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Catholic Secondary Education in Bendigo began with the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in 1876. High School education for boys and girls was offered by the Sisters at St. Aloysius’ School until 1893, when the Marist Brothers arrived to continue education for boys. 

In the years that followed Religious and Lay teachers at St Mary’s College and Marist Brothers’ College continued to offer a Catholic education to many young people from Bendigo and its environs.

In 1954 the Vincentian Fathers opened a Day and Boarding School for boys at Junortoun, which made a significant contribution to Catholic education until 1977. At this time, the Vincentian Fathers were obliged to leave Bendigo and the School became an extension of Marist Brothers’ College.

On September 23, 1982, it was announced by Bishop Daly, the Provincial Superior of the Marist Brothers and the Congregational Superior of the Sisters of Mercy that the existing Colleges in Bendigo, Marist Brothers’ College and St. Mary’s College, would amalgamate from January 1, 1983, and would be known as Catholic College Bendigo. They anticipated that the transition to total amalgamation would be gradual and the merging of the administrative, educational and financial operations of the Colleges would be expected to take several years.

In March 1985, the Governors decided that the College would move toward the development of a College on two locations by 1988 and that all classes would be co-educational in 1986. 1988 saw the implementation of this decision, as the year commenced with students at Years 7,8,9 at Junortoun, (now known as La Valla) and students at Years 10,11,12 at Barkly Street (now known as Coolock).

On Thursday 1 November 2012 it was announced that from 1 January 2013 Catholic College Bendigo would be solely governed by the Sisters of Mercy. With the Marist Brothers focusing on the new Marist College Bendigo in Maiden Gully, Bishop Leslie Tomlinson agreed to hand Governance of Catholic College Bendigo to the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea. Accordingly, since1 January 2013, Catholic College Bendigo has rested under the sole governance of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea, a fully-sponsored Mercy college under the direction of Mercy Education Limited ACN 154 531 870.

Past students of Catholic College Bendigo, St Mary's College, St Vincent's College or Marist Brothers' College are invited to visit the Alumni site.

Venerable Catherine McAuley and the Sisters Of Mercy

Catherine McAuley was born at Stormaston House in Dublin in 1778. From early childhood she saw and felt for the poor, and recognised the need for someone to help them lift themselves out of their helpless situation. Although she lost her father at an early age she observed how he loved and cared for those so adversely affected by the aftermath of the Penal Laws in Ireland and the wider effect of the Industrial Revolution.

The sufferings of her own childhood and adolescence enabled Catherine to empathise with the poor in their physical and emotional deprivation. The faith she imbibed from her father gave her a deep trust in God and fostered in her a desire to help those less well off and enable them to help themselves. This became an ever deepening focus in her life.

When an unexpected inheritance came to her she saw it as an opportunity to put this desire into action. She built the "House of Mercy" in Baggot Street, Dublin in 1827. Like-minded women gathered around her to help. She felt from the outset that God was surely guiding her in all that happened. "We have ever confided largely in Divine Providence and will continue to do so." (C. McAuley Letters)

Although it was not her original intention to found a religious congregation, Church authorities advised her to consider religious life. Believing that this was what God wanted of her and for the sake of her work for the underprivileged, Catherine and two companions made their novitiate with the Presentation sisters. When they were professed they became the first Sisters of Mercy. On their return to the "House of Mercy" several women were waiting to join the new congregation in 1831.

Catherine's spirituality arose from her love of the poor, her respect for the dignity of each person 'I would rather go hungry and cold than that the poor go without' (C. McAuley), her approach to them " great tenderness above all things..." (Letters of Catherine McAuley p.93) and her trust in God.

In some circumstances material help was given to the poor, but her aim was to enable each one to 'stand tall'. Education was an important means to achieve this. So Catherine opened up schools in every town where she made a new foundation. One of her deep concerns was the status of women. As well as general education, young women were taught home management skills and needlework.

