St Catherine's 50 Year Recollection


Over twelve weeks we will share some unique recollections from the 12 Principals that have led the St Catherine’s community. Thank you to Brian Moffett, former APRE at STC, for his time and effort to source these very special memories from past Principals.   

This week is my turn, Paul Mitchell, the twelfth proud principal of St Catherine's. 


On my first day as the Principal of St Catherine’s,
visited every class to take photos for a ‘First Day of School’ post for Facebook. From that day until now, the children have been extremely polite, respectful and welcoming in every way. From that very first day, I have been overwhelmed by the students’ joy and excitement at school. It is a very happy place to be a student, a staff member and a parent.

I quickly came to understand that class learning is the key focus for teachers and children every day. The strong emphasis on Reading, Writing and Mathematics through St Catherine’s very own Model for Teaching, ‘GANAG’, is an incredibly important and successful part of the teaching and the children’s learning. This learning is also matched by exceptional student behaviour in class. In fact, it is the best that I have ever seen. To have children focussed and engaged, every minute of every day, is a special culture that has been developed at St Catherine’s and is the reason that students are able to reach their full potential. Special thanks must go to the teachers and support staff who professionally and skilfully provide a safe, supportive and challenging learning environment. The teachers are exceptional and are the reason that the very special culture that we have at St Catherine’s is able to continue. I am proud to be the Principal of such an incredible staff group.

I acknowledge and thank our parents for trusting St Catherine’s to provide a high-quality education that includes spiritual formation and faith development for their children. It has been an absolute pleasure building relationships and partnerships with parents, despite a difficult start with two years of Covid restrictions. The P&F have shown determination and selfless generosity to provide magical moments that bring the community together each year. The Bush Dance, Fete, Fathers’ and Mothers’ Day Breakfasts, Discos and Trivia Nights are shining examples of the joy and excitement that makes STC special.

The exceptional teaching and learning, broad opportunities and experiences, and exceptional facilities all make St Catherine’s one of the region’s finest primary schools. I am so privileged to be a part of this amazing School.

This week we are very proud to share a wonderful recollection from Mrs Maureen Hunter the eleventh principal of St Catherine’s. 


2019 was the beginning of my fourth year in the position of Assistant Principal Administration at St Catherine’s. I had thoroughly enjoyed the comradeship of the Leadership Team with Paul Leeson, Brian Moffett and Karen Jeffery in previous years. We had been a team leading significant change to the pedagogy at St Catherine’s and we were proud of the wholehearted way the staff had not only embraced but flourished as they led these new changes throughout the school. 

We had sadly farewelled Brian Moffett at the end of 2018 as he chose to follow new directions in his life. Nik Seow was appointed as APRE. However, changes were to continue as at the start of Term 1, Paul Leeson moved to the position of Senior Leader at BCE. I was expecting it to be for a six- week period, but when Paul was appointed to the position permanently, I continued 2019 in the role of Acting Principal. 
It was a year punctuated by the usual events that schools enjoy including barbeques, school discos and the Tallebudgera and Canberra school camps. We had a large and successful school fete, interschool sport, meaningful liturgies and classes that attended Parish Masses. Unbeknown to us, many of these events would not be repeated for some years as the COVID Pandemic was poised to spread throughout the world. 

Community spirit has long been the strength of St Catherine’s. As families come and go and staffing changes, it is the rich spirit of the community that flourishes. The Presentation Sisters left the legacy of care and outreach to others. 

This week we are very proud to share a wonderful recollection from Mr Paul Leeson the tenth principal of St Catherine’s. 


 ​I remember my time as Principal of St Catherine’s fondly. I was​ initially struck by the enthusiasm of students, staff and parents to be involved in whatever activity the school wished to undertake. The strong support of our parent body and the willingness of staff to get behind an idea are clear signs of a healthy school community. In the almost 10 years I was at St Catherin​e’s, the school saw many changes from building and infrastructure, staff and pedagogy to an evolving student and parent body. 

The buildings and approaches to learning and teaching will always be changing but one thing that is constant at St Catherine’s is the support of the people involved. I was lucky enough to be able to work with two former principals of the school in John Carroll and Sr Margaret Conway. They both offered insights into the history of the school and the passion for its people. Sr Margaret in particular helped the school staff rediscover the early history of the community and the charism of the Presentation Sisters. 

 I was also very fortunate to work with Fr Ian Wren, who oversaw the amalgamation of parishes so well, and Fr Pat Molony who is a very people-focused Parish Priest. The support of these people, along with Parents & Friends Association really made that line in the school song ring true “St Catherine’s community, together we belong.” 

