
Lee, Michael, Sr Immaculata, Archbishop Daniel, Sr Therese TAngney and Sr Evangelist Quinlan
The celebration was characterised by a lovely spirit of joy and simplicity. It was an inspiring moment when the jubilarian publicly renewed her vows in the presence of Sisters, family and friends. The second special occasion was on Tuesday 25 September, when a eucharistic celebration was offered to give thanks for McAuley House’s 105 years of dedicated education. In 1907, Bishop Millard requested the Sisters of Mercy in Mafeking to make a foundation in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The Sisters opened a school next to Holy Trinity Church and across the road from the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1964, it was decided to move the school to larger premises a few kilometres down the road. So Braamfontein Convent became McAuley House, now situated in Parktown West. Sisters of Mercy and lay teachers who had taught at McAuley House in earlier years were invited to join the present staff and students to give thanks for and to celebrate the 105 years of teaching and learning.
The Mercy Trees
During the Mass, each grade carried a “Mercy tree” to the altar. The trees were symbols of the school’s ethos and they were decorated with cards on which each child had written the work of mercy that appealed to her/him in a personal way. As the trees were carried forward the children promised to give all they have and all they are in the service of God, saying: “Lord, as we grow, may we help to build your Kingdom here on earth.” Each class also had a string of hearts which they brought to the altar. These hearts depicted the virtues in life. The children were challenged to look deep within their hearts at the values and virtues by which they live their lives. “Lord, help us your children, to base our lives on Gospel values.”
Strings of hearts depicting the Gospel values
It was a very moving and meaningful celebration and I was particularly impressed by the fact that none of the present staff had any place of honour. All of the staff – principal, teachers, office staff, kitchen staff and groundsmen all wore a McAuley House T-shirt, all had a role in the Mass and at the party that followed. The whole staff was acknowledged for the part each plays in the ministry of running the school.
The security guard (who made the Mercy Trees) and the sports teacher (who is an "old girl" of McAuley House)
I left feeling blessed and challenged.
Colleen Wilkinson RSM