Having seen people dying with almost no knowledge of faith or who were near despair, Catherine had a special concern for the sick and dying. At that time in Ireland, cholera had reached epidemic proportions. She tended the sick and stayed by the bedside of many who were dying. In some cases nearly whole families were wiped out. Surviving children of these families were the first orphans for whom she cared. The Sisters of Mercy continued to work and educate children in orphanages. In all this Catherine had one focus God. "We should be like the compass that goes round its cycle without stirring from its centre. Our centre is God from whom all our actions spring.” (C. McAuley Letters)

The Sisters of Mercy have reflected Catherine's commitment to the spirit of Mercy by going out to those in need. Their work in Australia began in 1846 when Sister Ursula Frayne came to Perth, and in Melbourne in 1857. In 1876, under the leadership of Sr. Aloysius Martyn, six Sisters came from Swinford, Ireland, to Bendigo to the site that has now become Coolock.

Until recently most of the Sisters were engaged in the traditional works of education, health care, orphanages and social Wellbeing. There are fewer Sisters teaching today and their work has diversified into areas such as Aboriginal concerns, rural and environmental issues, lobbying United Nations for cessation of landmine use, work with refugee camps in third world countries and a teachers' college in Pakistan.

Excellence in education has always been a value Catherine McAuley prized. "No work of charity can be more productive of good for society nor more conducive to the happiness of the poor" (Original Rule 2:5). "She imitated Jesus in serving the afflicted through the corporal and spiritual works of Mercy: and she engaged in the particular works of teaching and care of the sick and care of women in need (Constitutions of Sisters of Mercy. 4.02).

For more information on Venerable Catherine McAuley and the Mercy sisters, visit:

Saint Marcellin Champagnat and the Marist Brothers

Marcellin Champagnat, the Founder of the Marist Brothers, was born at Marhles, in France, two months before the outbreak of the French Revolution in May, 1789. His whole life was influenced by this event which shook the world. He was ordained a priest at the age of 27 in 1816 and commenced his priestly ministry at La Valla, a sizeable commune of the Pilat mountain range.

As a young priest, he was troubled by the poverty and ignorance among young people in the years following the French Revolution. A son of the Revolution and afire with the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, he chose to gather together a group of men who would educate and be a sign of God's love to young people by being brothers to them. He wanted love to be the distinguishing mark of these Brothers he called "Marist".

Marcellin Champagnat was seized by the love that Jesus and Mary had for him and for others. His experience of this, as well as his openness to events and to people, is the well spring of his spirituality and of his apostolic zeal. Champagnat's spirituality led him to see the person of Jesus in others. The Beatitudes expressed for him the Christian code of life and it is this same code that is to underpin the principles and practices of the Marist School.

Champagnat's love of Mary is to be nurtured in Marist schools. The Brothers and staff attempt to encourage in themselves and others those same virtues of humility, simplicity and modesty that led Mary to go on doing good quietly and focus attention on Jesus. Article 84 of the Constitutions of the Marist Brothers states: "Our attitudes towards young people find their inspiration in Mary, bringing up Jesus at Nazareth".

Marcellin is recorded as saying that in order to teach young people well, one must love them and love them all equally. This love a love for our work and for those in our charge is the driving force in all that we do.

Article 88 of the Constitutions of the Marist Brothers states: "We show our pupils that we are not only their teachers, but also their brothers. By trying to establish in the school a spirit of friendliness and collaboration, we help young people to become responsible for their own formation".

Humility is a basic element in our relationships since it has to do with clear self-understanding. It means knowing and accepting the truth about ourselves, being free of pretension and self delusion. Simplicity has to do with the way we live the truth out ourselves, giving us a personal transparency which allows others to know us and relate to us as we are. Modesty can be seen as the result of humility and simplicity especially in the respect that we show to others; our sensitivity towards them in what we say and in what we do.

On 18 April, 1999, Marcellin was proclaimed a Saint of the Church by Pope John Paul II in Rome. His feast day is 6th June. Today the spirit of Marcellin Champagnat lives on in the lives of over 5,000 Brothers scattered around the world in about 70 countries. Their work in Australia began in 1872. The first establishments outside Sydney were at Bendigo and Kilmore in 1893. At present, there are about five hundred Australian Brothers working in all states and territories of Australia (except Tasmania) as well as in many foreign countries.

