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The College motto ‘Strength and Kindliness’ derives from the motto of Bishop Daniel Delany of Kildare (Ireland), who founded the order of the Sisters of St Brigid in 1807.

Our History

St Brigid, who lived in Ireland in the fifth century, was a woman of great initiative and faith, and her sense of compassion, social justice and generosity were legendary. Similarly, the life and work of the venerable Nano Nagle, the Lady with the Lantern, ignites a passion to challenge the unjust social and political structures that make and keep people poor.

At St Joseph’s College we hope to inspire students to live in the footsteps of Daniel, Brigid and Nano with courage and conviction.

  • Our Founding Story
    Our story… The St Joseph’s College story begins in 1886, when a group of brave young Brigidine sisters sail the treacherous seas from Ireland to Australia to establish Catholic education in Echuca. The Brigidine Sisters were founded in Tullow, Ireland, almost 200 years earlier by Bishop Daniel Delany who placed his congregation under the protection of Saint Brigid. St Brigid lived in Ireland in the fifth century and was a woman of great initiative and faith. Her sense of compassion, social justice and generosity were legendary, and those values continue to guide our way today. The journey begins… On 4 January 1886, Mother Borgia Hayden, Mother Benedict Moore, Sister Vincent Brennan and Sister Thomas Healy left their dear convent and their loved mothers and sisters in Tullow for their new and distant home in Australia. They had been invited to open a convent and school in Echuca by the first Bishop of Sandhurst, Bishop Martin Crane. The nuns were escorted to Dublin, and then on to London, before setting sail on the RMS Austral to Melbourne. The journey from London to Australia took two long months and on arrival at Echuca the nuns were enthusiastically welcomed by a crowd of 500 residents. The sisters took up residence in Apsley House, the former home of Henry Hopwood, the founder of Echuca. The birth of our school… The Brigidine Convent High School (as it was originally known) opened in the convent parlour in March 1886 with 8 pupils. Six weeks later the girl’s boarding school was opened. By the end of the first year student numbers had increased to 30 in the high school and 30 in the primary section of the school. In 1888, the extension to Apsley House began, and a year later the sisters moved into the new convent building. The hall and adjoining classrooms were built in 1894. In 1897, the fountain which adorns our front lawn was generously donated to the sisters and in September 1899 the memorial stone of the new convent chapel was laid by Bishop Reville. In 1940, a two storey wing of new classrooms was completed. These are the rooms adjoining the hall that currently house the consulting suites for our school social workers, staff offices and our VCAL classrooms. In 1960 the boarding house dining room was completed and by this stage our boarding numbers had grown to more than 60. The dining room is now commonly referred to as ‘the ref’ and is used by Year 12s as their common room. Primary students transferred to St Mary’s Parish Primary School in the 1960s when the primary section of the College closed down. In 1961 and 1967, the first science rooms were built on site, as well as additional classrooms. These rooms form part of the renovated section of Tullow. A second storey was added to these rooms and the College Library was housed in upstairs Tullow until the end of 1998. In 1982 portable classrooms were purchased and used as Arts/Music and Technology classrooms for almost 32 years, and in 1984 the Delany wing was built. St Joseph’s College ceased to be a boarding school in 1988, marking the end of more than 100 years of boarding at the site. In 1993, the convent (built in 1888) was refurbished and turned into the administration area and classrooms. By this stage the sisters had taken up residence in the set of units across the road at 1 Charlotte Street, Echuca. In 1996, the first lay principal, Bill Teggelove, was appointed, and two years later the building known as the West Wing was demolished and replaced by a two storey building named Tullow. The ground floor of this building now houses our Information Centre (Library) specialist Science classrooms and a Textiles room. In 2000, co-principals Rosemary Copeland and Bill Teggelove were appointed to lead the school, and so began a new form of joint leadership for St Joseph’s College. In 2003, Phillip Healy replaced Bill Teggelove as co-principal and six years later, in 2009, Kate Fogarty was appointed as co-principal to replace Rosemary Copeland. In 2005 the College purchased the property at 33 Dickson