 I congratulate the community on a wonderful achievement of 50 years. 

This week we are very proud to share a wonderful recollection from Mr John Carroll the ninth principal of St Catherine’s. 


Sincere thanks to Paula Carroll who has given us these wonderful insights into her husband John’s rich and - for all who knew him - unforgettable contribution to St Catherine’s Community during his Principalship.

John had the students’ education and the staff’s welfare as the basis of every decision he made. He had a deep empathy and regard for families in all they needed to do for their children. 

John was not a person to back away from challenging conversations. He was passionate about staff members' individual goals and about helping them to strive for them. Though this was sometimes challenging for others (and for him), Paula believed he was respected. 

From his arrival, John wanted to raise the enrolments. Before the era of digital signs, he hung a large banner outside the school grounds to advertise the School. He was elated when enrolments began to increase. Paula believed John knew that the school was on an upward trajectory for growth. He accomplished impressive initiatives in developing St Catherine’s facilities including the spacious Prep facilities, the C & K facilities and the Labouré Library.

To the end of 2009, John supervised the development of plans for the Nano Nagle Centre to hand on to his successor as Principal in 2010, Paul Leeson. These plans included the removal of the former Convent and the construction of the multi-purpose ‘Nano’. Paula remembers John working closely in partnership with Deacon Des Neagle who served the St Catherine’s Community within the Upper Mt Gravatt Wishart Parish for whom Fr Bernard Nolan was Parish Priest.

John always loved fun. He would dress up for special occasions such as fetes and Book Week. Even as a ‘rookie’, he negotiated challenges and others’ challenging personalities. He negotiated stressful changes – including one imposed by Brisbane Catholic Education and then withdrawn. 

On his departure from St Catherine’s, staff member Brian Beiers composed a robust grand story about John set to John Schumann’s “I was only 19” - a compelling empathetic account of an Australian rookie soldier’s experience during the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Brian’s lyrics befitted John’s robust personality. 

We include two verses and the final chorus which omit some verses with John’s ‘colourfulness’ as a tribute to unforgettable John.

John Carroll came to St Catherine’s 6 years ago from Cornubia. It was a tough gig for his first.
Even though he was a rookie, he soon learned the ropes
Kath Moses said, “You don’t know all the answers yet, so just pretend!”

John made this school a better place; rebuilt it all from scratch. 
first the library then headed for A block,
starting Prep and C & K was another success, and all this time trying to run the school.

Final Chorus: So Johnny Carroll, all the best as you head down Birkdale way,
watch the health, try and stay calm, just take things day by day,
and don’t forget the troops back here, when you reach the top.
God help him, future BCE boss! (Three cheers for John!)

Sadly, John Gerard Carroll died on 12th July, 2016 following his courageous response to a diagnosis of cancer. Brian’s composition was also sung at the Wake for John! Brian’s concern for his health was not connected to his suffering from sickness which emerged during his Principalship at Mary MacKillop School, Birkdale. However, Brian’s recognition of his potential to be ‘BCE boss’ could well have been prophetic. John, R.I.P.

This week we are very proud to share a wonderful recollection from Mrs Helen Camden the eighth principal of St Catherine’s. 


When introduced to the school community at St Catherine’s in late 2002, it was apparent to me that there was a positive community spirit.  During 2003, this was truly evident in the positive interactions between staff, parents and parish personnel. The fact that the Parish Office was located within the school’s administration building meant that interactions, both formal and informal, were easily accessible and more frequent.  

The highlight of 2003 was the introduction of a Transition Year.  St Catherine’s had applied to be a Prep Trial school but was unsuccessful. However, the school was given permission to run a Transition Year which ran along similar guidelines to the Prep in terms of age entry and curriculum.  This was a most successful and popular initiative - well prepared for - and it continued until the Prep Year was formally introduced in 2007.  Success can be contributed to an enthusiastic and professional teacher Janine McKean (nee Elkington), staff team, and parent and Brisbane Catholic Education support. 

As with any school community, social functions, working bees and school fetes provided the wider community with the opportunity to interact in a more informal way.  The P and F Association had a team of tireless workers, who provided physical help maintaining the grounds and classrooms, and financial aid to support the purchase of important resources, such as technology, which was becoming an integral part of the school curriculum. ​

This week we are very proud to share a wonderful recollection from Mrs Annette Duffy the seventh principal of St Catherine’s


(2003 was taken as leave for study towards her successful completion of her PhD.) 

St Catherine’s met me as a fledgling principal in 1998 and the spirit with which I was welcomed reflected the inclusive spirit of the community. It was a quite lovely inauguration which promised a willingness to invite change and a mandate to look to further initiatives for the students’ education at St Catherine’s. 

