St Mary’s Williamstown celebrates 175 Years of Catholic education

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Janet Bohan, Deputy Principal, St Mary’s Parish Primary School

St Mary’s Parish Primary School Williamstown has celebrated the exciting milestone of being the oldest continuously operating Catholic school in Victoria. A Celebration Ball, Thanksgiving Mass and School Open Day were the highlight events over a weekend of celebrations.

The festivities began on the Friday night with the Celebration Ball at Williamstown Town Hall, attended by 250 past and present parish, school and community members, gathered to celebrate, connect and reminisce.

On the following Sunday, Melbourne’s Bishop Mark Edwards, Williamstown parish priest Fr Greg Trythall and former student parish priest of Kew Fr Michael Kalka concelebrated a Thanksgiving Mass.
School principal Jim Sheedy welcomed the congregation recalling that ‘under Father Patrick Geoghegan’s initiative, a timber chapel-school, 28 feet by 20 feet, with a wooden shingle roof was built. In this simple school building, Catholic Education in the then ‘William’s Town’ made a humble beginning in May 1842, with John Wilson as the first teacher.’1.

Bishop Mark Edwards thanked the many religious Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) and Sisters of St Joseph (SOSJ), teachers (past and present) and the generations of families for their contribution to the education of children in Williamstown and encouraged those gathered to carry the baton as their greater role at this time. Spontaneous applause erupted in thanks for the dedication and service of the FCJ and SOSJ nuns.

Afterwards St Mary’s School was opened for the Williamstown community, giving past, present and future students a chance to step inside and explore the school’s history, as well as look at how the school had changed.

Happy Birthday was sung by all in attendance while Fr Greg Trythall and the 2017 student leaders cut the cake.

On display throughout the school were memorabilia, photos, inspectors’ reports and many stories from the past 175 years. An impressive mural timeline highlighting significant events in the school’s proud history received much attention from the visitors. Also receiving much attention were the 5 generation family history stories.

On the 1 May at Williamstown Post Office, Australia Post issued a postmark to commemorate 175 years of continuous education at St Mary’s Parish Primary School Williamstown. St Mary’s is only the fifth primary school in Australia to be issued a celebratory postmark and the first to be issued a postmark for a 175th birthday celebration, which is quite unique. Each child and staff member received their own commemorative postmark pack.

The 175 logo designed by parent Mark Sammartino has featured prominently on all our stationery, advertising and signage and has captured the essence of the message of the 175 and pays tribute to the strong links of parish ,school and community over this significant time in history.

Twenty-five years ago, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary, a school history was written by parishioner Cliff Gibson. To mark the 175th anniversary this year, the last 25 years have been researched, leading to the publication later this year of a comprehensive history covering the entire 175 years.

If you would like to order the history book, email

Happy Birthday St Mary’s!

1. Quoted from ‘150 years of Catholic Education in Williamstown 1842-1992…a history of St Mary’s School Williamstown’ by Cliff Gibson
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