Street, now known as Cill Dara which is our Learning Enhancement Centre. This building has a number of small consultation rooms as well as larger rooms for group work. That same year, the Arts/Technology wing, known as Chanel, opened to classes in VCE Art, Visual Communication and Design, and Years 7-12 Materials and Technology. In 2007, building commenced on the second storey of the Chanel wing and classes in Food Technology, Creative Arts and IT Support commenced in February 2008. In 2011, our Science classrooms (built in the early 1960s) underwent renovation and significant modernisation – a reflection of the significant change in classroom pedagogy and technology. A number of open spaces were created and specialist ‘practicum’ facilities were introduced. Phillip Healy completed his appointment as co-principal at the end of 2011 and Kate Fogarty was appointed as principal from the start of the 2012 school year. In 2013 considerable planning was undertaken to design a new building for the College. The portables, erected in the 1980s, were removed and the original asphalt basketball courts and cricket nets were torn up. Work began at the end of 2013 to prepare the site for construction and in 2014 the College was left with a reduced yard whilst a major building operation was undertaken to prepare new learning areas for Health/PE, Allied Health and Music Technology. This multipurpose building was aptly named The Oak Centre and for the first time in a number of years the College had an assembly place where all students could gather together and be protected from the weather elements. Michael Delaney started as principal at St Joseph’s College in January 2015 – during the same year that we were also blessed to begin using our new Oak Centre. Setting foot on new ground… In 2018, a steering committee was established to investigate the future provision of Catholic education in the Echuca Moama district. Extensive research and investigations into our enrolment numbers, student demand and projected population growth in the Echuca Moama district culminated in a clear conclusion that our current site, already under pressure, would not be able to cater for the needs of our community into the future. The Brigidine Sisters have been offering quality Catholic education in the region for the past 136 years and it was important that we position ourselves to continue the Brigidine tradition well into the future. In 2020, 80 acres of greenfield land at 194 Mt Terrick Rd was secured for the provision of future education. The site, named Kildare Campus, has provided the means to prepare a facility that is state of the art and opens the doors to a future-oriented education for those who enter its gates. Building commenced at Kildare Campus in November 2021, and our first intake of Year 7 students commenced on site on July 10, 2023. Stage 2 works began in June 2023 and include a technology building, science classrooms, art spaces, canteen, sports oval, a new learning space and more learning enhancement provision. In 2024, Years 7 and 8 students will attend the new Kildare Campus, with landscaping works and play spaces to be completed that year. The campus will accommodate Years 7 to 9 from 2025, with preparation for Stage 3 Capital Works (including an indoor sports stadium, performing arts area and Chapel) expected to begin that same year. A major capital works project is also scheduled to take place at the Brigidine Campus (Dickson St) in 2024/25. Michael Delaney retired as principal of St Joseph’s College at the end of 2021, and Anne Marie Cairns commenced in the role as principal in 2022.
  • Brigidine Tradition
    The Brigidine Story begins in 1807 when Daniel Delany, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Ireland, invited six women to form a religious community in Tullow, Co Carlow on the first of February. He named them the Sisters of Saint Brigid, after the great 5th century Saint of Kildare. Bishop Delany’s legacy focused on: Priority for the gospel message of love; Eucharistic spirituality; The spirit of strength and kindliness and an expansive vision of education. Today, Brigidine Sisters honour Brigid of Kildare especially at their Solas Bhride Centre and Hermitages in Kildare where the 2018 Feile Bhride is currently being held. We also honour our Patroness through our prayer and reflective living and collaboration with all our Associates and colleagues in various ministries and places around the world. Inspired by the wonderful ancient legends of Brigid of Kildare and her striking example, we strive to keep alive Brigid’s flame of faith and hospitality. Like her, we too are impelled to have a concern for the poor and oppressed, and a deep sensitivity for and appreciation of God’s creation – the one web of life.