The ‘mandate’ resulted in an (almost immediate) project to build a preschool facility to prepare young children for primary school and to build enrolments. Indeed, only three years later, this ‘mandate’ provided a ‘transition year’ class which was an initiative to trial preparatory year, as a response to our State’s introduction of Prep, in alignment with the other States and Territories across Australia. 

During this period, the School and Parish also prepared and installed a School Board honouring St Catherine’s as a parish school and inviting a structure which developed the relationship between the school and parish, and the community. 

Concurrent to these projects encouraging practical changes in pedagogy, community relations and leadership in education, St Catherine’s was selected as the Catholic School representative in Queensland to participate in an action research-based project which identified best practice in pedagogy working collaboratively with Associate Professor Frank Crowther in the ‘Innovative and Best Practice Project’ led by Professors Peter Hill and Peter Cuttance (University of Sydney). 

I remember very fondly my years at St Catherine’s when the staff and community gave their trust, support and commitment to the challenges presented by research-based educational change because they wished the very best for all the students attending St Catherine’s Primary School. 

Congratulations St Catherine’s Community on 50 years. ​​

This week we are very proud to share a wonderful recollection from Mr Michael Byrne the sixth principal of St Catherine’s. 


On my arrival at St Catherine’s, I felt as though I was entering an unknown world yet an education field I had traversed for many years. In the air, there was a sense of excitement – an awaiting for a new world to be created. The suspense was overwhelming.
The Sisters had withdrawn; the Convent was empty. However, I could feel the expectations that St Catherine’s was about to experience a difference. Its past stability had rolled over. I would have to work hard to gain acceptance. It would be like walking on eggshells. 

It was important that we, staff and parents, looked forward, not backward. My main concern was to create a team whose sole purpose was to allow every child to reach their best. As a team, we needed to create new ways to solve the educational problems we faced, especially with limited funding. 

We took to heart Charles Dicken’s criticism of Victorian education– we would not ‘pour in’ all the information and expect every child to be the same. For each child to blossom, we tested our Year One students a few weeks after their starting school. Children who needed help were identified. One day a week, I also joined the class teachers in teaching the children allocated to us according to the children’s needs. During the following years, the progress these students had made freed the Special Education teacher to focus on students with ongoing needs. 

Year One also were helped by a Motor Programme to ensure their motor skills were developing. Many boys needed this more than the girls. 

Positivity ruled through our working together with a common purpose. We were a Catholic School, a part of the Wishart Parish. Celebrations during the school hours were important for our giving thanks and imploring help. The School, especially the Choir, was involved in the Holy Thursday Easter Ceremony and on Anzac Day. 

When my time came to leave, St Catherine’s had an air of busyness, happiness, success and goodness enveloping all who came. True, it wasn’t all sunshine. Jesus was our model. We worked hard to bring light when there was darkness.  There was surely the feeling that the School’s mission was to grow and change as it responded to the world around it. 

May it always be the beacon on the hill that Father McHugh dreamed it to be. 

This week we are very proud to share a wonderful recollection from Mrs Bev Tronc the fifth principal of St Catherine’s. 


St Catherine’s Primary School was built in a time of change for education in Australia. For 100 years, Catholic Schools had not received financial support from the Governments. That was all about to change. The supply of Religious as teachers was dwindling and, as lay teachers were employed, costs escalated from stipends to wages. Governments realised the benefits in having Catholic Schools operate and the trickling of funding into independent schools began.
McAuley Teachers’ College (which later became a part of the Australian Catholic University – ACU) opened its door to lay students for the first time in 1973, the same year St Catherine’s opened. My path and St Catherine’s were about to cross. I was the first married woman to graduate from the College and in my last year, St Margaret Conway approached me to teach Year 1 at St Catherine’s in 1976. Later in 1986, I would go on to become the first lay principal. It was such a privilege.
In 1976, I started teaching a Year 5 of 34 – 20 boys and 14 girls, with Sr Marion as Principal. One boy was the son of the then Director of Brisbane Catholic Education, Alan Druery who passed away 12 March, 2023. Little did I realise the impact the eleven years I was to enjoy at St Catherine’s would have on my life.

There were five Presentation Sisters, Sr Marion as Principal and four Sisters as class teachers. There were six lay teachers. Barbara Muggeridge was both librarian and music teacher and Mona Quantock managed the Office. What was wonderful was that many lay staff had their children in the School and we often taught one another’s children. Right from the start, St Catherine’s felt like one big family.
Somehow, I ended up co-ordinating all the sporting carnivals. Swimming was a favourite. Our great squad was certainly enhanced when the children from the former St Otteran’s School (formerly located on the site of Seton College) joined us when St Otteran’s closed in 1978. Lunch time training was in the Mt Gravatt South State School pool (later renamed Wishart). St Catherine’s excelled at all the local interschool carnivals with so much enthusiasm, fun and parental support.

