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Genazzano – Home on The Range

18 November, 2021
Genazzano, blessed and opened 24 September 1921

Celebrations in Rockhampton to honour centenary of Genazzano – Home on The Range

For 100 years, Genazzano has been home to thousands of girls who, as boarders, have enriched life at The Range College and Emmaus College and today, they continue to make a significant contribution to life at The Cathedral College, founded in 1991 after the closure of the Range College at the end of 1990.

On 24 September 1921, the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, Bishop Joseph Shiel opened and blessed the newly built boarders’ residence, appropriately named Genazzano, in honour of the small town outside Rome, Italy, where, in an Augustinian church, the famous picture of Our Lady of Good Counsel is honoured. Previously, when the Sisters moved to their new site on the Athelstane Range in 1895, the foundation was named in honour of ‘Our Lady of Good Counsel’.

Range College boarders on their way to school in the l960s
Extract from the original Account Book

Today it is difficult to imagine the horse-drawn wagons hauling timber, cement, sand and metal up the steep hill. Carefully preserved account books record the details of the skilled contractors, materials used and costs involved in this mammoth building project – a testimony to the Sisters’ responsible stewardship and their strong belief that God would provide and somehow, the accounts would be paid! Of particular interest is a record that the famous Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company produced more than four hundred thousand red bricks used in the construction of the huge building.

Mr Ron Armstrong with TCC Girls’ Boarding Leaders – Cleo Bongers (Biloela), Cassie McKeering (Alpha) and Isabeau Wardle (Gladstone)

At the centenary celebrations on Saturday 16 October, Ron Armstrong (Assistant Principal: Boarding – The Cathedral College) welcomed the Sisters and invited guests to Genazzano’s large recreation room, attractively decorated with old photographs and memorabilia by the creative staff of Girls’ Boarding.  Bishop Michael McCarthy presided at the meaningful liturgy which included the blessing of a Catherine McAuley memorial frieze and newly-established Catherine McAuley rose garden. Guest speakers, Leesa Jeffcoat (Director of Catholic Education, Diocese of Rockhampton) and Rob Alexander, Principal – The Cathedral College both paid tribute to the faith, foresight and hard work of the early Sisters of Mercy. In the aftermath of World War I, with increasing enrolments and lack of space, the Sisters took a courageous leap of faith and embarked on this building project which expanded and consolidated their ministry to provide a caring, educational and faith-based environment for boarding students.

Sisters of Mercy with Bishop Michael McCarthy and Miss Leesa Jeffcoat (Diocesan Director, Catholic Education)

During the celebration, it was very significant to view a video message delivered by Sr Berneice Loch (CEO Mercy International Association) from the House of Mercy (Dublin). Berneice, a former Genazzano boarder and later, Principal of the Range College, warmly congratulated the boarding community but expressed regret that she was missing the celebrations. In honouring the occasion, Berneice emphasised the importance that Catherine McAuley placed on the education of young women and girls and with gratitude, encouraged the committed lay supervisors who now continue this valuable Mercy ministry.

Year 7 student Sophie Carew (Anakie) with Sr M Carmel Hynes (Range College boarder 1948-49)

To acknowledge the centenary of Genazzano, Sr Bev Whitton (Community Leader), on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy, presented the Girls’ Boarding community with a framed image of Our Lady of Good Counsel. This particular image, painted on linen, was a treasured possession of Sr M Andrina Ryan, a dedicated boarding supervisor (1956-1968, 1980) and the last Sister of Mercy Principal of the Range College (1985-1988). In 2009, The Cathedral College named one of its new Houses ‘Ryan House’ in her honour. Sr M Andrina died on 12 August 2020.

As the young boarders graciously served morning tea, they enjoyed hearing stories of the past from the Sisters of Mercy, especially if the Sisters had been boarders in Genazzano. Sisters present who were former Range College boarders included Sisters M Carmel Hynes, St Pius Lennon, Stancia Cawte, Pat Wood, Mary Badger, Marie Riddel and Desma Clarke; former boarding supervisors were Sisters M Carmel Hynes, Maria Goretti Healy, Pat Wood, Mary Badger and Moira Truelson while Sisters Bernadette Mary Reece and Dominica Camilleri had been responsible for catering.

Since its opening in 1921, Genazzano has been steeped in Mercy tradition, enlivened and enriched by the contribution of many people, especially the innumerable boarders for whom it was and is ‘home’, the dutiful care of the Sisters of Mercy, lay directors and supervisors, together with catering, housekeeping, maintenance and support staff who continue to make it a homely place of quality educational opportunities.

Sr Joanne Molloy rsm