  • Daniel Delany
    In 1747, Daniel Delany was born to Daniel and Elizabeth Delany (nee Fitzpatrick) in Paddock, County Laois, in the Diocese of Ossory. The Delany and Fitzpatrick families were wealthy farmers, unlike the majority of Catholic families of the time. Such was the Ireland into which Daniel Delany was born in 1747; and such was the desolate, national miasma in which he spent his early years. Fortunately, his parents and his two exemplary aunts were firm Catholics. They passed on to the young Daniel the truths of the faith, the richness of his land’s traditions, and a deep thirst for knowledge. They also taught him to be sensitively aware of the sufferings that surrounded him in his native locality near Mountrath, in the county of Laois. In 1763, at the age of 16, Daniel Delany decided to become a priest. With the help of a good Protestant friend he was smuggled out of the country to a college in Paris to begin his studies for the priesthood. He earned a reputation for his intellectual brilliance and his marked sensitivity of disposition. In 1770, Daniel Delany was ordained a priest. Daniel returned to Ireland, disguised as a layman since priests were outlawed. Early Brigidine writings tell us that Daniel was shocked at the conditions that still prevailed in Ireland. Destitution, violence, lawlessness and crime were rampant throughout the country. There was widespread unrest as millions of landless poor struggled for the rights and privileges of practical ownership. The country was still fettered and unfree despite the relaxing (but not total lifting) of the penal laws. He was so appalled at the state of Ireland that he was tempted to return to France. However, his mother prevailed on him to stay in Ireland. Soon after arriving he was stationed at Tullow as assistant priest. Catholic education in Ireland had been denied to the people of Ireland since the 17th century; in consequence, much of the population suffered from poverty, hunger and drunkenness. Delany tried to bring back traditional Catholic education to the community. He started with the establishment of Sunday schools for the youth of Tullow.[3] He also formed a youth band to help teach his students hymns.[4] Soon older people of the community started to join these classes. In April 1783 Delany was appointed coadjutor to Bishop James O'Keeffe of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin,[3] choosing as his motto Fortiter et Suaviter. With some relaxation of the Penal Laws in 1782, many Irish priests including Bishops O'Keeffe and Delany worked to rebuild churches, monasteries, convents and schools. In 1782 O'Keeffe and Delany began planning for the establishment of a tertiary college for the education of both lay students and those studying for the priesthood. St. Patrick's College was originally planned for Tullow but in the end, had to be situated in Carlow, 15 kilometres away. O'Keeffe died in 1787 but he was able to witness the beginning of construction. It was left to Bishop Delany and Fr Henry Staunton of Carlow to finish the college. For financial reasons, it did not open until 1793, with Staunton as its first president. St. Patrick's, Carlow is the oldest surviving Catholic tertiary college in Ireland preceding St Patrick's College, Maynooth by two years. In 1784, Delany organised a procession through Tullow for the Feast of Corpus Christi. He also decided to start ringing the Angelus bell, which hadn't been done for a century. This caused some consternation, with Bishop O'Keeffe, concerned it would lead to trouble.[4] With the death of Bishop Keeffe in 1787 Bishop Delany was appointed Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin on 17 February 1788. Sometime after 1794, his mother died, leaving him all her property. Delany invested a portion of this property and the interest went to charities. Delany also distributed prayer books to children on the day of their first communion. He started a circulating library[4] and was responsible for the building of a church in both Tullow (1805) and Mountrath (1810). In 1807 Delany refounded the Congregation of St. Brigid, the Brigidine Sisters, and in 1808, the Congregation of The Brothers of St. Patrick in Tullow, County Carlow. In the convent gardens, Delany planted an oak sapling from Kildare. Today many of the Brigidine communities have an oak tree growing from the seed of an oak tree in Kildare. Bishop Delany died on 9 July, 1814. He had been seriously ill for some months and was being cared for by the Brigidine Sisters in their convent. He is buried in his Tullow church.[3]
  • St Brigid
    St. Brigid was probably born in Kildare in Ireland about 1500 years ago. Many Irish claim she was born in Faughart and there are shrines in both places. Our tradition favours Kildare and this is where we have re-established a community in recent years. Irish hagiography names her as an early Irish Christian nun, abbess, and foundress of several monasteries including a monastery for women and men in the monastic city of Kildare (Cill Dara, the church of the oak). Brigid is also known as: Woman of hospitality; Woman of the hearth; Woman of Justice; Woman of Peace; and Woman of the Earth. She is known and honoured as Mary of the Gael. Brigid’s father was Dubtoc (Duffy) and her mother was Broicseach. Brigid was genetically programmed to be a superb organiser of people. From her aristocratic father she inherited an autocratic, domineering attitude that got things done. From her working