Let us give our all to Christ - Sacred Heart College New Town 130th anniversary Mass

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Let us give our all to Christ - Sacred Heart College New Town 130th anniversary Mass

The beautiful Catholic church at New Town was built in 1880 and it was dedicated under the patronage of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Eight years later on Sunday, April 29, 1888, a school building standing alongside the parish church was blessed by the Parish Priest, Fr Phillip Hennebry. It was likewise dedicated under the patronage of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The school opened the following day. It consisted of one classroom, 50 feet long and 24 feet wide. It cost 601 pounds to build.

It is interesting to note that the teacher at the school was a laywoman, Miss Reynolds. As the numbers of students grew, two assistant teachers were employed in 1892. One of these assistant teachers, Ethel Saye, would later join the Sisters of St Joseph.

Fr Hennebry was no doubt proud of his small parish school and when he was farewelled from New Town in December 1888 he said:

"This school has been built that your children may be provided herein with an education that will mould their hearts as well as cultivate their intellects; an education that will carefully impress upon their tender minds the duty of obedience, truthfulness, honesty, gentleness, reverence; education that will fit them for the duties and responsibilities of this life, and for the rewards and glories of the next.
Catholic education is always about the formation of the whole person, especially the spiritual dimension as the inspiration to the cultivation of virtue."

During 1906 and 1907 negotiations were held between Archbishop Daniel Murphy and Sr Mary Hyacinth Quinlan, the then Sister Guardian of the Sisters of St Joseph.  The result of these discussions was that in early December 1907, the Sisters of St Joseph moved into Sacred Heart Convent to make preparations to commence teaching at the parish primary school the following year. Thus began a chapter whereby the students at Sacred Heart were taught and formed in their faith by our own religious congregation founded by Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop.

New Town would become the centre of the order in Tasmania, the place for the novitiate and training of the Sisters, many of whom had their first classroom experience at Sacred Heart School.

This school is named “Sacred Heart”. Indeed, it was the first school in Tasmania to be given this title. Where did this name come from? In fact, I notice that there are quite a number of churches and schools across Tasmania dedicated to the Sacred Heart. I can think of Geeveston, Newstead, Ulverstone, and Ringarooma. Ross and Mangana have churches dedicated to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

It is worth noting that the full name of the Sisters who taught in this school from 1908 to the year 2000 is Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. This full title reflects an important element in the spirituality of St Mary MacKillop.

Both St Mary Mackillop and her co-founder, Fr Julian Tenison Woods, grew up in a time when devotion to the Sacred Heart was one of the hallmarks of Catholic spirituality.
The strength of this devotion generally in the Church is reflected in the fact that churches built in that era had two side altars – one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and one side altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart in the Church at that time was particularly inspired by a series of apparitions of the Lord to a French nun, St Margaret Mary Alacoque, in the town of Paray-le-monial in France, which began in 1673.

During the octave of Corpus Christi in 1675 she had a vision which became known as the "great apparition". In this vision the Lord said to her, "Behold the Heart that has so loved men so much ... instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part (of mankind) only ingratitude..." and the Lord asked Margaret Mary for a feast of reparation on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi. Today is that feast, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This appeal of the Lord to St Margaret Mary struck the hearts of many men and women of faith in the centuries that followed – Mary Mackillop and Julian Tenison Woods among them. The Lord was declaring the depth – indeed the fire – of his love for humanity and yet saying that he received so little love in return.

This appeal of the Lord stirred the heart of Mary Mackillop. She explained her own response to these words saying, “And with this burning appeal of the Sacred Heart came such a rush of longing desire on my part to be Its lover and Its true child that, at a glance, the falseness of the world appeared before me; the beauty, the pity and the generosity of the Sacred Heart in this loving appeal could not be resisted.” Her own response to this message shaped her faith and the spiritual vision of her life. 

Mary Mackillop heard a call from the heart of Christ and she responded with her own wholehearted desire to give all to Christ. This was the spirit of our first saint. This is why the Sisters have the title of Sacred Heart linked to their name.

Today, as we celebrate this anniversary of the founding of Sacred Heart College New Town, let us celebrate too the spirit that has animated this College. Let us discover afresh the depth, the fire, of love that abides in the heart of Jesus. Let us lift up our hearts as our own response in love to Jesus, who loves us so much.

In the heart of Jesus is a love for humanity that is beyond imagining. The image of the Sacred Heart has a flame above it – the fire of the love. The image of the Sacred Heart has a crown of thorns around it – the suffering this heart is willing to endure. The image of the Sacred Heart is pierced – from the heart flowed blood and water which the ancient Fathers saw as reflecting the sacramental life of the Church.

When we contemplate the image of the heart of Jesus which was revealed to St Margaret Mary, we are drawn to realise that this heart not only loved but was prepared to suffer. The heart of Jesus is finally revealed at Calvary.

Mary Mackillop knew this. As she contemplated the heart of Jesus she was drawn to see the world around as shallow and false. She saw a love that attracted her and inspired her. She experienced a love that led her to give over all to Christ.

In the spirit of St Mary MacKillop let us, each of us, give our all to Christ.

Archbishop Julian Porteous.
Friday, June 8, 2018