River ritual unites schools
ABOUT 1300 students from across the Clarence Valley celebrated the start of Catholic Schools’ Week at McAuley Catholic College, Clarenza, yesterday.
The day started with a liturgy, or rite of public worship, which called on students to ‘Open Your Hearts, Open Your Minds’.
The celebration also involved a symbolic uniting of the area’s four primary and one secondary catholic schools – St Mary’s Primary, Grafton; St Joseph’s Primary, South Grafton; St Joseph’s Primary, Maclean; St James’ Primary, Yamba, and; McAuley Catholic College (secondary).
McAuley’s deputy principal Kate Thomson said each school brought with it some water from its section of the Clarence River and all five samples were brought together in the one bowl as part of the ceremony.
The school’s ministry co-ordinator Margaret Bertalli said students loved the idea of the river ritual, which also served to pay respects to the traditional custodians of the Clarence Valley – the Bundjalung and Gummbaingrr people.
Students participated in sporting activities following the ceremony and headed back to their own schools after lunch.
McAuley principal Leon Walsh said catholic education began on the North Coast at a little school in South Grafton.
Mr Walsh said the vacant land diagonally opposite McKittrick Park once housed a small weatherboard church, which was used as a school house from 1860 thanks to the now venerated Edward Tracey.
Catholic schools enrol about 20 per cent of Australian school students and there are 615 Catholic schools across NSW and the ACT, according to the catholicschools.edu.au website.
Each school brought with it some water from its section of the Clarence River