Living in community as brothers is important to them. Together they share life, faith, friendship and prayer and draw on the support and encouragement of each other in their daily service of people. As individuals and as communities, they understand themselves to be particularly called to serve young people, especially those who are socially deprived, disadvantaged or less well off. As Brothers they seek to stand in solidarity with them, working to promote peace and justice. Endowed by their own traditions and committed way of life, they attempt to witness the Christian values of hospitality, brotherhood, simplicity of life, service, sensitivity and concern for all people.

"The Marist school, as envisaged by Father Champagnat, offers families an approach to education which draws faith, culture, and life into harmony. It is an approach which stresses the values of self forgetfulness and openness to others, which presents culture as a way of drawing people together, and proposes knowledge as a duty of service" (Constitution #86)

More information on St Marcellin Champagnat and the Marist Brothers can be found at:

St Vincent De Paul and the Vincentian Fathers

Vincent de Paul was born the son of a farmer in 1581 at Pouy (now the village of St Vincent de Paul) near Dax in the Gascony region of the South of France. He was ordained a Priest in the year 1600. Only gradually in his thirties did he come to an understanding of how God was calling him. Ambition was a part of his life as a young priest - the need for a position in the Church to provide security for himself and his family. Yet something happened that caused a change in his life.

Vincent came to acknowledge God's call to serve the poor when he became the pastor of a parish church in 1612. The poor people of the parish of Clichy, just outside Paris, so affected him that he became conscious of a desire to help these abandoned people in the country regain their faith in God and discover their own dignity. On January 25, 1617, the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, Vincent preached a Mission Sermon in the village of Folleville in northern France. He always regarded this occasion as the beginning of the Congregation of the Mission. In 1625, at the insistence of a certain Madame de Gondi, he formally set up the Congregation of the Mission, a Community of Priests and Brothers, to give Missions to the poor people in the country and to form Priests in France and elsewhere. This community is known in Australia as the 'Vincentian Fathers and Brothers'.

In 1633 he assisted Louise de Marillac in the founding of the 'Daughters of Charity', a community of women who would live in community without religious habits and who would look after the sick poor. This community is very active in Australia and many other parts of the world today.

During his long life (he died at the age of 79), Vincent organised missions to country people, was heavily involved in the education and formation of Priests, engaged in and organised many charitable activities, and influenced for good many people in powerful positions in the government of the country. His driving force was embodied in the Gospel text "He sent me to preach the Good News to the Poor" (Lk 4:18). This text, rendered in Latin as "Evangelizare pauperibus misit me", is the official motto of Vincentians.

Vincent de Paul did not develop a 'Spirituality' in the ordinary sense of the term. Rather, he followed the Spirituality of the Church, and in order to make this Spirituality available to all he developed what is now referred to as his 'Way'.

He is remembered in Australia and Fiji today especially by the Daughters of Charity, the Vincentian Priests and Brothers, and the St Vincent de Paul Society. The St Vincent de Paul Society was founded in France by Frederic Ozanam, a young university student, two hundred years after the time of Vincent himself. This Society, a lay organisation, is often known in Australia simply as 'Vinnies'. It provides much needed care for the poor and marginalised of our own time.

Vincent experienced true Charity - the Love that led God to send his Son among us... 'to bring the good news to the poor' (Lk 4:18), and responded to God's love and call, seeing himself and his followers as being sent also 'to bring good news to the poor'. For Vincent, prayer was a way of developing and deepening a personal relationship with God and with Jesus Christ. He had a deep faith and trust in God's providential care for him and for all people, especially the poor. He encouraged his followers to share their faith, their experience of God in prayer and in their life experience. A tradition he left his priests and brothers, and his sisters the Daughters of Charity, was called 'Repetition of Prayer'. This was a simple sharing of the fruits, the insights, the experience of God in one's own time of personal reflective prayer.

Vincent encouraged his followers to be contemplatives in action, to respond to God in practical love both of God and of one's neighbours, practical love especially of the poor. He experienced being sent by God to do what Jesus did. He prayed that the Community he founded, the Vincentian Priests and Brothers, would be faithful to that call.

More information on St Vincent de Paul and the Vincentian Fathers can be found at: