By HARRY CLARKE
A PROUD country Catholic school with “probably every religion you could imagine” represented among its students will celebrate the remarkable milestone of reaching 100 years next weekend, with a large gathering and reunion of current and former students, teachers, parents and friends.
St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Chinchilla has three days of centenary celebrations beginning Friday August 18 with the opening of new classrooms and a time capsule, a school fete, a formal dinner, a special Sunday mass and the launch of a new school song.
Joey’s began as a parish school in 1923 with just 33 students and was staffed by two sisters of St Joseph.
Today the school has just shy of 300 students and 34 staff, who are lay teachers as opposed to representatives of the Catholic Church.
“Over the last five years, especially, we’ve grown, and we’re now pretty much a two-stream school (two classes in each year level) all the way through,” said Principal Melissa Hobson (pictured).
“Coming from just a couple of sisters right back at the start to having 34 staff is unbelievable. That change (in the early 90s) from having all of our religious staff leading the school to lay people was a massive change for the community.
“For me, having come here to the school and to Chinchilla five years ago, it’s the community that makes this school great.
“The minute you walk into this town people are welcoming. At the school, parents straight away are talking to you, telling you what they love about this school. Our parent involvement in this school is unbelievable.
“When you walk into the school you can feel those hundred years. We’ve got parents, grandparents and great grandparents who went here, or their children went here, and they share that history.
“We have parents in here every day, whether they’re in the classrooms or helping with assemblies, it is a fantastic little community. I love it.”
Although Joey’s is no longer a school for Catholics only, Hobson said the school remained proud of its religious heritage and traditions.
A guest of honour at next weekend’s centenary celebrations will be Sister Ann, who was the school’s last Catholic sister or brother to serve as principal.
Leading a special mass on Sunday August 20 will be the school’s incoming bishop, Bishop Ken Howell.
“One misconception about St Joseph’s is that, because we’re a Catholic school, you need to be Catholic to go here, but that’s not correct,” Hobson said.
“Probably every religion that you can imagine is represented here which, for us, is a real bonus because it encourages acceptance of difference and that’s what we want in the world.
“The other big change from even 20 years ago is a change in the cultural diversity of the school. We now have so many different cultures and languages that are part of the school.
“We encourage people to share that so that we can get to know each other.”
Joey’s Chinchilla – 1983 vs 2023 (slide to view)
Next weekend’s centenary celebrations will begin Friday with the official opening of the library extension and four new classrooms by Vicar General Fr Franco Filipetto, followed by an afternoon tea and tours of the school.
Guest will also hear the first rendition of a new school song, written in conjunction with the school by renowned primary school music educator Josh Arnold.
On Saturday a fete will be held on the school grounds with a full day of family activities and entertainment, followed by a ticketed dinner at the Chinchilla RSL Memorial Club.
The celebrations will culminate on Sunday 20 August at Our Lady Help of Christians Church with mass and morning tea.
St Joseph’s Deputy Principal Samantha Jaeger (pictured) said extensive preparations of the centenary celebrations had been led by the school’s hardworking and committed Parents & Friends Association (P&F).
“We’ve had a lot of the help from staff and the Parents & Friends Association, especially Steph Davies – she’s put in a lot of effort with the organising of the fete and the organising of the dinner and getting a lot of things together to support the school and help,” Jaeger said.
“The P&F paid for the Josh Arnold video and for the display banner, they do a lot of fundraising for the school and contribute to lots of things throughout the year.
“Whatever we need, we know we can go to them and they will will help us out. They’re just a great group of really supportive parents with great initiative.
“We can’t wait to host everybody next weekend.”
For my information about next weekend’s festivities visit the St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Chinchilla official website.
FROM THE ST JOSEPH’S SCHOOL CAPTAINS:
I like Joey’s because it’s a great school. We do lots of fun things and it’s fun to come here.
It’s pretty fun to make friends here. They’re all nice and encouraging and they just help you with everything. They’ve always got your back.
I like how everyone is caring and kind. They’ll come up to you and say “hey, do you want to be friends? You can play with me”.
I think it’s amazing that the school is 100 years old. It’s old and there’s a lot of change that’s happening. I enjoy everything about going here. The teachers are nice.