History of Catholic Education

The History of Catholic Education in Mackay

The Foundations for Catherine McAuley College

In 2021 Catholic Education Australia is celebrating 200 years since the first Catholic school opened in Parramatta New South Wales. The first Catholic school in what is now the Diocese of Rockhampton, opened in Rockhampton in 1863 (prior to the Diocese being established in 1882) by French priest Father Charles Murlay and Miss Bridget Ennis, an Irish lay teacher. There were two lay schools in Mackay by 1869 and the Sisters of St Joseph arrived in Mackay in 1872 at the invitation of French priest Father Pierre Bucas and pioneer Irish sugar planter T.H.Fitzgerald. A small school had also been established by Fr Bucas around 1871 following a meeting of parents at Meadowland on Nebo Road on more land donated by T.H.Fitzgerald. The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Mackay from Brisbane in 1880, by which time the Meadowland school was closed and the building moved to be used as an extra classroom on River Street. Fr Bucas also established a small high school for boys in the late 1880s with himself and a lay teacher, Mr Carroll, as the teachers. It was by all accounts very successful but closed after a few years owing to the decline in Mr Carroll’s health.

Many Catholic schools were to follow in the Mackay region: St John’s Walkerston 1924, St Mary’s South Mackay 1924, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Marian 1924, St Anne’s Sarina 1925, St Patrick’s Christian Brothers College 1929, St Patrick’s Convent High School 1930, St Francis Xavier 1935, St Joseph’s North Mackay 1937, St Brigid’s Farleigh 1939, St Peter and Paul Habana 1952, Our Lady of Mercy Convent High School 1968, Emmanuel Catholic Primary School 1983, Holy Spirit College 1984, St Patrick’s Senior College 1987, Mercy College 1987 and St Brendan’s 2015. Catherine McAuley College will be established on the foundations of this history which is one of sacrifice, courage, struggle and vision; a story of commitment and above all faith and trust in God. From humble beginnings to the vibrant and successful educational facilities we see today, the story of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Rockhampton, including Mackay, continues to be written as we go on to ‘honour the past, enrich the present, shape the future and find meaning for life.’