One year, I coached the Years 7 boys in Rugby League as part of their sports programme. At the end of the term, we decided to play a team from our neighbouring State School. Walking to the park, our boys saw the size of the other team; they started praying the Rosary! We lost but we did score a stunning try – never, never again though.

One Irish Sister, I will never forget, was Sr Celsus. No matter what new strategy was introduced into the curriculum - beginning with Cuisenaire rods and recorders - she prevailed. Her rose garden in the Convent courtyard was so beautiful. Every working bee, the dads and mums were treated to cups of tea and homemade scones with cream and jam in the Convent. Once again, working bees were more an excuse for more family fun. There was an ownership of the School and a sense of welcome and belonging.
In those days, children were prepared for their Sacraments in the School and Year 3s would receive Holy Communion and Year 7s Confirmation. I taught both grades over time and particularly enjoyed the years I worked with Sr Mary Murphy as APRE. We had been together in McAuley College and worked well as a team - so much so, I was once referred to as ‘Sister’. In 1985, I was Acting APRE part-time and Year 3 teacher with Eileen Zagami. I remember we got into trouble for painting something in the classroom bright yellow.
When I was Principal, meetings with Fr McHugh were very grand. He would invite me to lunch and ring a bell for it to be served and then to be taken away. Fr McHugh loved bells and had them installed in the new Church. The Angelus bells would ring out for a while, but I think neighbours put an end to that. Fr McHugh had a way of getting things done. I recall the opening of the extra turning lane outside the parish entrance. Russ Hinze had arranged it for Fr McHugh and he was there when we cut a ribbon to open it. We called it ‘The Hinze Highway’.
That reminds me of a tape Barbara Muggeridge produced of a choir singing Christmas carols. It was called: ‘The Belles of St Catherine’s’. 

So many wonderful moments:
  • The family BBQs in the local park for the whole School and how the young ‘Pressies’ (Presentation Sisters) would come to organize games.
  • Camp Cal for the Year 7s for their Leadership Year. We joined the students from another Presentation School, St Oliver Plunkett, Cannon Hill. I still can taste the cream buns that were freshly made and delivered to our Alexandra Heads campsite for our morning teas.
  • One year, I taught Road Safety for all our emerging bike riders on the huge cemented area. I used large chalk for the roadways and had all the signs made.
  • The concerts and the time students dressed up as teachers and took us off so brilliantly. Peter Edwards was Sr Mary Murphy. I forget who wore my dress, except that it was another boy.
  • The tuckshop that was badly positioned between two toilet blocks and was closed to avoid gossiping. 
  • The teacher-student netball games - even when we covered the rings in plastic, teachers could still beat the students.
I could go on and on, but St Catherine’s worked because it truly was a community where everyone was accepted, welcomed and celebrated for who they were. It wasn’t perfect but it was something bigger that any one person. There was a real spirit which drew you in and made you want to be a part of it – and to make it ever better!

This week we are very proud to share a wonderful recollection from Sr Denise Ryan the fourth principal at St Catherine’s. 


At the beginning of 1981, I was appointed as Principal of
St Catherine’s School. With over 500 pupils, a professional staff and many parent volunteers, I recognised that this was a vibrant and committed community.  Changes in education had been taking place during the 1970s. Religious Education and State Government Curriculum Guides provided teachers with a basic
 syllabus structure rather than the former formal dictates. Thus teachers had flexibility in planning programmes. The goal was to ensure every child was engaged in learning.  Implementing memorable çatch phrases at this time such as ‘independent learner’, ’pupil working individually’, ‘research skills’ required new resources. To provide these opportunities for the pupils, a section of what was the original Church was converted into a Library - with help from
 a Government funding grant.

Fun was in the air when play areas for the lower grades was planned and co
mpleted by the Parents and Friends Association.  Volunteer workers supplied equipment, machinery, and expertise to develop the rocky ground at the Bellot Street end of the property.  On completion, the children had a specialised playground with an adventure fort. 

Traffic on Newnham Road caused many near misses as cars entered and exited the school grounds. Fr McHugh approached the Minister for Main Roads. Plans to widen Newnham Road in front of the school to allow for the construction of both an off-road bus stop and a right hand turning lane were operationalised. To celebrate the completion of the changes, the Minister for Main Roads, Russ Hinze MLA, returned to the School to cut the ribbon and declare the lane ready for use. He arrived with a TV News journalist and the event was on the late news that night.  

