On 29 January the All Hallows’ community gathered at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre to celebrate its 160th anniversary and welcomed our new staff, students and parents to the community. Our celebrations this year remind us of the incredible legacy of the Sisters of Mercy.

On the 10th May 1861, Mother Vincent Whitty and her companions arrived in Brisbane at the invitation of Bishop Quinn and, by December of that year, All Hallows’ School was born. At our Inaugural Mass we acknowledged the incredible work of the Sisters of Mercy in fashioning the educational landscape of our school and Queensland in general. We also honoured the many staff and students who, over the last 160 years, have written the story that continues in our current community.

The entrance procession featured 16 past pupils, representing each decade of the School’s history. Each person carried a candle and she was accompanied by a current student with links to previous generations of All Hallows’ girls. Leading the procession was Jan Rawson who is a direct descendent of Josephine Kennedy – the sister of foundation students, Minnie and Kate Kennedy (1863-1867). After months without congregational singing, the Mass was elevated through beautiful music including the song “Standing on the Shoulders” which was sung as images of the School’s history were displayed.

The School Captains reflected on our 2021 School theme, Lead for Justice; Act with Mercy. They reminded us that Justice and Mercy go hand-in-hand and that justice was the core of the work done by Catherine McAuley and generations of Sisters of Mercy.

A particularly touching element of the celebration was the blessing and distribution of a gift to all staff and students of the School. The magnolia pin reminds us of a significant part of the All Hallows’ School story. In 1875 Mother Vincent Whitty wrote: “Yesterday when in the reception room (of the convent building) what did I see, but a goat tearing and eating a lovely magnolia – if it survives the tearing it got it will be a wonderful plant”. It is believed that the same tree to which Mother Vincent referred still stands on the property. It has become a symbol of resilience and of the longevity of the Mercy legacy.

Our Inaugural Mass, attended by over 2500 people, was a wonderful way to begin a year where we celebrate the contribution of the many people who have shaped the story of All Hallows’ School.

At a whole-school assembly the following week, the School Captains launched their spirit theme which is an extension of our 160th celebrations. Through an energetic launch which featured many of our students wearing past school uniforms, the 2021 spirit theme, “Be Part of the Story” was revealed. It is a theme which captures the emotions and pride associated with being part of a 160 year old story – a story that we continue to write even now.

We look forward to a huge year of celebrations and reflections on the great moments of our school’s history and the part we can play on our unfolding story.