THE last remaining Sister of St Joseph to work at Quilpie’s St Finbarr’s Primary School will say her final farewell tonight.
After stints as a classroom teacher, principal and boarding school coordinator, Sr Margaret Andersen will officially say goodbye to the 30 children school to begin a Congregational Leadership role in Brisbane.
Sr Andersen’s departure also marks the Quilpie school’s association with the Sisters of St Joseph who first arrived in the town in 1950 to no electricity and built the school to what it is today.
While the 32 student boarding house closed in 2008, Sr Andersen still has fond memories of the facility that became home for children off properties and even their parents.
“The children of shearers would board with us during the week and their parents would be back in school by Friday night and they usually had a place in town for the weekend,” she said.
“Sometimes in drought times, this is going back to when we had the boarding school and we had a good laundry of ours, and some of the mummies used to bring their good washing (sheets) here on a Monday because they might have only had creek water.
“On a Monday or a Friday you would see washing on the line that didn’t belong to the boarding school. It was a very simple service that we didn’t look as we were offering it, it was just there.”
Sr Andersen said there was a sense of sadness in the small community at the departure of the tradition of Sisters in their town.
But with competent and able teachers sharing the vision for catholic education, schools were in good hands without them.
“People are respectful and I feel very much part of the community,” she said.
“I don’t feel separate from it, I’m just one of the community in the town.”
Sr Andersen first arrived in Quilpie in 1980 with stints in between in Childers, Julia Creek, Inglewood while also visiting school in Charleville and Cunnamulla from her Quilpie base.
While she arrived as a Sister to the school, she is set to leave the small town as a valued part of the community.
As her duties as principal relaxed, Sr Andersen took up further parish work in 2009 and began conducting local funerals.
It’s a job, which she said, seems dark and dire, but was actually an amazing thing.
“You meet families at a time when things are very real for them,” Sr Andersen said.
“Most of the funerals that I would have led have been more community funerals rather than according to the rights of the Catholic church or Anglican church to meet the needs and backgrounds of the families who work with me to prepare the funeral service.
“I work in collaboration with the librarian at the shire library who then prints it all up as a little booklet.”