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Monday 18 January, 2021 

A remarkable contribution recognised as the  Elmore community farewell the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

After 91 years of service to the Elmore community, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart were farewelled by the Elmore Community at a commemorative Mass on Tuesday 5 January 2021.

After arriving in Elmore in 1929, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (DOLSH) have played a crucial role in the provision of Catholic Education and in the broader ministry of the Elmore region for almost 100 years.

Bishop Shane Mackinlay was joined by the Episcopal Vicar for Education, Very Rev Brian Boyle, Parish Priest Father Ashley Caldow and priests from across the Diocese of Sandhurst to acknowledge the significant contribution of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and to farewell Sr Lee Davidson and Sr Shirley Gallagher from Elmore.

Bishop Shane Mackinlay thanked the popular religious order for the service they have given to the local community.

"The Our Lady of the Sacred Heart sisters who served in Elmore over the past 91 years have been faithful witnesses to the core Christian affirmation of God's boundless and unconditional love, evoked in the focus on Jesus' Sacred Heart, and have encouraged us to show that same compassion and love in our encounters with those around us,” he said.

Sisters Shirley Gallagher and Lee Davidson were the special guests of honour at the celebrations, joined by Sr Lorraine Ryan who had been a resident at Elmore in recent years. A number of DOLSH Sisters were also in attendance along with an estimated 100 parish members and past and present students who turned out to acknowledge the role the OLSH Sisters have played in the history of the area.

Catholic education first commenced in Elmore in 1902 with lay teachers, however, that changed in the 1920s when Parish Priest, Fr Ryan decided that Elmore should have a school where music, commercial and intermediate work would be taught, as well as the full course of primary subjects. Consequently, the Convent was built and the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart took over the administration of the school.

The Sisters commenced teaching on the 30th January 1929 with an enrolment of 24 pupils. From the beginning both primary and secondary subjects were taught along with music. Secondary Education continued to be taught until 1954 when the school became a primary only setting.

Primary education continued until 1981 until a lack of vocations and teaching personnel led to the Order surrendering the school's administration. Since then, the school has been overseen by laity.

The Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart decided to withdraw from Elmore at the end of 1988, but returned in 1995, where they were greeted with much jubilation and warmth and they have played an important role in the school community ever since.

Bishop Mackinlay said the school community should always be indebted to the religious women who sacrificed so much to ensure parents of Elmore could access catholic education for their children, and that despite the reality that the Sisters no longer play a hands-on role in the school, their presence in the community is highly regarded.

"I am confident that the commitment to proclaiming Jesus' love and compassion that is at the heart of the mission of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is a legacy that will continue not only in the name of the Elmore parish and in the OLSH associates group, but most importantly in the way that those in the OLSH school and community give flesh and blood to God's love through their care for those around them."

Fr Caldow said instead of lamenting the fact that the religious order would soon be gone from Elmore, the community should give thanks for the time they were such an integral part of the school, parish and the broader community.

A statement from Sydney-based DOLSH Provincial, Sister Philippa Murphy was also read out at the conclusion of the Mass by Community Leader Sr Elizabeth Taylor. The statement detailed how Elmore was the DOLSH order's first foundation in Victoria, and that the people of Elmore hold a special place in the sisters' hearts.

More than 30 sisters spent part of their religious vocation in the Elmore community, and called the township home.

Their mission of service had been shared with other members of the clergy as well as the people of the Elmore district during this time.

The generosity of the local people dating back more than 90 years was also acknowledged, as was Sister Lee's involvement in the local library, health clinic and parish, and Sister Shirley's involvement in in many community events and celebrations, as well as her work with the school and parish.

"Thank you, goodbye and good luck and may God be with you wherever you go. Be assured we will continue to pray for the Elmore parish and the people of Elmore. Thank you and God bless you," Sr Philippa said.

In a statement posted to the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart primary school Facebook page, Principal Liz Trewick said the service was a wonderful celebration of the spiritual presence and friendship that Elmore has shared with the OLSH Sisters for 91 years.

"It was wonderful to see some school children attending mass during the holidays. A highlight for them was meeting Sr Mary Batchelor, past student and inspiration behind Mission Day."

The school plans to name its staff area in Sr Mary's honour to acknowledge her long and profound association with the school.

Although the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart will no longer reside in the Elmore Parish, the legacy of these remarkable religious women will continue to live on in the history of the school and parish, and within the community they have shaped and influenced over many, many years.

Farewell and thank you.

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