22nd June 2021

200 Years of Catholic Education

In Celebrating 200 years of Catholic Education in Australia, Chevalier College reflects on the contribution of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC).

The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart arrived in Australia in the latter years of the 1800s and began consolidating ministry in parishes, parish missions, and ministry in remote Aboriginal communities in the north of Australia.

There was little thought to be involved in education.

In order to secure the future and meet the needs of many young men expressing interest in becoming MSCs, an Apostolic School was established at Douglas Park, New South Wales in 1916. This was a secondary school, and with only 100 students maximum, it achieved significant results in external exams. Many ‘older men’ who wanted to be MSC had to spend some years at the school becoming proficient in Latin before they could begin their theological training. (The school closed in 1966.)

In 1929, a new Diocese was established in Toowoomba. The then Bishop wanted a Catholic boarding school established to meet the needs of the boys in western Queensland. He approached the MSC and, after some ongoing ‘discussions’ with the MSC’s Administration in Rome, ‘Downlands College’ was established in 1931. In 1971, the school accepted day students for the first time, and co-education was established for the senior years with St Ursula’s College. This arrangement was discontinued by St Ursula’s in 1992, but Downlands began a new chapter of their history by accepting girl boarders to the college.

With some success in Toowoomba, the MSC were ready to consider requests to open other schools. A request came from the Parish Priest of Mittagong to establish a Catholic school for boys in the district, as there was no such school between Campbelltown and Goulburn. The Parish Priest and the Archbishop of Sydney approached the MSC and, in 1943, they agreed. The war made purchasing property a challenge but, once a suitable property was secured, ‘Chevalier College’ opened in Bowral in 1946. Following a similar pattern to Downlands, the college introduced girl students from a local girl’s school in the 1970s – becoming fully coeducational by 1976.

On the Feast of the Sacred Heart held at Chevalier College on Friday 11 June 2021, the community celebrated with 200 invited guests for the 75th anniversary of the college.

The next request came from the Bishop of Ballarat, Victoria. There was a huge demand for boarding places for boys in the western districts of Victoria brought on by the land settlement program after the war. The Bishop decided the school would be in Hamilton and the MSC settled on a property in 1948. Sadly, this property was too far from town and it was not connected to electricity, town water or sewage. A deal was made with a local businessman for the purchase of land closer to town. Classes began at the original property in 1954 – moving to the new site in 1956. The school was named ‘Monivae College’ and, like the other MSC schools, went co-ed in the 1970s.

The next request came from the Archbishop of Canberra for a boy’s school. The need for this was urgent and land had been set aside by the ACT Government. ‘Daramalan College’ was established in 1962. Co-education was introduced for the senior years in 1977 and the college has since become fully co-educational.

A special feature of Daramalan College has been its care for students with learning difficulties.

Downlands, Chevalier, Daramalan and Monivae Colleges are all independent schools – owned by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

In 1960, the Bishop of Darwin (who was an MSC) built a school for boys and one for girls on lands owned by the Diocese. He contracted the MSC to run the schools. The MSC administered them until 1998. After Cyclone Tracy, the two schools merged as one and became known as St John’s College, Darwin. It is now administered by the Catholic Education Office.

In the early days of MSC schools, it was hoped that they would bring forth young men who wanted to become Missionaries of the Sacred Heart priests and brothers. Also ensuring the formation of well-educated young Catholic men.

The founder of the MSC, Fr Jules Chevalier wrote:

“They (MSC) should be tireless in teaching their students whatever is needed for them to gain academic results with distinction. And they should never forget that the first task required of them is that their students become ‘Fortes in Fide’ (Strong in Faith) dedicated with great love to the practice of Christian virtues.”

With the advent in the 1970s of ‘new language’ to express the meaning of ‘Devotion to the Sacred Heart’ – in MSC schools we form our students in a ‘spirituality of the heart’. Our hopes and goals are to form young men and women with hearts of compassion, love and kindness – so they understand that they can be the heart of God on earth through who they are and how they relate with those around them.

Fr John Mulrooney
Chaplain – Chevalier College