class mother she had the gift of the ability to communicate understandingly with the rank and file. She understood their problems and knew what practical help was needed. Brigid was a unique woman of her times, an abbess, who had a say in the appointment of bishops. Her monastery in Kildare became known as an important centre of hospitality, culture, education, healing and worship in Ireland and beyond until the suppression of abbeys in the 16th century. The Kildare church was neither contemplative nor penitential. It was an outgoing, practical church concerned with people and their material, as well as spiritual, needs. St. Brigid founded this tradition. She would visit a pagan household and while talking to the farmer’s wife – in a friendly way – about Christianity, would at the same time show her how to make good butter and discuss poultry and bee-keeping. Brigid was not confrontational. Her attitude was live and let live – and the gradual, peaceful penetration of deeply rooted pagan customs and cults and their gradual Christianisation, bringing the people with them peacefully. St. Brigid infiltrated and took over: The Cult of the Well – St. Brigid’s Well; The Cult of the Fire – the Fire Temple recently restored and relit; The Cult of the Oak (the sacred pagan tree) – Kildare, the Church of the oak; And the pagan sun symbol – a Christianised form is the St Brigid’s cross. The feast of St. Brigid, 15 February, was Imbolc, the beginning of spring. We can see the astonishing ability of Brigid to assimilate aspects of the past, adapt them and project them, alive and vibrant, into the future. As a person, Brigid was active, practical and generous. Her Christianity could be described as applied Christianity: people should be cared for. If they need help, help should be provided. So many stories can be told about how she helped people. She was a peacemaker. She was sensible and down to earth. Brigid’s monasteries were finally suppressed in the 16th century.
  • Aboriginal History
    Two tribal clans, the Yorta Yorta and the Dja Dja Wurrung lived along the grassy waterways of this region to hunt, fish and gather food across territory defined by tribal language, and bounded by geographical features such as forests, rivers and creeks. The Yorta Yorta people occupy a unique stretch of forest-wetlands that are located in what is now known as the central Murray – Goulburn region. Traditional Yorta Yorta lands lie on both sides of the Murray River roughly from Cohuna to Albury / Wodonga. They include Echuca and Moama. Being river based people, most of their time was occupied by fishing, as the majority of food that was provided came from the rich network of rivers, lagoons, creeks, and wetlands which are still regarded as the life source and the spirit of the Yorta Yorta Nation. The Yorta Yorta Nation is made up of clans and family groups including: Kaitheban Wollithiga Moira Ulupna Bangerang, Kwat Kwat, Yalaba Yalaba Ngurai-illiam-wurrung. The arrival of Europeans, had a devastating impact on traditional groups such as the Yorta Yorta. Within the first generation of European settlement in the area, the Yorta Yorta population of some 5-6000 was reduced by 85 per cent. Their ability to survive as a people is an amazing example of the strength and courage of past ancestors and a sad reflection on the mindset and brutality of the perpetrators of the scale of destruction that took place within such a short period of time. The remaining Yorta Yorta population and other tribal groups from neighbouring areas were eventually relocated at Maloga Mission on the New South Wales side of the Murray River in 1874. Maloga was eventually closed and the residents were relocated at Cummeragunja Mission in 1888-9 which became the place where the Yorta Yorta was able to regroup after the destruction that took place. Cummeragunja Mission provided a base for the development of what became the Aboriginal political movement in the 1930s led by some of Australia‘s outstanding Indigenous political leaders like Uncle William Cooper and many others. For Aboriginal people, relationship with the land is at the centre of their lives. Our country is their mother; in a sense our country is them. At St. Joseph’s College we acknowledge that this land is sacred, it is a gift, and that it is thousands of years old.
  • Nano Nagel
    As our Brigidine tradition becomes one with the traditions of the Presentation Sisters we endeavour to learn more about the role of Nano Nagle, as a woman of great courage and a woman of the Cross. In 1775, Nano Nagle and three similarly inspired women, founded a religious community in Cork in Ireland, to continue Nano’s work in education and outreach. The community later became known as the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (pbvm). Nano had earlier established secret schools for poor children in Cork, at a time in Ireland when access to Catholic education and employment was limited by the penal laws. By challenging the unjust social and political structures that make (and keep) people poor, her hope was that education would enable the children to engage more fully with life. In addition to her schools, Nano visited the sick and elderly in their homes, often by lantern light, offering loving, practical care and comfort. This was a unique and dangerous thing to do. As our journey unfolds as a Kildare Ministries school, we will work to engender the values of Nano Nagle.
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