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The Nuns Story EGuy

THE NUN'S STORY by Elaine Guy 

And so the school/church was built and staffed by two nuns, Sister Cataldus (Bryda Kurts) and Sister Geraldine Mugavin. Sister Cataldus has since passed away, but Sister Geraldine, now living at Koroit in Victoria, recalls those days as "very happy indeed". She continues... 

In 1939, we travelled each day from our Dee Why Convent by double-decker bus to Narrabeen to teach our pupils. The new brick building2, which was planned and partly built by Father Farrell, the Parish Priest of Dee Why, was blessed and opened and we commenced the school year with an enrolment of 32 children. The numbers gradually grew each year until 1945 when we had over 150. 

Sister Cataldus taught 4th, 5th and 6th classes whilst I was in charge of the kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd classes. The church/school had a partition across the centre which was drawn back on Friday afternoons in preparation for Sunday Mass. The desks for all ages were the one height with the front collapsing to form a pew with a kneeler. After the first year, I was bewildered by numerous small marks along the top of the pews until it was eventually pointed out that they were the teeth marks of the little ones who attended the Masses - the school children could not be blamed for them! 

Father Farrell was very good to us, but like all schools in those days, we started from scratch. Our greatest problem for months was the lack of proper toilet facilities, so much so that it was apparent that, if nothing was done about this problem, we woul have to send the children home. A new block of toilets was quickly built. 

The small room at the end of the glassed verandah served as a staff room complete with one electric jug. Many a lunch was bought by the nuns from the shops at the terminus - things such as 2d. worth of hot chips and 2d. worth of broken biscuits. 

Next to the school was a small cottage owned by a kind lady who didn't mind the numerous tennis balls that bombarded her house and backyard, faithfully throwing them back to all the children on the days when she was home. Otherwise the children would retrieve them themselves after running the gauntlet of a caged cocky calling out in a shrieking voice, ’Where are you going? Where are you going?’" Everyone knows the effort the nuns put into preparing the little ones for their first Holy Communion in those days, and Sister Geraldine recalled that on one of those occasions after months of preparation, the important day arrived, but much to the horror of our two good sisters, their only means of transport from the Convent at Dee Why - the Government bus - had broken down. The sisters arrived extremely late, panicking and out-of-breath. But they needn't have worried - the good and faithful ???????

On Friday afternoons, the regular change—over from school to church took place: desks were dismantled into pews, the very large partitions rolled back to form one big room, the heavy book presses were all moved to the one side wall along with the teachers’ desks and the portable blackboards. One suggestion made by the Sisters to the new Parish Priest, Father Sobb, was for roller skates as they thought this would make their life a bit easier!

Money in the Convent coffers was extremely scarce. There was certainly none with which to buy raincoats or galoshes for the nuns to wear in wet weather. So, during a Very heavy rainy spell, I decided to telephone Father Sobb and ask if there was anyone available to transport us to school. When the Parish Priest's reply was in the negative, I asked him to go to the school and send all the children home as the nuns would not be coming that day! Five minutes later, a telephone message from Father Sobb informed me that a kind parishioner was on his way to pick us up!

On another occasion, preparation had been under way for the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Parish. Late one Saturday afternoon, a telephone call from Father Sobb reached the Convent requesting that the nuns prepare a special afternoon tea for Cardinal Gilroy who would be coming to the Parish the very next day. This request threw the Convent into turmoil as funds to purchase luxuries were non-existent. My self and another nun walked to the nearest friendly store and put our request to the store owner (as only nuns know how) and lo and behold we were given a very lovely array of cakes for this special occasion.

The Good Samaritan Order saw it as their privilege to visit people in special need throughout the district. I recall that one of our regular calls was to an old lady with a Very protective dog who guarded the house against all comers. But he always greeted us with a quiet and respectful reserve and allowed us free rein within the house, much to our peace of mind.

She also remembers when Collaroy Church was built...

Father Sobb asked the Cardinal's permission to call the church 'St Rose of Lima’. Rose was the name of Father Sobb’s sister whom he held in high esteem as she had taken the responsibility of preparing him for all the Sacraments during his boyhood. His request to the Cardinal was granted."

Sisters Beatrice and de Pazzi, who taught at St Joseph's from 1946 to 1948 retired to the peaceful surrounds of Polding Villa, Glebe, and took an active interest in the friends and benefactors of the Good Samaritan Order. Sister Beatrice passed away on the 7th October, 1989. 

Through these years, a very large number of people from all walks of life came and settled in Narrabeen and its surrounding areas. They slowly adjusted to their new lifestyle. 

The community had adopted the challenge, in those post-war years, of the Aussie pioneer spirit with some living in small temporary dwellings without any luxuries such as electricity, gas, water or sewerage. Many had left large homes in suburbs closer to the city of Sydney with all the social ctivities and easier transport. I recall returning to Mosman with my family of young toddlers and a baby in a stroller and finding great pleasure in just walking along a paved footpath and relaxing in a beautifully maintained park.