Genazzano College FCJ, Kew, Melbourne, Australia Celebrates 125 Years
Coming together to give prayerful thanks
It was with great joy that the Genazzano FCJ College community celebrated its 125th Anniversary Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday 27 February. Archbishop Denis Hart and concelebrants Fr Brendan Reed, College chaplain, and Fs Tom Renshaw SJ and Werner Utri led the congregation, comprising 1100 students, staff, FCJ sisters, family, friends and alumnae in a Eucharistic thanksgiving for all that the school has been in its long and heralded contribution to Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Principal Mrs Patricia Cowling spoke of the legacy of the Sisters Faithful Companions of Jesus under whose vision the school was founded in 1889. The college theme for 2014 is 125 years: Faithful to Our Charism Today and Beyond. This theme encapsulates the importance of the spiritual inheritance handed on by the Venerable Marie Madeleine D’houët who founded the Society in France in 1820. This special charism is to be found in the four gifts of poverty, humility, obedience and gentleness which are the hallmarks of the Society. The strength of the FCJ charism is what the College looks to as it continues to educate young women in the Ignatian tradition; those very young women who will build the next generation of the Church and who acknowledge their debt to all those who have gone before them. Mrs Cowling reminded those present of the special link between Genazzano and St Patrick’s Cathedral, both of which were designed by the Gothic revivalist architect, William Wilkinson Wardell.
In his homily, Archbishop Hart revisited the history of colonial education and the call to Europe by the Jesuits for the FCJ Sisters to educate young Catholics. The first twelve sisters arrived in 1882 and the establishment that would become Genazzano was founded in 1889 in the lush countryside of Kew. He reminded the students that they must think about who they can become. The archbishop spoke of how young people can make the world anew if they use their gifts with integrity and in the service of others. He spoke of the enriching model of servant leadership which can be seen in the activity and demeanour of Pope Francis. The archbishop congratulated and thanked the FCJ sisters and their lay collaborators for their ongoing spirit of endeavour in education. He referred to the school motto Fidelis, a reminder of being faithful to God, to others, and to oneself. He gently exhorted the students not to be afraid and that they should take up the challenges of the future, to live out the joy of the gospel and acclaim “the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
Sr Judith Routier FCJ, Province Leader of Asia-Australia, responded graciously to the archbishop. Sr Judith reminded the congregation of the importance of the continuation of Marie Madeline’s D’houët’s charism and the special collaboration with the laity to carry on her vision and mission. She echoed the archbishop’s sentiments when she quoted the foundress who, when referring to a young girl wrote: ‘how much I want her to become all that she could be’. Sr Judith thanked all those families over the years who had entrusted the education of their daughters, and sons, to the sisters and lay staff. She reminded us of the love of Gen that spans the generations.
As a faith community, such milestone liturgical celebrations are reminders of our tradition and our continuity as a people of God. As the Genazzano community continues this year to celebrate its FCJ history and to reach out in new ways to a changing world we are reminded to look for the blessings of growth and knowledge and an awareness of God’s presence in our lives. The recessional hymn, We are Called, summed up the sentiments of those committed to the Christian call.
We are called to act with justice,
We are called to love tenderly,
We are called to serve one another,
To walk humbly with God!
All those present proudly acknowledged the wide reach and influence of the Genazzano community and its ongoing contribution to Catholic life and witness in Melbourne.
(This article is by Ann Rennie, a teacher at Genazzano FCJ College, Kew.)
After returning to the College students from ELC to Year 12 headed to the oval to continue the 125th year celebrations. A high-energy zumba class had many students enthusiastically taking part before singing ‘Happy Birthday Genazzano’ and gathering to watch the cutting of the birthday cake. No doubt this special day will be remembered by the students for many years to come.