Star of the Sea College was founded by the Presentation Sisters in March 1883. Just over a century earlier, the Presentation order had been established in Cork, Ireland, by Nano Nagle.
Before she died, Nano Nagle said "if I could be of any service in saving souls in any part of the globe, I would do all in my power”. Over the next hundred years, the Sisters who followed her lived up to Nano's promise.
Presentation College Windsor
The particular mission of the Presentation Sisters was the education of girls. It was with this knowledge that Father James Corbett of East St Kilda wrote to Ireland, asking the first Presentation Sisters to come to Melbourne in 1873.
Father Corbett's letter began with the words "From the ends of the earth, I write to you for help”, giving some idea of the remoteness with which Australia was seen at that time.
In spite of the remoteness, seven Sisters responded to Father Corbett's call. They came to “the ends of the earth” to establish the first Presentation Convent and school in Victoria at Windsor (now PCW).
Star of the Sea
Approximately ten years later, the Convent and school of Star of the Sea were established at Elsternwick (now called Gardenvale).
It is interesting to note that chance played a role in bringing the Sisters to Elsternwick.
In 1875, another group of Presentation Sisters had travelled from Ireland to Wagga Wagga in NSW to found a convent.
In 1882, Archbishop Goold of Melbourne wrote to Wagga Wagga asking that some of those nuns should found a convent in Carlton.
Chance intervened for the first time as the Mercy Sisters had, in the meantime, established a convent in nearby Fitzroy.
Had the Presentation Sisters arrived a little earlier, the history of their new convent would have been very different. It is almost certain that a convent established in Carlton would not have been named Star of the Sea.
The Sisters stayed at Windsor to await further instructions and it was here that chance intervened for the second time.
Windsor was attempting to raise money for a new building by raffling a set of priestly vestments. The winner of the raffle was Father Carey of St James parish. When he went to Windsor to collect his prize, he wasted no time inviting the two Sisters from Wagga Wagga to establish a convent and school in his parish.
Mother Paul Fay and Mother John Byrne
The foundresses of Star of the Sea, Mother Paul Fay and Mother John Byrne took up residence in a house called Turret Lodge (on the site of the present Chapel) on 22 March 1883.
There were few houses nearby and most of the surrounding land was used for grazing or market gardening.
From Turret Lodge, the Sisters had an uninterrupted view of the bay. It was this view that prompted them to name their home after Our Lady, Star of the Sea.
Presentation Sisters - the PBVM Story
The Presentation Sisters' story, like all spiritual quests, springs from a response to the Spirit, a transformation, a dream for justice, a perception of how this could be achieved and a life of prayer and action to make the dream a reality.
The Presentation Sisters' story begins with Nano Nagle (1718-1784), born in Ballygriffin, Ireland, during the persecution of Irish Catholics under the English Penal Laws. Having received her education in France, she returned to Ireland only to be confronted by squalor, ignorance and accompanying social ills which surrounded her, especially in the city of Cork.
Grounded in her life of prayer, with indomitable courage and perseverance, she established schools and supported other works of charity for those who were poor and oppressed by unjust social structures.
To ensure her work could continue, she established a religious community in 1775.
The first name for her sisters was the Sisters of Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
This community became known as the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1805.
Growth of the Congregation was small but steady. The number of foundations in Ireland grew; foundations were also made in England, Newfoundland, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and India.
In July, 1866, a small group of Presentation Sisters left Ireland, their homeland and friends, to make a three-month journey by boat to Tasmania. When this group of four professed Sisters and five postulants arrived in Hobart, they opened the first Presentation convent and school in the Southern Hemisphere at Richmond.
There are currently 400 Presentation Sisters in Australia and Papua New Guinea, and 2000 in Ireland, England, Africa, India, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, New Zealand, and North and South America.
Mission and Ministry
A constant throughout the Presentation Sisters' story has been the recognition of human dignity and a determination to address the wrongs which oppress and deny the human spirit.
Nano Nagle's work in Ireland established a vision that education, in its many forms, is a means of empowering people for life. Her vision continues in the choice of Presentation Sisters to work with - and on behalf of - the many individuals and families on the margins of society.
At this time when over-consumption and degradation threaten the earth itself, the Presentation Sisters are called to use the goods of creation in ways which promote the flourishing of life.
Today, many Sisters live in small communities and emphasis is placed on both direct service to those in need to alleviate their suffering, and on working to change the social conditions that cause their impoverishment.
(Excerpt from the National Vocations Directory, abridged from the Society of Australian Presentation Congregations. Read a more detailed history of Presentation Sisters from the Society of Australian Presentation Congregations.)