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 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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