Above:Sr Denise Ryan, front row, fourth from left, and Staff 1981.

This week we are very proud to share a wonderful recollection from Sr Merle Hodge the third Principal of
St Catherine’s. 


The parents and the staff were generously helpful and I am grateful for wonderful memories.

I remember my anxiety facing a P& F AGM Meeting.  A parent in the school was a friend of mine - Barbara Chandler – mother of Catherine, Elizabeth, Anne-Marie and Rebecca. In the afternoon beforehand, I phoned Barbara to ask her if she would come to the meeting, just as a support for me. My heart sank when she told me she already had a commitment that evening. Then, she said, “However, I can send my husband John. He can go!” I felt so much better. John came to the meeting, but more, he accepted a nomination, was elected President and served for two years. He was a brilliant and caring President as were the previous Presidents and Committees, working with all in the community and helping the school to make wonderful progress. Thank you, John and Barbara, and thank you to all the parents and staff.

I remember three boys – rascals – with overbearing personalities who were often sent to me for me to address their behaviour. 
In the playground, we had a safety problem. We needed to restrict children from venturing into the bush in the area which later became the wonderful oval it is today. Too many children couldn’t resist staying out of that potentially hazardous area. What was I to do?

I called up my three rascals and negotiated with them to stand at three strategic entry points into the forbidden zone. They were given responsibility but also direct instructions about how they were to use their ‘power’. They did their job very well – no incidents! At the same time, the children were safe and all were happy!

​Above: Sr Merle Hodge (Ricardo) front row, fifth from left, and Staff 1979

This week we are very proud to share a wonderful recollection from Sr Marion Kingston the second Principal of St Catherine’s.


I was Principal of St Catherine’s in 1976 and 1977 and the Yr 7 teacher in 1978 with Sr Ricardo (Sr Merle Hodge) taking over as Principal. My dearest memories are of the great community of Sisters, including Sr Celsus (fifteen years as the Yr 4 teacher and the power behind the beautiful garden at the Convent) and Srs Raymond, Emmanuel, Geraldene, Margaret, Carmelita and Anita. Other Sisters teaching at St Thomas More College, Sunnybank and at St Peter’s Rochedale were a part of our Community. Two of our Sisters, Beverley Crane and long-serving Irish Sister, Bernard Conneely, died at Wishart in my time – both victims of cancer. 

Then I remember the outstanding staff – Mona, Barbara, Bev, Iris, Gaye, Maude and Albert (our first male teacher) - to name a few. 

The Parents and Friends were a rock of support – they completed the oval in 1977 – a great achievement. Mara Shaw handled the uniform supply. 

In 1977, a new classroom block was blessed and opened, and in 1978 another was commenced. The enrolment had grown from 380 to 500 in my time at St Catherine’s. 

The spirit of the School was friendly, supportive and enthusiastic – everyone knew everyone! Beautiful children! 

As a Presentation Sister in the tradition and spirit of Nano Nagle, I am blessed to have been part of St Catherine’s history.  

We are very proud to share wonderful recollections from Sr Margaret Conway, the first Principal of 
​St Catherine’s.


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Towards the end of 1972, we Presentation Sisters were asked to open a school at Wishart.  I was approached to go there and being an infants teacher the idea that it would start with Grades One and Two really excited me. It would also be a challenge for me and I felt that I was ready.
On our first day at St Catherine's, we had approximately 90 pupils.  Two Grades Ones and two Grades Twos, with Sr Carmel Hodgkinson, Barbara O’Callaghan, Noni Styles and myself.  Within weeks, the numbers grew significantly.
We were welcomed by parents and our Parents and Friends Committee was formed and what a wonderful group of people they were.  They worked tirelessly for the school and so we were able to set up a little library as well as much needed learning materials for the classrooms.  Towards the end of that first year, more classrooms were built.  More teachers were needed and we were certainly blessed with our teaching staff, parents and children. ​

The opening of St Catherine’s School certainly fulfilled the need to have available Catholic Education for the children of the Wishart Parish.  
An interesting happening in our second year. A teacher came to me concerned about a black car with two men inside parked in our gr​​​​​ounds - in our bushland.   So down I went and asked them nicely to remove themselves.  They drove off but soon after I had a phone call from Police Headquarters telling me that the two detectives had the permission from the Parish Priest to be there. The reason was given to me but was to be kept confidential.  Trying to calm teachers who saw the black car back in our bushland was a challenge and later we were able to have a good laugh.

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© Brisbane Catholic Education, St Catherine's Catholic Primary School (2023)