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Catherine McAuley College Blessing and Opening

07 June, 2022

Back Row: Michael McCusker , Fr Stephen Hanly, Fr Gasper Peruvelil, Fr Alex Varghese, Jim Ford (Principal Catherine McAuley College), Julieanne Gilbert MP (Member for Mackay and Assistant Minister for Health and Regional Health Infrastructure of Queensland), Marie Martin , Leesa Jeffcoat (Diocesan Director Catholic Education )

Middle Row: Sisters of Mercy, Kerry-Ann Sullivan rsm and Marise Casey rsm

Front Row: Sisters of Mercy, Lila Galvin rsm , Anne Keim rsm, Joanne Molloy rsm, Denise Hinton rsm, and Bishop Michael McCarthy


Glorious autumn weather greeted attendees at the Blessing and official opening of Catherine McAuley College, Mackay’s newest Catholic secondary school, on Friday 27 May.  Bishop Michael McCarthy conducted the Blessing ceremony and liturgy, and the College was officially opened by Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert MP, representing the Queensland State Government, and Catholic Education Diocesan Director Leesa Jeffcoat.

During the liturgy, Bishop Michael invited Sisters of Mercy present to assist with the blessing of Mercy Crosses which were then hung in each of the College classrooms and administration areas.

College staff, students and families as well as priests, Northern Region Catholic School Principals, Catholic Education Office representatives and other invited guests witnessed the historic occasion as the Diocese of Rockhampton opened its first college in over 20 years.

“This is an exciting milestone for the Catherine McAuley College community, for the Mackay community and for our wider Catholic Education community in this diocese,” Miss Jeffcoat said.  “It represents the culmination of extensive collaboration, planning and development by a dedicated group of people committed to the vision of a new Catholic college in Mackay.  Catholic Education has always enjoyed such wonderful support from the Mackay community, and it is very pleasing to be able to provide this beautiful new college in response to the ongoing demand from families seeking a quality Catholic education.”

Miss Jeffcoat said it was very fitting that Catherine McAuley College was located on the grounds of the former Mackay Sugar Research Institute which had played a significant part in the historical development of Mackay.

“It is my prayer that Catherine McAuley College will serve the families of Mackay and surrounds for generations to come and that, like the Sugar Research Institute before it, the College will be a key contributor to the present and future development of this great region,” Miss Jeffcoat said.

The 18-month completion of Phase 1 saw an extensive redevelopment of the iconic Sugar Research Institute site and surrounds with the College opening the doors of its repurposed, heritage-listed Karl Langer Building at the start of the 2022 school year to welcome the first cohort of 110 Year 7 students.

College Principal Mr Jim Ford said he was extremely pleased with the completion of the first stage and was delighted to see planning concepts gradually transformed into bricks and mortar and finished off as beautifully designed teaching and learning spaces.

“The College looks amazing with a blend of the refurbished old and the stylish new, and we acknowledge the State Government’s significant contribution towards the initial construction phase.  The Institute’s main building has been transformed into a versatile, highly functional educational facility with fully equipped, attractive, air-conditioned rooms.  Our students and staff are relishing the responsibility of setting the culture of our community and growing our Catholic identity informed by the charism of Venerable Catherine McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy and the strong connection our College has to the history of this region,” Mr Ford said.

Forward planning will see the addition of a new year level each year until the College reaches its expected capacity enrolment of 1200 students in Years 7-12 by 2027.

With the commemoration plaque at the Blessing and Official Opening of Catherine McAuley College Mackay are Principal Jim Ford and Diocesan Director Catholic Education, Leesa Jeffcoat with foundation Year 7 students.